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Students are being surveilled...


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If a school has, what, say 20,000 students, how in the world could they monitor hours and hours of recorded intrusions of that many students?  That many students is common in U.S. unis and colleges.   I might hazard a guess they save the info and then use it in cases they want to discipline a student or expel him.  Seems like a violation of our 5th amendment, protection against self-incrimination. 

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This type of monitoring has been around for years, though I suspect the move to remote learning as a result of the Covid 19 situation has accelerated its use. However, back in 1978 I was called in by my tutor who was concerned that I had not checked out a book from the library which was essential for the module I was doing. He was right I had not checked it out as I had my own copy, a fact that surprised him as the book was very expensive. 

More recently, when doing a course with the Open University I had an email from my tutor who noted that I had not downloaded software that was essential for the course, she wanted to know if I was having problems. Again it was a situation where I already had a licensed copy of the software. I could see though if a student was having difficulty with the course, the fact that they had not downloaded the course software could be the first sign that the tutors would get. 

Where tutors are not in regular face to face contact with students, it is more difficult for them to identify when students are having problems. Metrics about how long students are accessing online material or which resources they are accessing can help a tutor identify students who are having problems. Often the first sign that a student undertaking remote learning is having difficulties is that they are spending longer accessing course material than one would expect. This is often a sign that they have not understood it and are reading it again and again. 

Earlier this year I mentored a group of adults who were studying programming. It was a course consisting of eight lessons. When it got to week three I noted that one of the students had spent three times as long on the course material as the others. I also noticed that he had logged into the older course material again. So, I sent him an email asking how he was getting on with the course. It turned out he was not a native English speaker and was having trouble with some of the terminology used. A couple of emails and a Skype call and I was able to sort things out for them. However, if I had not had access to the monitoring information I would never have been aware of the problem and suspect that they would have dropped out of the course.

By the way Cole the 5th Amendment does not apply in the UK which is where the usage was being reported, though GDPR does apply, which might well be of more use. 


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Here is an interesting article by Cory Doctorow: The Dangers of Cynical Sci-Fi Disaster Stories


I wrote these stories in the era of mass surveillance, as my fears for networked computers were coming true: that the liberatory power of computers would be sidelined and they would be turned into mass surveillance, control, and manipulation instead.


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Interesting article on sci-fi predicted disasters... now read on.

Algorithms rule the world. You can't process all the data collected without them. Problem is, not even the engineers who write these algorithms know exactly how they work.

First of all, there’s virtually no regulation of data-collection in the United States, meaning companies can create detailed profiles of individuals based on huge troves of personal data—without those individuals knowing what’s being collected or how that information is being used. 

In Europe it's a bit better and you have to consent, plus you have the right to correct and delete.

But back to the point, all this collected data is processed by algorithms.

"...as algorithms become more complex, they become more dangerous. The assumptions these filters make end up having real impact on the individual level, but they’re based on oceans of data that no one person, not even the person who designed them, can ever fully interpret."




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3 hours ago, Talo Segura said:

In Europe it's a bit better and you have to consent, plus you have the right to correct and delete.


Also under GDPR data can only be held so long as it can be shown that holding the data is necessary for the purpose for which consent was given. I know that with the data that is collected with respect to the students on the courses I mentor, the majority of data  is deleted one year and one day after the posting of the final grades. After that all that is held is their contact details and module result. This of course has to be kept in case there is a query about the students qualifications.

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