New snooping software will catch out uni slackers

If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear

algorithm analytics data liberty national open university ou analyse privacy spying software

Big Brother-like software that catches out lazy students could be coming to your uni.

The all-seeing algorithm monitors reading habits and engagement with work and is now being considered by at least two top Russell Group universities.

The sneaky software also checks data from your socio-economic life, like where you live, to judge how likely you are to drop out.

It is currently being used for 41,000 students and is so smart it can even predict what your final grade might be.

Top academics who invented the software insist it will be absolutely everywhere across higher education in coming years.

Professor of Computer Science John Domingue, who helped create the analytics, told The Tab: “If we look to the US. What we have learnt is that this is the future. Not a question of if, but when and how.”

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Always over your shoulder

‘OU Analyse’ was made by the distance-learning Open University’s Knowledge Media Institute in 2013 to watch for pupils struggling with coursework, and could be making its way to mainstream universities.

But the spying software raises uncomfortable questions around privacy and what the data could be used for.

Lecturers would be able to see how much of the set texts you’d read, when you’re submitting assignments, what times you’re taking in information and how keenly you’re engaged in your course.

The OU say that “ethical use of data is paramount, as are privacy concerns” and assure the software was passed and approved by an ethics committee with student oversight.

Ruth Tudor, president of the Open University’s Students’ Association, has spent 12 years in education with the OU.

She told The Tab: “Anytime you log onto Student Home it starts monitoring your activity.

“Obviously because we are a distance learning university it’s different for us, and they have to find other ways of providing support.

“It highlights low social-economic areas. I for example stay in an ex-mining town, with a lot of people on benefits, so the program will identify that, and see that I might therefore be more at risk of dropping out.”

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The Health and Social care grad added: “I left school with one higher, and eight O-grades, so it takes that into account too. OU is different in accepting a lot of people without prior academic qualification, so there is a high proportion of dropouts.”

Indeed, around 30 per cent of OU students fail to complete modules.

Tudor also has a Masters in social science, she went on: “There are ‘pinch points’ such as when you start your course, during the middle of term and at exam time where it can indicate if you need extra support.

“Student’s don’t really have a say in whether it applies to them, but they’re made aware it’s happening.”

If you want a picture of the future, imagine your lecturer seeing how much of the required reading you’ve done – forever.