In the Spotlight: Privacy in Open Learning

Happy second week of school to all City Tech faculty, students, and staff! At the start of every semester, hundreds of members of the City Tech community join the OpenLab for the very first time. If that’s your case, welcome! We want to take the start of the semester to go over the ins-and-outs of privacy in open learning. After all, the OpenLab is a public-facing platform. While this public-ness is part of what makes the OpenLab a rich environment for teaching and learning, some of you may have concerns about what working in the open means for your privacy. Here are a few things you should know:

The OpenLab is open

The OpenLab is open by default. The site is indexable through search engines, and can be accessed by anyone inside and outside of the City Tech community.

Privacy while working in the open

The OpenLab is open, so can anyone can find your personal information by looking you up on the OpenLab?

The answer is a resounding no! This is because members of the OpenLab can identify themselves using a pseudonym for their user name or display name instead of their real name. Their avatar can represent them without including a real photo or identifying image. Plenty of OpenLab members, for example, use pictures of their cats, their guitars, their cars, abstract sketches of themselves, etc. Check out our detailed overview of the OpenLab’s privacy policy, and best practices for protecting your confidentiality here.

If you are an instructor teaching a course on the OpenLab, or a staff/ faculty member leading a club/ project on the OpenLab, it is essential for you to know that members–particularly students–cannot be required to use their proper name or likeness when creating an OpenLab account.

Participating in courses on the OpenLab

If you are an instructor teaching on the OpenLab, you might wonder how you can identify your students if they are using pseudonyms on the platform.

The answer is that site administrators can identify group members in the site dashboard by full name and email address (as shown below). Therefore, they do not need to rely on usernames to identify members. In other words, members should not be asked to change their username or display name for identification purposes. Remember though: people’s full names are only visible for site administrators in the dashboard. They are not visible anywhere else on the OpenLab.

A screenshot of a site administrator's view of the dashboard. When the site administrator clicks "Users" in the dashboard, they will see the site's users avatars, full names, and email addresses.

We hope this helps explain how your privacy is protected when you work in the open.  Again, please visit our Help documentation on privacy on the OpenLab for a fuller overview of your rights and best practices for protecting your confidentiality.  As always, feel free to comment on this post if you have questions! 

One thought on “In the Spotlight: Privacy in Open Learning”

  1. Thank you, Claire, for this helpful and clarifying update! The importance of student (and faculty) privacy is a key to open learning. Appreciate the idea of building it in, from Day One, to open knowledge practices.

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