International Seminar 2020

How to Build Fair Data Cultures in HEIs?

On December 16, 2020, the Chair celebrated its Annual Seminar in collaboration with the Ramon y Cajal UOC project Professional Learning Ecologies for Digital Scholarship: Modernizing Higher Education by Supporting Professionalism

Our Seminar, thus, coincided with the closing of the Data Cultures in Higher Education” series of webinars, carried out by the RyC Project. The series addressed the way educators live by the landscape of datification in universities. After several webinars with international experts (Canada, Spain, Italy, UK, Uruguay, US), this last seminar gazed towards the contributions from our university, the UOC, and other Catalan experts.

The change in the academic work environment is moving towards smart technological infrastructures and environments, spaces where automation based on artificial intelligence is integrated into human behavior. Scholars have to position themselves to promote innovation while keeping an ethical and deontological practice. But traditional training is not enough for that matter. Here, the RyC Project encountered Edul@b’s trajectory on the topic of learning ecologies, which has given rise to the idea that we cannot speak of direct, structured training, but rather of creating environments conducive to cultivating Professional Learning Ecologies for Data Literacy. Those environments are unique and unrepeatable cultures that construct meaning around participant’s practices, values, and ways of living technology. The goal is for those cultures to sprout creative and fair ways of approaching data, technologically advanced approaches that can nevertheless be implemented through a participatory design process, which implies transparency and negotiation. This is a condition sine qua non for a new vision of educational quality in technologically mediated environments, contributing to the vision of the UNESCO 2030 Agenda.

This last seminar aimed to present the results of three lines of research carried out in the UOC that support concepts and ideas to build fair data cultures in HEIs. Thus, the Series’ coordinating research unit (Albert Sangrà Morer, Monste Guitert Catasús, and Juliana Raffaghelli) discussed the following topics:

  • Impact of the use of learning analytics in online asynchronous debates in higher education (Montse Guitert Catasús)
  • Gathering data for success? Problems in the use of university rankings and the particular situation of online learning (Albert Sangrà Morer) 
  • The story of two universities: A study covering data practices in two institutions of higher education (Juliana E. Raffaghelli)

In addition to that, it counted over the participation of two other Catalan researchers, Teresa Sancho Vinuesa and Pablo Rivera Vega. 

Teresa Sancho Vinuesa is the Director of the master’s degree in Data Science (from the UOC’s Computer Science, Multimedia and Telecommunications Studies), and she’s part of the LAIKA research group. She spoke about the impossibility of operating alone as an expert in data science. This implies a limitation that the new training frontiers exemplify a concrete vision of that limitation. However, she pointed out the ethical limit that emerges every time the protection of our student’s personal data stops us from solving a human problem through automatization.

On the other hand, Pablo Rivera Vargas offered a critical pedagogical approach to educational technology studies. He is a Lecturer in Education at the University of Barcelona and a member of the ESBRINA research group. His work has been exemplary in finding approaches to understanding and facing the pandemic while using platforms whose data do not seem to have transparent destinations. He focused on the need to understand how technology reproduces the neoliberal order, and the need to raise awareness and find action pathways. In this sense, schools and universities could act as nodes in a community network.

This conversation gave space to a broad perspective on the problems and opportunities they will face in becoming part, increasingly, of a university and a datafied society.

The video of the Seminar will soon be available.