Date of Award

Fall 2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Leadership


Community College Leadership

Committee Director

David F. Ayers

Committee Member

Mitchell R. Williams

Committee Member

Jaime Lester


Learning analytics is an emerging trend in American community colleges brought about by technological advancements, institutional accountability, and external pressure on institutions to substantiate and improve learning. Learning analytics can potentially improve student engagement, retention, and success but also possess inherent ethical and legal challenges like student privacy and confidentiality violations and users’ bias and discrimination. Researchers know little about the ethical considerations of advisors who serve diverse student populations enrolled at community colleges, and there is a need to better understand various users’ experiences to mitigate poor ethical use and to protect multiple stakeholders. This multiple case study employed Slade and Prinloo’s (2013) framework for the ethical use of learning analytics as a lens through which to explore community college advising staff’s ethical considerations of using learning analytics. Data were primarily collected through interviews. Learning analytics training documents and researcher field notes were also analyzed to triangulate the data. This study may help fill a gap in the learning analytics literature related to their use in community colleges. Furthermore, this study potentially guides practitioners and future scholars to enhance ethical frameworks, codes of ethics, and best practices.

Findings confirmed community college advisors do not consistently use learning analytics, and their considerations of and responses to ethical issues of learning analytics are varied. Advisors used learning analytics for team-based and proactive advising. Still, they experienced barriers to tool use like large advising caseloads, misalignment between tools and their needs as advisors, and learning analytics training. Moreover, participants’ ethical considerations and responses aligned with five of the six principles in Slade and Prinsloo’s (2013) framework, including learning analytics as a moral practice, students as agents, student success as a complex and multidimensional phenomenon, transparency, and higher education cannot afford to not use data. This study has implications for various learning analytics stakeholders, including advisors, mid-level supervisors, college administrators, and analytics companies. A deeper understanding of advisors’ experiences with learning analytics offers practitioners essential knowledge on best practices for the successful and ethical implementation and use of learning analytics that incorporate advisors’ needs and are advantageous for multiple stakeholders, most importantly, community college students.


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