FERPA and Learning 2.0

John Thomson, writing in response to Martin Weller’s ideas in SocialLearn finds Web 2.0 an awkward fit for higher education and gives among his reasons for why universities can’t/won’t change:

“FERPA has everybody scared. The purpose of the law was to protect student’s personal and grade information from things like the grade list on the door and prying parents. Yet fear over having students work on external commercial systems, which are largely secure from hacking and violate privacy only on the aggregate level of data, causes hesitation from using Web 2.0 systems or attempting to form partnerships with their owners.”

Having students do learning activities in public seems completely reasonable in theater or music where performance to audiences is part of the authentic activity. And I doubt FERPA has a problem with a school play or concert listing the names of the performers in the program even if they are also the members of a class preparing the performance. The difference for me is the authenticity. Forcing a student to blog on a class discussion or post a paper on the causes of World War II, where the activity is school work and not authentic performance is where I have a problem.

If the instructor is giving a grade for the activity, I believe that is FERPA protected, but in a public venue like those above, the audience did its own assessment (not to be confused with grading) and that too is a required part of the authenticity of the experience.

For me, the interesting implications of Learning 2.0 come in taking a transformative view of the whole learning enterprise. Recently, we have been writing on transforming the grade book. The activities we propose, especially in the second and third variations probably could not be conducted within a closed learning environment — they are authentic engagements with a community and need to be on the open Internet. I see no FERPA issue here.

One Response to “FERPA and Learning 2.0”

  1. Why privacy and copyright make small providers nervous at John Thomson: Thinking out loud Says:

    […] Another response to my assertion that FERPA has some scared tells me deserves a bit of clarification. […]

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