LIFE AT EHARMONY UNIVERSITY

eHarmonyU copy

Universities are exploring the world of data mining––sifting through data gathered from a student’s academic performance, her online social habits, and even her comings and goings on campus––in order to provide what is perceived to be useful information to students. Posted on The New York Times website, this article explores the phenomenon and some of its ethical dimensions.

All kinds of data seems ripe for the picking. At some universities, a student’s academic performance is monitored in order to determine what major he or she should pursue (called “advising by algorithm” in the article, as depicted in the graphic above). At other universities, a student’s Facebook use is tracked in order to recommend friends, while other institutions monitor card swipes at campus buildings to track social and personal habits. Here’s what we need to consider:

1. How do you feel about being assigned an e-advisor?

2. Does a university have any business suggesting friends to you?

3. Critics claim that data mining undermines the exploratory, serendipitous nature of college life. Do you agree?

Sources: The New York Times, michaelzimmer.org

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