Student Privacy with Tools

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Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash.

Education, Technology, Big Data, and You

Face-to-face, online, and hybrid courses make use of various technology tools to facilitate learning. These tools are varied and may have different purposes, such as a publisher resource system (ex: Pearson MyLab), a learning management system (ex: Canvas), a video site (ex: YouTube), among many others.

All online tools collect data in some fashion from their users. In an era of data breaches, identity theft, compromised credentials, browser fingerprinting, and much more, many people are wary of how their information is being used by other individuals and groups. As such, it’s critical to make students aware of any privacy policies that may impact how their data is being used by an entity.

Tools used in an educational environment, much like standard consumer tools, collect information from their users for a multitude of purposes.  This information may be used to support product improvements, but may similarly be sold to a group in an attempt to market products to individuals. In some cases, a tool may even claim ownership over any work produced by an individual using their product. Simply put, if data is generated, there is a possibility for a group to find a way to quantify it, manipulate it, and use it for their own purposes.

What Can I Do About It?

As an instructor, it’s important to make students aware of privacy policies for any tools used in a course. This allows students to determine if they are willing to use a tool versus the cost of their data. In many cases, a student will still opt to use a tool. If a student has a reservation about using a tool they can then contact the tool’s creators for clarification, or inform their instructor of their reason to not use the tool.

Privacy policy links are often found near the bottom of a website’s page. For example, the Canvas privacy policy is located on the Dashboard at the very bottom of the page. Others websites, such as YouTube, may list a policy within a menu (ex: menu on left side of YouTube interface). In some cases, a website may not have a privacy policy page but may have another form of terms and conditions.

To inform students about privacy policies, simply provide a link to a tool’s privacy policy at its first use in a Canvas shell, or inform them of the tool’s use via the syllabus. This will allow students the opportunity to review the policy before opting to use a tool. Alternatively, create a page in the Canvas course shell that lists all tools that will be used along with a link to their privacy policies.

Other Resources to Review About Privacy

There are a number of resources available online regarding student privacy and privacy in general.  Here is a sampling of such resources.


Have questions about instruction, course design, teaching methods, technology to help, or more? Please contact the Center for Teaching & Learning through our contact form or by phone at (708) 974-5347.