When using technology to increase student engagement, instructors should focus on three key risks: highly sensitive information, FERPA-protected information, and intellectual property.
Today’s educators are faced with a multitude of tools (e.g., collaborative workspaces, chat rooms, blogs, wikis, and podcast/video sites) that offer new potential for engaging students in learning. When such tools are institutionally provided, instructors can be confident that relevant policy issues have been addressed. But many instructors also want to use third-party hosted tools that are not yet offered by their institution or that are impractical or impossible for the institution to implement or purchase. Institutions struggle with how to appropriately manage the review of these tools for compliance with policy and applicable law concerning data privacy, security, and protection of intellectual property rights, especially given the exploding use of these tools and the typically limited number of knowledgeable staff to conduct reviews.
So if an institution can’t keep up with all of these tools, what can it do? Some higher education institutions provide guidance for their instructors to perform reviews themselves. For example, the Indiana University Teaching Handbook includes a section titled “Use of Social Networks, Blogs, Wikis, and Other Third-Party Hosted Tools in Instruction,”1 which builds on an excellent and more succinct model created by the University of Wisconsin–Madison,2 to assist its faculty. Such detailed guidance is necessary for complicated or inventive uses of technology in instruction. But will the majority of instructors dabbling in the use of such tools spend the time needed to carefully consider all the issues outlined? Or will they glance at the length of these laundry lists and decide against dabbling at all, thus missing an opportunity to increase student engagement?
Lavagnino is chief privacy officer and compliance coordinator at IU.