Augmented Intelligence and Ethics of Care in 21st-Century Advising Practice

min read

Predictive analytics systems can provide important insight into how students are faring and can guide interventions to help struggling students do better. Implementing such services comes with certain risks, however, and ethics training can minimize those risks and contribute to professional growth for advisors.

Human hand and robot hand with index fingers touching
Credit: kung_tom / © 2019

Case Summary

From my initial involvement as a consultant for Broward College on the topic of ethics of care in analytics, I have been consistently impressed with their commitment to excellence and integrity in the innovative work they do on behalf of students. The following case study highlights a unique approach that Broward College took in socializing the ethical use of analytics among its team of academic advisors. They used a measured approach to conducting more in-depth ethics trainings—a method likely to become a best practice in the student success analytics socialization process across the nation and globe.

Institutional Profile

Broward College is a two- and four-year public institution in south Florida, serving 67,000 students in an urban/suburban environment. Known for its diverse student body, Broward College distinguishes itself as a Hispanic Service Institution (HSI) and maintains strong transfer partnerships with other institutions in the area.


As the world of higher education becomes ever more acquainted with opportunities for innovation in the digital age, student success analytics continues to capture the attention of university executives across the globe. Predictive analytics, when deployed effectively and ethically, has the potential to dramatically transform institutions' ability to target outreach to students who are most likely to benefit. At the same time, as has been written about elsewhere,1 the use of these tools is accompanied by a set of inherent challenges that arise from the risk of misusing predictions (whether intentionally or unintentionally) for stereotyping and exclusion rather than for student empowerment.

In this burgeoning age of newly available predictive tools, Broward College was in many ways no different from similarly situated institutions in their desire to make a difference in the lives of students by adopting innovative analytics. As an institution with high levels of student diversity, Broward College makes values like academic excellence and student success a priority, not only by writing these values into the institutional mission statement but also by taking commensurate action to empower student well-being. Among those core values, Broward College has articulated a commitment to integrity, defined in institutional values as "fostering an environment of respect, dignity, and compassion that affirms and empowers all its members while striving for the highest ethical standards and social responsibility."

Given this central aspect of integrity to the institution's mission, it is perhaps not surprising that Broward College pursued what could be called a measured approach to adopting predictive analytics. When partnering with the vendor EAB to incorporate a tool called Navigate into the academic advising workflow, Broward College leadership made the socially responsible decision to delay activating the software's predictive elements until the college's team of nearly one hundred advisors could receive appropriate ethical training about the strengths and limitations of predictive risk models.

To ensure that advisors were provided with the clearest picture of the sophisticated nature of the software and its predictions, Broward College involved its resident experts in the ethical use of student data in research—the Institutional Review Board (IRB). Although the predictive use of student data for institutional operations is not federally defined as a form of human-subjects research, the IRB was well poised for sourcing ethics training that satisfactorily prepared academic advisors to use the tool effectively. Led by Chief Data Officer George Makiya, Broward College's team became aware of a series of data ethics webinars I had provided on behalf of the Center for Student Analytics. The series, sponsored by New America and EDUCAUSE, covered issues of data governance, predictive modeling in higher education, and, most importantly, Augmented Intelligence and the Ethics of Care.

Working with Vice Provost Janice Stubbs and Assistant Vice President Julie Philyaw, Makiya  and I organized an all-day training event, with a three-and-a-half hour Ethics of Care Using Analytics workshop specifically designed for academic advisors and their supervisors. Whereas most college and university executives would balk at such a commitment of time from their professionals (on the topic of analytics, nonetheless), Broward College has articulated as one of its core values a commitment to innovation: "Developing and implementing the most emergent technologies and teaching/learning methods and strategies to create learning environments that are responsive to local, national, and international needs." Billed as mandatory professional development, the workshop at Broward College was designed to serve as an introduction to student success analytics, including a discussion of the strengths and limitations of predictive intervention models.

Provided in October, the training gave advisors three months to continue this important conversation in preparation for the January release of the predictive models provided in EAB's Navigate. As a result, the concept of augmented intelligence became a central element of the workshop, guiding advisors toward the idea that improved practice in the world of analytics would mean augmenting existing professional expertise with new models of thinking and reliance on smart technology during the decision-making process. This concept was explored as it relates to the ethics of care and the daily practices that academic advisors would need to adopt in the coming months. Additionally, the training highlighted the opportunity to use intervention analytics as a means of pursuing social justice among marginalized student populations, a topic particularly important to Broward College.

Lessons Learned

No outcome of this Ethics of Care Using Analytics workshop could be more important than what was captured in the feedback provided by the Broward College advisors who attended. One remarked that while he had initially expected a half-day on nothing other than the topic of analytics, he ultimately felt that the training was one of the best he had even attended. Another advisor commented on how valuable she felt as a professional following the training, even though she had come to the event believing that analytics was meant to replace her and her personal judgment: "This workshop made the topic easy to understand while showing how necessary the human element is in the analytics equation." Indeed, the principle of human ingenuity as a central aspect of successful analytics use is captured in the idea that analytics works far better as a way of augmenting intelligence, rather than poorly serving as a replacement for human ingenuity.

Perhaps most powerfully, an advisor shared the following reflection as her reaction to the principles of social justice that were explored:

For the first time, I saw that I might NOT be as good of an advisor as I always thought I was. Your example of the "open-door advisor," always available to her students [but not concerned about conducting targeted outreach using analytics], really hit home, especially when I got back to my office and checked the GPAs of a week's worth of students I'd seen (some more than once). The students that actually need my help were not coming in! So I took one of the data lists we were working from (emailing students who received D, F, or withdrew from one or more courses last term) and started calling them instead of emailing, which is what you suggested. I have four appointments now for next week with students who had never seen me (or any advisor) before; not as many as I'd like, but it's a start. Thank you for gently making me take a closer look at my own best practices and giving me a new prospective and fresh momentum.

This comment was fairly consistent with the spread of feedback provided by attendees. Upon completion of the workshop, the tone of the advisors and their supervisors was one of confidence in their own abilities to drive and incorporate these new tools into their everyday workflows. Indeed, departing from the concept of a data-driven institution, the workshop emphasized the importance of well-trained professionals who are instead data-informed.

From my perspective as an outside consultant, the advisors' feedback was in no small part due to their leadership voicing clear expectations and providing commensurate resources, such as this workshop, to prepare the team to receive these new technologies. The Broward College provost set aside an entire day, with lunch provided, to discuss this work. More than one hundred professionals attended a light breakfast and three-and-a-half hour workshop in the morning, followed by a ninety-minute lunchtime discussion that unpacked advisors' reactions. Then, the advising supervisors spent an additional three-and-a-half hours in a facilitated conversation about change leadership.

More importantly, the vice provosts and associate deans sat through the entire day, expressed strong voices of leadership throughout, and have set up additional engagements next spring to conduct facilitated learning circles. Throughout the experience, it was clear that Stubbs and Makiya believed deeply that these leaders' knowledge of analytics and of advising best practices was a central aspect of their professional roles at Broward College. As a leadership team, they were committed to their institutional values and modeled this commitment by remaining engaged in this process with the advising team.

Broward College is leading in an approach to advising analytics that ensures that professionals have the right resources in place to maintain the highest levels of service to their students. More importantly, through Broward College's commitment to values including academic excellence, student success, integrity, and innovation, academic advisors are equipped to take full advantage of the benefits of predictive analytics while remaining inclusive and empowered through ethical practice.

Where to Learn More

  • To learn more about Broward College's analytics initiative, reach out to Vice Provost Janice Stubbs or George Makiya.
  • To learn more about the ethical use of analytics in higher education, visit the online resources provided by the Center for Student Analytics at Utah State University.
  • To learn more about the Ethics of Care Using Analytics workshop, reach out to me by email.

This article is part of a set of enterprise IT resources exploring the role of digital transformation through the lens of analytics. Visit the Enterprise IT Program to find resources focused on digital transformation through the additional lenses of governance and relationship management, technology strategy, understanding costs and value, and business process management.


  1. Manuela Ekowo and Iris Palmer, "The Promise and Peril of Predictive Analytics in Higher Education: A Landscape Analysis," New America, October 24, 2016.

Mitchell Colver is a consultant and founding manager of the Center for Student Analytics at Utah State University.

© 2019 Mitchell Colver. The text of this work is licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License.