Dr Liz Bennett


The notion of student being at the heart of the system is a cliché and a notion that most people working within higher education would subscribe to. However when we come to implementing new systems and processes our institution-centric biases become evident.

My Scoping Award from the Society for Research in Higher Education enabled me to set out to better understand students’ views within a more data rich higher education system. 

With the help of the grant, I worked with Dr Sue Folley to listen to students’ experiences of seeing data about themselves presented back to them in a dashboard. It aimed to challenge the institutional-centred perspective of results from data being increasingly used as a tool for measuring and judging quality within Higher Education (the TEF being an obvious case in point).

We used Prinsloo and Slade’s (2013) work on Ethical Issues and Dilemmas in the use of learning analytics which argues that students should be agentic and empowered through the use of their data. This framing helped us to identify four key design principles for the learner dashboards:

1) designs that are customisable by students;
2) foreground students sense making;
3) enable students to identify actionable insights;
4) dashboard use is embedded into educational processes.

There are parallels between the way that we framed our project and other work at HudCRES. Notions of participation and student empowerment run through the School of Education and Professional Development in terms both of our research practices and our values as educators. For example, work by Professor Helen Lomax on participatory visual methods for understanding children's lives in marginalized neighbourhoods, Linsdey Watson working on engaging story telling as a way of empowering them in research, and Professor Christine Jarvis on the role of fiction to bring about transformational learning.

Our study builds on this tradition but applies it to the Higher Education sector and to the adoption of learning analytics systems in particular.


The project has had some significant impact with dissemination across the sector and from industry with a range of dissemination events and we were proud to be awarded the Runner Up Award in the Association for Learning Technology Awards. 


The final report of the research can be downloaded from the Society for Research into Higher Education here




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