Friday, November 18, 2011

Wiki Wonderlands


The Georgia Institute of Technology has stripped, at least for now, more than 10 years of class work from its collaborative-learning Web sites, known as Swikis. 
Following a student’s complaint to the university that his name was listed on the Web site of a public course, Georgia Tech officials decided on Monday to remove all Swikis other than ones from the current semester, said Mark Guzdial, a professor in the School of Interactive Computing, who is a co-creator of the Swikis. 
He reported the development on his Computing Education blog this week. (The tech journalist Audrey Watters picked it up on her blog.) 
In his post, Mr. Guzdial recounts how he and two Ph.D. students created the Swiki, or CoWeb, in 2000, so that students would have a place to “construct public entities on the Web.” The Swikis served intentionally undefined purposes, such as providing a forum for cross-semester discussions and a home for public galleries of student work. “All of that ended yesterday,” he wrote, because of Georgia Tech’s concerns about Ferpa, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
This seems a case of an administration over reacting to the barest hint of a legal challenge. My best guess is that the only part of this that might be covered by FERPA is identifying student posts by full name on a university course site. Identifying posts by a user handle, initials, etc., would be fine.

If the blogs themselves were public and hosted on blogger or tumblr rather than on a password protected university server, there never would have been a temptation to identify posts with students' full, legal names. In addition, students would maintain full control over what information remained online after the end of the course, not the university. I don't think there is anything in FERPA that prevents students from identifying themselves, their work, or the courses they took online. FERPA simply prevents the institution from publishing this information.

Deleting all the student authored wikis at Georgia Tech seems a very rash act.

1 comment:

  1. More on this...