On data protection regulations, big data and sledgehammers in Higher Education

Roberto Agustín García-Vélez, Martín López-Nores, Gabriel González-Fernández, Vladimir Espartaco Robles-Bykbaev, Manolis Wallace, José J. Pazos-Arias, Alberto Gil-Solla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Universities in Latin America commonly gather much more information about their students than allowed by data protection regulations in other parts of the world. We have tackled the question of whether abundant socio-economic data can be harnessed for the purpose of predicting academic outcomes and, thereby, taking proactive actions in student attention, course planning and resource management. A study was conducted to analyze the data gathered by a private university in Ecuador over more than 20 years, to normalize them and to parameterize a Multi-Layer Perceptron neural network, whose best-performing configuration would be used as a benchmark for the comparison of more recent and sophisticated Artificial Intelligence techniques. However, an extensive scan of hyperparameters for the perceptron-exploring more than 12,000 configurations-revealed no significant relationships between the input variables and the chosen metrics, suggesting that there is no gain from processing the extensive socio-economic data. This finding contradicts the expectations raised by previous works in the related literature and in some cases highlights important methodological flaws.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3084
Pages (from-to)3084
JournalApplied Sciences (Switzerland)
Issue number15
StatePublished - 31 Jul 2019


  • Data protection
  • Deep learning
  • Multi-Layer Perceptron
  • Performance prediction
  • Student records


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