Expectations of student privacy in online courses

(1/3) > >>

meagain:
With all of the talk of open education of late, I've been wondering if online students have any legal expectation that their contributions to online course discussions will remain "private" insofar as they won't be visible to anybody outside of a password-protected class.  For example, can I force students, as a class assignment, to create a public blog on which they are to post their papers, or to participate in a course discussion taking place in an "open" (i.e. public) venue?   I would be uncomfortable doing this since some students may feel uncomfortable being put in such a situation, lest their boss, friends, spouse, etc.  see their work.  I could imagine a scenario in which this openness hurts students, either by having negative consequences in their non-student life, or by limiting their engagement in discussion.   

To be clear, I don't want to force students to do this.  However, the admin at my institution are moving towards this as a model (and in some cases it is already happening).   So, does anybody know if students can point to a law and say "No, I decline to participate in this wholly public course assignment"? 

Thanks in advance.

mended_drum:
Egad.  There are so many public blogs in my area of study, from those constructed by 5th graders all the way up to advanced undergraduate seminar participants, that it only takes me one google search demonstration to persuade my students to stick with research databases and the one or two web sites to which I specifically direct them.  More flotsam on the internet produced by students as class projects will certainly not improve matters.

yemaya:
Quote from: meagain on October 03, 2012,  8:42:49 PM

With all of the talk of open education of late, I've been wondering if online students have any legal expectation that their contributions to online course discussions will remain "private" insofar as they won't be visible to anybody outside of a password-protected class.  For example, can I force students, as a class assignment, to create a public blog on which they are to post their papers, or to participate in a course discussion taking place in an "open" (i.e. public) venue?   I would be uncomfortable doing this since some students may feel uncomfortable being put in such a situation, lest their boss, friends, spouse, etc.  see their work.  I could imagine a scenario in which this openness hurts students, either by having negative consequences in their non-student life, or by limiting their engagement in discussion. 

I was involved in a recent discussion about this issue because a couple of colleagues assigned work along these lines.  The consensus was that because their work is part of their educational record, assignments like these violate FERPA.  If you're not in the US, FERPA won't apply.

Quote

To be clear, I don't want to force students to do this.  However, the admin at my institution are moving towards this as a model (and in some cases it is already happening).   So, does anybody know if students can point to a law and say "No, I decline to participate in this wholly public course assignment"? 

Thanks in advance.


I agree with you about not forcing students to do assignments like this.  If you're in the US, and the assignment publicly identifies students as Stu Dent from TechU, the student could probably assert their FERPA rights.  Whether the required use of open sites violates FERPA seems to be a matter of debates  A number of colleges here in the US have explicitly determined that these sort of assignments violate FERPA, unless they're behind a password-protected wall:

Emerson

Similar ruling from Georgia Tech

And here's a dissenting opinion that suggests that if you have the students use user names and avoid posting any of your own feedback to them, it's not a violation.

Personally, I would discuss it with a lawyer.


proftowanda:
If you're in the U.S., there's another law to consider (and possibly equivalents in other countries):  If a student has a TRO (temporary restraining order) against an abuser, a campus can have liability for not following the court order protecting the student's privacy, whereabouts, class schedule, etc.

(Just last week in Towanda Town, a woman student was shot at her campus, tracked down by her TRO'd ex, in the halls.  Fortunately, other students and faculty and staff in the vicinity were not injured, too.  So far, it's not known how the TRO'd ex knew her class schedule.  But I'm aware, in other cases, of such information being given by office staffers.  So, we'll see what comes in this case.)

I think that courses requiring a public profile ought to have to state that in the schedule of classes, so that such students know to not enroll in those -- and the campus had better not make it a requirement in required courses for which there is no alternative. 

Yes, I would discuss it with the campus counsel and, if yours has one, the campus risk manager.

yemaya:
Quote from: proftowanda on October 04, 2012,  1:53:05 AM

If you're in the U.S., there's another law to consider (and possibly equivalents in other countries):  If a student has a TRO (temporary restraining order) against an abuser, a campus can have liability for not following the court order protecting the student's privacy, whereabouts, class schedule, etc.

(Just last week in Towanda Town, a woman student was shot at her campus, tracked down by her TRO'd ex, in the halls.  Fortunately, other students and faculty and staff in the vicinity were not injured, too.  So far, it's not known how the TRO'd ex knew her class schedule.  But I'm aware, in other cases, of such information being given by office staffers.  So, we'll see what comes in this case.)

I think that courses requiring a public profile ought to have to state that in the schedule of classes, so that such students know to not enroll in those -- and the campus had better not make it a requirement in required courses for which there is no alternative. 

Yes, I would discuss it with the campus counsel and, if yours has one, the campus risk manager.


This is an excellent point.  There are many, many perfectly valid reasons why these open, public assignments are a stupid idea.

Navigation

[0] Message Index

[#] Next page