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.

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