Research within ANU learning and teaching

Surveys on ANU Staff and/or Students: University Approvals

Surveys targeting ANU staff and/or students will need University approval before they can proceed.  This process is distinct from the ethics approval process, and University approval may be required even if ethics approval is not. University approval for surveys involving students is from the Planning and Performance Measurement Division (PPM) while staff survey approval usually comes from HR (via PPM).  For more information on the process involved, please refer to Planning and Performance Measurement Division’s website.

Human Research Ethics and Research in Teaching and Learning

Education-based research projects for which our students are research participants bring unique ethical challenges. This is especially since the students have a dual role both as learners in a class environment and as research participants in an environment in which they might represent a dependent or vulnerable population. In 2014 the Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching (OLT) commissioned Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services (AHRECS) to undertake work to help researchers construct ethical protocols for conducting education research. The AHRECS Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Research Ethics Manual consists of six booklets that include academic references, recommended reading and prompts for ethical reflections. The booklets are practically focused and incorporate examples of problems and suggested strategies.

MOOC-based Research, edX and Human Research Ethics

The University recognises the increasing interest in conducting research using education data gathered from MOOCs. While the edX Terms of Service supports the carrying out of such research by explicitly making the availability of MOOC data a condition of course enrolment, the conduct of the research itself remains subject to the ANU Code of Research Conduct and the NHMRC's National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research. The ANU Human Research Ethics Committee has considered research of this type and considers the main types of research to be of two broad types:

Low/Negligible risk

This includes research using data analytics that involves no "intervention" but rather involves analysis of de-identified learning analytics data. Such research can be carried out under the existing terms-of-service arrangements without formal ethics approval. However, assessments of risk to participants should be carried out on individual research projects and ethics clearance sought if specific risks to participants are identified.

Greater than negligible risk

This includes research that involves "interventions" (e.g. A/B testing where students are randomly assigned to different groups given different methods of instruction). Such research requires ethics approval prior to data collection.

In order to comply with the National Statement: (a) students must be informed that they are participants in an experiment; (b) alternative arrangements for voluntary participation (i.e. the right to NOT participate in the experiment without giving up the ability to remain in the course) must be made; (c) a record of consent and withdrawal must be kept; (d) use of data and feedback on results should be made available to participants.

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