Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Questions about Schools on Facebook

Last week, a number of our central IT staff and a few key campus administrators met over a brownbag to watch Inigral's demo video of their Schools product. Afterwards, we discussed positive aspects of the product and our concerns about it.

In the end, I was very pleased that such a diverse and influential group came to discuss the notion of integrating with a third-party product.

I made note of a number of questions that arose and grouped them into a few broad categories:

  • For how long is our institutional data kept at third-party host?
  • What are the intellectual property (of students) considerations?

  • How often would our enrollment data be updated at third-party host?
  • Will advertising be served? How?
  • Is there a difference between a person's regular Facebook profile and their Schools profile?
  • Can any members of a class get to other classmates regular profiles without being a friend?
  • How would FERPA exceptions be handled in the application?

Instructional and Business Process
  • What is our process for choosing which "cool new" tool/service to try or adopt?
  • What are the implications if instructors participate? What if they do not?
  • Could our institutional participation in Schools somehow help teach students how to best manage their "public face" (online profiles and info)?
  • Should we consider this a student-only tool? Just at first or for how long? Do we let instructors or TA's in?
In the end, we and any potential vendor, will have to address questions like these -- and many more -- prior to our adoption of an outside vendor-hosted application. I'm quite optimistic that our university is asking the right questions and has people open to discussing this new model.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Two Issues Regarding Schools on Facebook (FERPA and Creepy Treehouse)

Two areas of concern arise quickly when we begin to discuss the idea of leveraging third-party technology by integrating university enrollment data: FERPA and the "Creepy Treehouse Effect".

Inigral's Michael Staton, a former teacher who is now involved with the release of Schools on Facebook, addresses these two issues in recent posts.

FERPA, Facebook and The Social Web

"...The immediate reaction to the thought of activating a campus-wide Facebook application can make any decision-maker nervous. Information is shared all over Facebook, and a campus’ interest to keep student data private and secure is not only an obligation but is also upheld by the law....At Inigral, we’ve worked with our pilot school and our lawyers to assure that all features of our application are FERPA compliant and uphold the strongest standards of security and privacy. I don’t want to go into the exact feature set that makes it such a comfortable thing for institutional adoption, but it is proof that venturing into the wide world of the Social Web is highly possible with a little care."

Debunking the Creepy Treehouse: the Functional Mall
...We don’t need to give educators an excuse to not be using these technologies, we need to be getting them to understand how best to use these technologies. We need to keep in mind the “creepy treehouse” to guide us, but let us not point to everything on Facebook and Myspace, Twitter and Flickr and start accusing. As long as everyone is using their privacy settings and limits contact with those that might be of a “transcendant” age group or have a “careful” boundary (e.g. teacher/student, parent/child) to transactional interactions."