15 Privacy & Anonymity


Privacy is also a concern, both ethically and legally, when embarking on open pedagogy projects.

Robin says she handles this by offering her students the option to use a pseudonym.

“You might have people who want to be in the open but they don’t want to develop their own digital identity attached to their real identity,” Robin said. “But if you’re going to allow that as an option you just have to understand enough about how privacy works on the web and data so that you’re not offering them some false sense of privacy that isn’t actually authentic.”

Steel said he is conscious of the students’ right to privacy under FERPA when building materials in the course of their education. He suggested several options to protect this federally mandated right of students.

  1. Get FERPA waivers from the students.
  2. Make the open resource and credit the students who contributed, but without identifying that they were part of a specific course.
  3. Allow students to use pseudonyms when building the open resource.
  4. All of the above.

He noted that not all students will feel personally passionate or attached to the things they build under their name in a course, and especially when projects are public, digital and archived in perpetuity on the web, they should not be forced to be affiliated with something they’ve done as classwork indefinitely.

David Squires, a visiting assistant professor teaching in Washington State University, who worked with his students to develop an OER textbook on social media, solved this attribution dilemma by crediting the students who built the open resource at the front of the book, rather than attaching individual students’ names to the chapters they specifically worked on.

This chapter is adapted from Privacy & Anonymity in A Guide to Making Open Textbooks with Students by Ed. Elizabeth Mays.


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