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Does FERPA ban schools from allowing students to share their coursework online? (OMFG NO). But that hasn't stopped Georgia Tech from crippling the school's wikis. Pretty sad considering that's the university where school-based wiki usage was founded.
Derek Bruff's profile photoEmily Hegarty's profile photoRaymond Johnson's profile photoAudrey Watters's profile photo
Just my gut reaction here: FERPA is a blight on academia.
I could just cry, +Audrey Watters - really, this is just too awful for words. My school deleted hundreds of my student projects a couple years ago, with no warning, and I cried for hours. Now I use GoogleSites. As for FERPA, the students can choose to mask their identity on GoogleSites if they want; so far, not a single student has chosen to do so.
I've called FERPA in Washington before. They are routinely surprised by the crap the administration pulls in their name.
I am stunned. I was preparing an online blogging experience for my students in a Government and Politics of Asia course this coming spring. I forwarded the information to my department chair to see what our local university regulations are concerning this. While I think the Georgia Tech interpretation is wrong, I am concerned enough to ensure I know into what I am about to step.
+Don Inbody Here's what ironic: the system my school is now promoting for student web publishing not only reveals the student's name, it reveals their UNIVERSITY NETWORK ID in the URL of every webpage. Can you believe that? Not just their name, but their actual university log-on (which normally we are not supposed to share with anybody). It would also reveal my university log-on (that I use for our SIS to enter grades for example), if I chose to publish any course materials this way. When I protested that I was not about to reveal my university log-on to the entire Internet, I was told that the "Security Committee" had reviewed this and decided it was not a problem. OMG. They said it was "just" the log-on; my password was still secret.
And ... the system they are using for this truly awful web publishing option, Xythos, was recently acquired by... Blackboard! Go figure!
At least with GoogleSites my students can protect their privacy if they prefer that to actually sharing their learning online. As I said, so far my students are proud of their work (justifiably, I would add!), and glad to share it with other students under their own name. I like the fact that the choice is theirs. Meanwhile, if I used the option now being provided by my university, not only would their name be public, so would their university log-on. Incredible.
+Laura Gibbs I am continuing my work for the spring class and fully intend on having a public blog for my students' to post and comment in. My department chair happens to also be a lawyer, so she will likely take an interest in this. One of my main reasons for having been hired as a lecturer was to develop the online course structure for the political science department. I have also taken the online experience into the classroom for a hybrid arrangement.

I will let you know what goes on here.

BTW, the University login is essentially the opening part of their email address on campus. For example, while I have an alias of my "real" email address is The "di12" is my netid for logging into anything official. It is quite public here.
Our network ID has a culture of privacy because... until recently! ... it was our social security number. So, they finally got rid of using the social security number and came up with an actual university ID number. I still treat it, though, on a need-to-know basis. Does the whole world need to know my ID number? Uh, on the criteria of NEED to know, I don't think so. It is just sloppiness of the Xythos implementation that led them to build it that way.
Interesting. My id number in the Navy was my social security number. That really messed up a lot of people because it was not only on my ID card but on my wife's ID card. Lots of people made copies of there goes that bit of privacy. I have had no repercussions from that, though. However, I watch my credit reports like a hawk.
I benefited from it too, actually - when I got married, the NC office unexpectedly wanted to see proof not just of identity but of my social security number... and they accepted my university ID card as that proof! So, I got lucky... but back when I had access to the social security numbers of every single one of my students, oh, that felt SO WRONG. Which is probably why I have a strong reaction to not wanting to share my current university ID if I can possibly avoid it. And, of course, it would be easy to avoid - when building the Xythos page URLs, they could have built it with a random identifier instead of a combination of name and ID number which violates FERPA (apparently... if the Georgia Tech twaddle is to be believed) and needlessly shares other personal information.
I am beginning to believe that privacy is much over-rated.
Agreed, +Don Inbody - I value sharing, AND I value privacy. I worry very much about the obsession with privacy online and the lack of interest in sharing online at my university; I suspect the same disequilibrium on every other campus...
The reason I brought up the Xythos thing was just the sheer hypocrisy of the folks who deleted all my hundreds of websites supposedly because of privacy issues, and then blatantly ignored privacy issues when it suited their (unspoken) agenda.
It is disturbing, isn't it? I am going to walk over and talk with our IT folks and discuss some issues with them about web publishing and student involvement.
Please report back; I am so curious to hear about how this is evolving on other campuses! :-)
I'm trying to get a comment from Georgia Tech about this, but no word yet. I think this is a very fast and loose (and wrong) interpretation of the rule, but hey, I'm not a lawyer. I'll update my post as soon as (or if) I hear anything from the school.
The twists and turns of FERPA can be crazy-making. I remember when I worked for our campus IT we had a total crisis about the employee directory: open records law in Oklahoma REQUIRED us to list all university employees ... but FERPA (they said) REQUIRED us not to list any student employees. So the lawyers had to sit down and figure out just how to solve the paradox, determining how students could (or could not) opt out of if they were also university employees. Did the world become a better place as a result of any of that? I think not. But it kept the lawyers very busy.
I have a G+ Hangout with +Tia Lendo shortly about using G+ for education. I will call this discussion to her attention and maybe she can help spread it wider.
But students might find out what COURSES other STUDENTS are taking! Or even what other students are LEARNING in those courses! Best to just shut down the entire Internet. All of it.
Thanks for posting this important story. 
I understood the value of FERPA when I taught high school -- it made sense for parents to have a way to control whether their child was identified in the media or to military recruiters. I've occasionally wondered if FERPA had any role at the college level, and this story makes it painfully clear that it might (even if only when misinterpreted).
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