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Users or Students? Privacy in University MOOCS


From the abstract:

Two terms, student privacy and Massive Open Online Courses, have received a significant amount of attention recently. Both represent interesting sites of change in entrenched structures, one educational and one legal. MOOCs represent something college courses have never been able to provide: universal access. Universities not wanting to miss the MOOC wave have started to build MOOC courses and integrate them into the university system in various ways. However, the design and scale of university MOOCs create tension for privacy laws intended to regulate information practices exercised by educational institutions. Are MOOCs part of the educational institutions these laws and policies aim to regulate? Are MOOC users students whose data are protected by aforementioned laws and policies? Many university researchers and faculty members are asked to participate as designers and instructors in MOOCs but may not know how to approach the issues proposed. While recent scholarship has addressed the disruptive nature of MOOCs, student privacy generally, and data privacy in the K-12 system, we provide an in-depth description and analysis of the MOOC phenomenon and the privacy laws and policies that guide and regulate educational institutions today. We offer privacy case studies of three major MOOC providers active in the market today to reveal inconsistencies among MOOC platform and the level and type of legal uncertainty surrounding them. Finally, we provide a list of organizational questions to pose internally to navigate the uncertainty presented to university MOOC teams.

Are MOOC-Takers ‘Students’? Not When It Comes to the Feds Protecting Their Data


The U.S. Education Department wants to encourage colleges and the tech companies they work with to protect student data from misuse. But the agency’s power to protect the privacy of people taking free, online courses is essentially nonexistent.

“Data in the higher-education context for MOOCs is seldom Ferpa-protected,” Kathleen Styles, the Education Department’s chief privacy officer, said on Tuesday at a symposium on student privacy. In other words, people who take free online courses known as MOOCs, or massive open online courses, are not covered under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, known as Ferpa, which stipulates how colleges must protect the “education records” of their students.

That puts those taking MOOCs in a kind of limbo. They are not technically students, even though the courses are offered by colleges, some of which receive a portion of revenue from fees for certificates of completion.

Murky Federal Privacy Law Puts MOOC Student Data in Questionable Territory


At a Dec. 2 symposium on student privacy, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports Styles said, “Data in the higher-education context for MOOCs is seldom FERPA-protected.” U.S. Department of Education website says FERPA applies to “all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.” MOOCs are rarely funded with Title IV, government-funded dollars, Styles said.

However, two of the largest MOOC providers disagree on whether federal law applies to their student data.

The standard agreement used by edX, a MOOC platform founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says that it is subject to and complies with FERPA requirements, according to The Chronicle.

Coursera, a MOOC platform founded by Standard University professors, follows the “principles” of FERPA but doesn’t think it applies to MOOCs, its chief academic strategist Vivek Goel told The Chronicle.

MOOC Provider Coursera to Provide Professional Development Courses for Teachers


The President of the United States, Barack Obama shared his support today to over 3 million teachers across the US with Coursera. In front of a packed house at the Superintendents’ Summit in DC today to promote the Future Ready Pledge as part of the ConnectEd Initiative, President Obama disclosed a new offering by Coursera and its partners to give teachers free Coursera Verified Certificates for district-approved professional development.