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Data Privacy and Ethics

This guide for GC Online was developed by Di Yoong and is based on the “Data Privacy and Ethics of Remote Learning” workshop they have developed for the Graduate Center Digital Initiatives.

Why does data privacy and ethics of remote learning matter?

Responding to the public health crisis caused by the coronavirus continues to reshape what it means to teach in higher education. This fall, courses will continue to be held online, and it is important to consider what digital platforms and tools we would like to use to teach in an online setting. Doing so responsibly means taking into consideration what the implications are for selecting each tool and challenging ourselves to prioritize using platforms that help keep student data private and safe. For example, in your course planning, have you considered how might you be generating “learning data” with the tools you’ve chosen?

As we move into the Fall semester, we need to take a step back and look at what data we are (un)intentionally collecting of us and of our students as a result of hybrid and online learning environments. The CUNY University Faculty Senate has approved a resolution affirming the privacy of student’s data, especially when working with third-party vendors (e.g. Zoom), bringing renewed attention and concerns (this document adopts previous documentations by University of California and University of Hawaii Mānoa) we may have about how students’ data may be used. 

Some of the conversation around the ethics of remote learning also serves to remind us that our students are juggling multiple roles and responsibilities in this current crisis. They may not be able to prioritize their role as a student in our remote learning environment and that is okay. Understand that our students are doing the best they can to remain engaged, and as educators (who may also hold multiple roles and responsibilities!) we should be prepared to be flexible to offer alternatives. 

In addition, moving to an online environment requires us to further consider the equity and accessibility of our students. Gaps in access may be further exaggerated in remote learning (e.g. unstable internet connections) and careful course planning is crucial to support students’ participation and growth.