The BC Post-Secondary Education Technology Privacy Group are a group of post-secondary educators and other professionals interested in bridging the intersection between the need to safeguard students’ privacy and security, and the quest to use relevant pedagogical tools and empower students with real-world media literacy skills.
We acknowledge the concern about student privacy and security and wish to comply with B.C.’s FIPPA while at the same time engaging the public internet, not hiding from it.
We see cloud-based tools as an opportunity to educate our students to be informed digital citizens. Our mission is to encourage meaningful, informed compliance with FIPPA among B.C. educators who use online tools in their teaching and learning practice.
In British Columbia, public educational institutions operate under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (“FIPPA”). This legislation has been a source of vexation in the province, with some educational decision makers deciding to interpret the act as forbidding the use of externally-hosted services for teaching and learning. That stance has caused frustration for educators here, especially since a 2011 BCcampus forum and study suggested a far more nuanced interpretation was tenable.
The legislation is frequently invoked to close off alternatives to existing campus-hosted services such as the LMS; a catch-all objection telling educators they can’t have students author on Wikipedia, or wordpress.com, use Flickr, etc.
At the same time, concerns about online surveillance from governments and large media corporations, are very real.
The extensive U.S. surveillance programs appear to capture just about all communications: everything that enters or exits the U.S., anything involving a non-U.S. participant, and anything that travels through undersea cables. This would seem to leave Canadian cellphone and Internet users at a similar risk of surveillance regardless of the nationality of the carrier and suggests that Canadian companies may be facilitating surveillance of their customers by failing to adopt safeguards that render it more difficult for foreign agencies to access data.
Fear, uncertainty and doubt over internet privacy has led to a sizable subset of faculty in B.C. institutions practicing either “informed non-compliance” with the provisions of the legislation, or shying away from the public internet entirely, to the detriment of their teaching practice. Instructors have conflicting directives from their various legal departments and administrators. For instance, at least one institution has instructed educators and librarians to refrain from allowing students to use public-facing websites (hosted by the institution itself!) out of concerns over violating FIPPA. Meanwhile at Royal Roads University, a set of policies and practices are posted online for instructors’ use because that institution “support[s] the integration of social learning theory-and-practice, with cloud-based social media.”
Goals and objectives
Enable meaningful compliance: we want to encourage educators in B.C.’S post-secondary educators to comply with the FIPPA. Objectives toward fulfilling this goal include:
- Develop a toolkit for instructors in getting informed consent.
- Resources for approaching administrators to influence institutional policy.
Enhance media literacy: we want to equip students with the knowledge and tools to become informed, discerning digital citizens who are aware of the reality of using online services, their rights and responsibilities under FIPPA, and who are adept at using online tools with their privacy and security in mind. Objectives toward fulfilling this goal include:
- Offering stripped-down modules of Digital Tattoo for instructors to use in their classes.
Take a systemic approach: we want to encourage all B.C. public post-secondary institutions to have a shared set of policies and practices around FIPPA compliance. We want to reduce the inconsistent approach different institutions are taking. Objectives towards fulfilling this goal include:
- Inventory the policies currently developed
- Bring together Academic VPs and other decision-makers to share guidelines, resources, and policies (possibly another privacy conference).
Explore technical solutions: there are potential technical developments to anonymize student data, such as an identity management layer, or development on LTI specifications along lines of what Lumen Learning is doing. Objectives toward this goal include:
- Writing a white paper listing possible solutions for consideration of IT directors and educational technologists.
- Brian Lamb (TRU)
- Cindy Underhill (UBC)
- Clint Lalonde (BCcampus)
- Janis McKenzie (SFU)
- Janni Aragon (UVic)
- Tannis Morgan (JIBC)
- Valerie Irvine (UVic)
- Vivian Forssman (RRU)
For more information on the EdTech Privacy Group, contact Clint Lalonde at BCcampus.