In their presentation at the Open Education 2018 conference entitled “Open” Education and Student Learning Data: Reflections on Big Data, Privacy, and Learning Platforms, Billy Meinke and Steel Wagstaff asked whether we might consider open education to include the value of respecting privacy. Their presentation was about data gathered from students by educational technology tools, some principles we should consider when using learning analytics, and how one might include a privacy statement in one’s syllabus. The slides are chock-full of information and extra reading; I highly recommend you take a look.
Similarly, in a keynote I gave at the eCampus Ontario Technology-Enhanced Seminar and Showcase in 2017, I had a slide that said: “open is not the opposite of private.” I want to here dig a little more deeply into how and why that could be the case, since on first glance it could seem these are opposed.
In another keynote in 2017 (What’s Open about Open Pedagogy?), I tried to come up with some overarching similarity between various aspects of what people have called “open pedagogy,” including: students producing OER, students co-creating curricula, connecting people in a course to people outside of it, being transparent & fostering trust, and ensuring equity in teaching and learning. It seemed to me at the time (see slide 33 in the deck for that talk) that one way to link them all together was around removal of barriers: between teachers and students, between a class and people outside of it, barriers that block visibility….
But if what’s open about open pedagogy (and possibly open access, open educational resources, and other parts of open education) is the reduction or removal of barriers, then why isn’t privacy—which seems to be about closing things off—the opposite of open? Or rather, for the purposes of this post, why would it make sense to say that one of the values of open education could be to be concerned about and respect privacy?