My Data is MINE! #My31

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I just claimed my 31st human right and joined the data property rights movement. Download the app to see what it’s all about.  

Healthcare including Pharma first.
Higher Ed & Lifelong learning, next ?



What Every College Leader Should Know About Blockchain

Amid the hype, the technology really does have major implications for
higher education research, accountability and credentials, Daniel Pianko writes.

Blockchain is at the steep end of higher education’s hype cycle. Institutional leaders and pundits alike are intrigued by blockchain’s potential but often know little about the technology beyond its central role in stories about initial coin offerings or Bitcoin University.


So how does the advent of blockchain square with the aspirations of higher education? And why might institutional leaders take note of its potential? What should university leaders know about the technology’s origins and application to real-world challenges and opportunities on campus?

What Is Blockchain and Why Does It Matter?

Blockchain is the underlying technological innovation behind Bitcoin — the rise of digital currency. The technology itself solves one of the great problems of society: how to create a system where many people keep verified, trusted information. Today, for example, the record of who owns a plot of land is kept at the town hall. Imagine if every town hall was linked so that every town hall had a copy of a land title?

As Andreessen Horowitz partner Chris Dixon recently wrote, “In the same way people dismissed early smartphones because they traded off computing power and screen size for portability and new sensors,” many will view Bitcoin as a fad but ignore just how truly revolutionary blockchain will be for every industry including higher education.

Think of blockchain as akin to online learning during the early 2000s. Most college presidents pooh-poohed the quality and efficacy of the digital revolution, while some entrepreneurial presidents like Michael Crow at Arizona State University and Paul LeBlanc at Southern New Hampshire University have built powerful online learning networks that catapult them to the forefront of the higher education ecosystem.

Blockchain Is Driving Job Growth

It won’t be long before the blockchain “skills gap” jumps the shark. Already, the single most in-demand skill for freelancers is blockchain. LinkedIn postings for blockchain jobs are up 6,000 percent year over year, and starting developer salaries are over $100,000, with hourly billing rates frequently surpassing $100. There are more than 14 job postings for every skilled developer.

If your university is not equipped to introduce courses and concepts rooted in the application and potential of blockchain, now is the time to start. Your students will expect it. Blockchain presents a rare opportunity for differentiation, more than the latest fad. Every major financial services company has announced a blockchain initiative, while whole countries like Malta have initiated efforts to move their identification systems to the blockchain — throw away that pesky driver’s license; your PGP key will suffice. There are, as yet, no standout institutions in the era of blockchain. But early pioneers are clamoring for the title. Australia’s Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology is among a growing few, along with MIT’s recently unveiled course on blockchain and money.

If you don’t have a blockchain course, begin with a certificate and develop a degree program over time. It’s not just about the technical skills, either — an education in the basics of blockchain has implications in product design and business strategy that will support students across a range of careers.

Research Matters

Blockchain research is multidisciplinary by nature and could touch on virtually every department of the university. Even classicists will be pleased to note that the technology’s core innovation is frequently called the Byzantine General’s problem.

Research dollars and opportunities will soon abound. Savvy institutions will build capacity by launching blockchain working groups that cut across departments like mathematics, political science, finance and others.

As you pull together your research team, think about creating a specific center of excellence for your research — blockchain will revolutionize everything from currency trading to issues of digital identity, and is likely too broad a field for even the largest university to cover every topic.

Accountability Implications

Fundamental aspects of university life, like teaching and learning or faculty governance, are unlikely to be transformed by blockchain in the near term. But blockchain will have significant implications for other facets and functions within higher education.

The federal government and private lenders could base the payment of financial aid dollars on course completion, as opposed to seat time. Universities may put student portfolios or other work on the blockchain to enable discovery by employers or other partners.

The blockchain might enable micropayments or easier identifications on college campuses that create the next set of radical innovations in student identification and payment. Each university president should start by exploring just a few areas (e.g., financial aid) where blockchain can create new efficiencies or transform back-office functionality.


Beyond the Transcript

Blockchain is likely the death knell for the embossed transcript. Records will be kept in distributed ledgers. Students will be able to share much more granular information about their learning to future employers, friends and partners.

Right now, the only way to know if someone graduated from your university is to call the registrar. What if individual faculty or programs could play the role of “authorized credential issuers,” time-stamping accomplishments on the blockchain that can be validated instantaneously? In short order, blockchain can help to solve one of higher education’s most vexing challenges: making the case for a system where many people keep verified, trusted information.

This isn’t the stuff of science fiction. Blockchain already allows millions of computers to securely store the information of who graduated from which university, rather than keeping those records within a single registrar’s office. In addition to hosting the largest MOOC on digital currency, the first such degree program in the world, the University of Nicosia has announced a blockchain-enabled credential to give students a more secure way of verifying their skills online, which is now employed at multiple universities.

Technology innovation and disruption tends to come to education late in the cycle. Newspapers found their business model disrupted by the internet well before higher education did. With blockchain, it appears that the venture capitalists and other financial intermediaries will be disrupted first (there have been over $6 billion in initial coin offerings already this year). However, it is only a matter of time before blockchain technology disrupts the operations of virtually every university — and institutional leaders should be prepared.

A decade from now, which reader of this column will lay claim to being the Michael Crow or Paul LeBlanc of the blockchain era?

20 Ways Blockchain Will Transform (Okay, May Improve) Education

Tom Vander Ark 
Blockchain is a public ledger that automatically records and verifies transactions. The distributed ledger technology (DLT) powers Bitcoin, Ethereum and other virtual currencies (which have taken a beating this month). Less publicized are all the ways DLT could transform many industries. Use cases for a transparent, verifiable register of transaction data are numerous because DLT operates through a decentralized platform making it fraud resistant.


With assistance from Educause and CB Insights, we’ve identified 26 ways that DLT could be deployed by school districts, networks, postsecondary institutions and community-based organizations to improve learning opportunities.

1. Transcripts. Academic credentials must be universally recognized and verifiable. In K-12 and postsecondary, verifying academic credentials remains largely a manual process (heavy on paper documentation and case-by-case checking). DLT solutions could streamline verification procedures and reduce fraudulent claims of unearned educational credits.

Learning Machine, a 10-year-old software startup, has collaborated with MIT Media Lab to launch of the Blockcerts toolset, which provides an open infrastructure for creating, issuing, viewing and verifying blockchain-based certificates.

Matt Pittinsky, CEO of transcript service Parchment, said there’s a lot of design decisions to work out before widespread use of DLT transcripts. He thinks blockchain will store locations to systems that that record comprehensive records–a balance between permanence and portability.

2. Badges. Specific skill assertions can be verified and communicated with a digital badge. Multiple badges can be assembled into an open badge passport that students can share with prospective employers.

Indorse is using blockchain to verify e-portfolios. Users upload claims with a link to verification and other users verify that claim.


3. Student records. Sony Global Education developed a educational platform in partnership with IBM that uses blockchain to secure and share student records.

Storing an comprehensive learner record on a distributed ledger may prove computationally intensive and, as a result, prohibitively expensive. As Pittinsky predicted, DLT may just be used as a directory rather than a data warehouse.

4. Identity. With the proliferation of learning apps and services, identity management is a big problem in education. Platforms like Blockstack and uPort help users carry their identity with around the internet. On Blockstack, users will access apps on decentralized networks and have data portability.

5. Infrastructure security. As schools add more security cameras and sensors, they need to protect their networks from hackers. Companies like Xage are using blockchain’s tamper-proof ledgers to sharing security data across device networks.

6. Ridesharing. Blockchain could inject new options into the rideshare oligopoly. With a distributed ledger, drivers and riders could create a more user-driven, value-oriented marketplace. DLT rideshare startup Arcade City allows drivers to establish their rates (taking a percentage of rider fares) with the blockchain logging all interactions. Arcade City appeals to professional drivers, who want to build up their own businesses than be controlled from a corporate headquarters.

School districts could negotiate with a group of screened Arcade City drivers for hard to serve aspects of pupil transportation (e.g., special needs, isolated students, work-based learning).

7.Cloud storage. As learners and education institutions store more data, DLT cloud storage could offer safer and potentially cheaper alternatives. Dubbed the “Airbnb for file storage,” Filecoin is a high-profile crypto project that rewards the hosting of files.


8. Energy management. For educational institutions with renewable energy sources, DLT could reduce the need for intermediaries. Brooklyn startup Transactive Grid enables decentralized energy generation schemes allowing entities to generate, buy, and sell energy to their neighbors.

9. Prepaid cards. Blockchains can help retailers offer secure gift cards and loyalty programs without a middleman. Gyft, an online platform for buying, sending, and redeeming gift cards, partnered with blockchain infrastructure provider Chain to run gift cards for thousands of small businesses on the blockchain, in a program called Gyft Block. Loyyal makes loyalty incentives easily exchangeable across different sectors.

Prepaid cards could be used by cities, schools, and families to purchase out of school learning experiences (e.g., an LRNG card) and associated transportation (#7).

10. Smart contracts. DLT can be used to automatically execute agreements once a set of specified conditions are met. These “smart contracts” have the potential to reduce paperwork in many sector including education.

Woolf University, formed by Oxford professors, will use DLT to execute smart contracts. A series of student and teacher “check-ins” are key to executing a series of smart contracts that validate attendance and assignment completion. A check-in could be a simple as clicking a button on a phone app but it executes a smart contract that pays the teacher and provides micro-credits to the student.

DLT could facilitate distributed learning skemes. A state or institution could fund a student’s account using blockchain-based smart contracts and and provide all the funding up-front. The smart contracts would release it when certain criteria are met. (There’s obviously a lot of policy to figure out: desirable experiences and skill verifications, eligible providers, terms and conditions, etc.)

11. Learning marketplace. The core competency of DLT is eliminating the middleman. It will be deployed to create various learning marketplaces from test prep to surfing school.

TeachMePlease is Russian pilot on the Disciplina platform where teachers and students come together. It helps students find and pay for courses, registered by educational organizations or teachers. Woolf (#16) is an example of a new higher ed marketplace.

12. Records management. DLT could reduce paper-based processes, minimize fraud, and increase accountability between authorities and those they serve. An early example, the Delaware Blockchain Initiative, aims to create an appropriate legal infrastructure for distributed ledger shares, to increase efficiency and speed of incorporation services. Illinois, Vermont, and other states have since announced similar initiatives. Startups are assisting in the effort as well: in Eastern Europe, the BitFury Group is currently working with the Georgian government to secure and track government records.

13. Retail. DLT could securely connect buyers and sellers in marketplaces.For example,  OpenBazaar operates as an open-source, peer-to-peer network that connects buyers and sellers without a middleman. Customers purchase goods using any of 50 cryptocurrencies and sellers are paid in Bitcoin.

DLT could be used to power school stores and student businesses. In some cases, a global network would be attractive, but in others, a permissioned (private) ledger could limit the scope of a school economy.

14. Charity. For charitable donations, DLT provides the ability to precisely track donations and, in some cases, impact. For example, GiveTrack, from the BitGive Foundation, is a blockchain-based donation platform that provides the ability to transfer, track, and provide a permanent record of charitable financial transactions across the globe.

Donors to schools and NGOs may find accountability and transparency attractive.

salesforce logo

15. Human resources. Conducting background checks and verifying employment histories can be time-consuming, highly manual tasks for HR professionals. If employment and criminal records were stored in DLT, HR professionals could streamline the vetting process and move hiring processes forward more quickly.

Chronobank is focused on improving short-term recruitment for on-demand jobs (e.g., cleaning, warehousing, e-commerce). The startup aims to use blockchain to make it easier for individuals to find work on the fly and be rewarded for their labor through a decentralized framework via cryptocurrency, without the involvement of traditional financial institutions.

Schools could use similar capabilities in substitute and driver management and for a marketplace of afterschool and summer activities.

16. Governance. The benefits of using blockchain for smart contracts and verifiable transactions can also be applied toward making business accounting more transparent. The Boardroom app, for example, provides a governance framework and app enabling companies to manage smart contracts on the public and permissioned Ethereum blockchains.

The app provides an administrative system for organizations to ensure smart contracts are executed according to rules encoded on the blockchain (or to update the rules themselves). Boards can also use the app for shareholder voting by proxy and collaborative proposal management.

17. Libraries. DLT could help libraries expand their services by building an enhanced metadata archive, developing a protocol for supporting community-based collections, and facilitating more effective management of digital rights. San Jose State’s School of Information received a $100K grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to fund a year-long project exploring the potential of blockchain technology for information services.

18. Publishing. Blockchain could have multiple applications in the publishing industry, from breaking into the industry to rights management to piracy. New platforms are emerging to level the playing field for writers and encourage collaboration among authors, editors, translators, and publishers. Educators, students, and NGOs may appreciate the benefits of expanded publishing options.

Authorship allows writers to publish their work on the platform. Readers can purchase the books from the platform using Authorship Tokens (ATS), an Ethereum-based cryptocurrency, and writers get 90% of royalties in ATS. Authors own the copyright to their work, so they have the freedom to publish and distribute it elsewhere.

PageMajik is a workflow management system designed to streamline the publishing process. The system provides a secure, centralized catalog of all files, which can be easily accessed by teams of writers, editors, and publishers. Each person’s roles, rights, and duties can be specified before they actually start using the platform to minimize errors. PageMajik is in the process of adding blockchain technology to the next version of its workflow system.

19. Public assistance. Blockchain could help streamline public assistance system for families and students. The UK began working with startup GovCoin Systems in 2016 to conduct trials for developing a blockchain-based solution for welfare payments. GovCoin divides money into separate stashes for different expenses. Recipients gain access to their benefits which are paid in cryptocurrency via a mobile app.

20. Bonds. The World Bank is using blockchain to sell a bond. Moving the process to the blockchain could cut costs and speed up trading for both bond issuers and investors. School districts could benefit from faster and cheaper bond sales.

Writing for Educause, David McArthur outlines the limitations and challenges of DLT solutions in education. He also lays out the benefits Permissioned Distributed Ledgers rather than public ledger. These smaller private networks could enhance security and achieve faster and cheaper transactions consensus.

“When it comes to educational innovation, blockchains and ledgers are likely to lead to evolutionary gains, rather than revolutionary reforms,” concludes McArthur.

For more, see:

Tom Vander Ark is an advocate for innovations in learning. As CEO of Getting Smart, he advises school districts, networks, foundations and learning organizations on the path forward. A prolific writer and speaker, Tom is author of “Getting Smart”; “Smart Cities That Work for (more) Read more of this post

Why Higher Ed Should Do More with Blockchain Tech

Oral Roberts University recently held a conference to persuade higher education institutions that it’s time to get on board the blockchain train. Its recommendations: Learn about the technology’s potential, test it out and collaborate.

By Dian Schaffhauser Published 08/09/18

digital code chain illustration

When Oral Roberts University hosted the one-day event, “Blockchain Essentials in Education,” all attendees received a blockchain-based certificate from the Tulsa university verifying their participation. Perhaps nothing else could have illustrated the potential of blockchain technology more appropriately.

As CIO Michael Mathews, the event’s organizer, explained, blockchain will be as important to transforming education as the internet was. He said he believes those colleges and universities that jump on the secure public ledger concept early enough and begin testing it out will be the ones who could see the biggest benefits.

Mathews believes blockchain will have the “biggest payback” within an organization’s processes where trust is essential as part of a “value chain”: student application processing, transcript evaluations, articulation agreements. Blockchain “templates” that run in the cloud could replace “entire cumbersome processes” — akin, he added, to when Microsoft Word templates were first introduced and people figured out how they could optimize word processing and mail merge.

During the event, Mathews asked attendees (who came from more than two dozen schools) to raise their hands if they could process a student application in less than a day. Nobody did so. Two days? The same. And so on. “The closest we got was six days,” he said. If food companies can track tomatoes (IBM) and parcel companies (FedEx) can track packages and speed up validation using blockchain, he mused, “surely education can start helping people get accepted faster. When somebody out there is thinking they want to get a degree and you take three weeks to get back to them, they could have changed their mind already.” Blockchain technology could “prove that all the information is correct and validate quicker to close out the deal.”

Blockchain isn’t the magic that “changes everything,” he emphasized. “It is the tool that finally lets people see that we should and could speed up processes and validation and security all at the same time.”

Establishing Digital Identity

ORU's Blockchain Essentials in Education certificate

To help issue those certificates as a demonstration of blockchain in action, Mathews called in Trusted Key, a startup focused on blockchain-based digital identity. As Chief Technology Officer Prakash Sundaresan described, his company approaches identity control by supplying a set of software services addressing the needs of the three parties involved in a transaction: the user, the “issuer” and the “relying party.” In education, that might be the student, the institution and the prospective employer, respectively.

The technology is intended to provide a “trust layer” that allows the participants “to work together in a seamless way,” he said. The Trusted Key App is a digital identity wallet controlled by the end user that allows the individual to receive and maintain “all the pieces of information from various issuers.” Using the Trusted Key Digital Identity Platform, institutions would use the “issuer” service to produce and distribute digital diplomas or certificates. A school could “upload a file with the information about the students they want to issue it to, and our platform takes care of all the rest,” Sundaresan said. “Students end up with that diploma in their identity wallet and then they are free to share that with whomever they want.”

In the case of the ORU event certificate, he noted, “Every certificate that was issued would be signed by a key that [the university] owns. Then anybody receiving that certificate would know that this came from [ORU].”

How to Get Started with Blockchain

Sundaresan had two “take-aways” from his participation in the event. First, “there’s a lot of enthusiasm for blockchain in the education community.” That also exists in other segments where his company focuses — healthcare and financial services — but “education is a little more forward-looking. People are looking to the future,” he said. Second, “We’re still very early. The pioneers are kicking the tires on what this can do.”

For people interested in kicking the tires themselves, ORU’s Mathews offered three recommendations for joining the blockchain train:

Learn about it. “You wouldn’t have sold the farm for the internet in 1992,” he observed, “but by the year 2000, you better have. With blockchain, pay attention to how it’s impacting industry and how it can apply to education.” Make sure the knowledge goes beyond the IT crew, he added. “Educate your leaders.” Sundaresan concurred: “When the business people start to get it, not just the technology experts, that’s when you start to see the real transformation take place.”

Test it. Take a low-stakes process that requires some form of verification and try blockchain “so you get the picture,” Mathews suggested. He calls this “micro-innovation.” “We’ll never invest everything in blockchain, but we will see processes, validation and security improved through it.”

Collaborate. Work with other institutions to help each other “on this emerging stuff.” When people bring up what they’re thinking of trying, he advised, listen closely in case there’s something that applies to your own college or university too, where you can co-participate.

“It is extremely complex to do all the things that all the departments want,” Mathews said. “They want more of their alumni, they want more of their prospects, more retention, more persistence, more better grades. And they’re looking for a system to keep improving that. But in my 30 years on campuses I’ve learned that systems make very little impact on those things. They accommodate it, but they don’t solve the real problem. What solves the real problem is somebody having the clearest line of sight and the shortest pathway to the person they’re trying to connect to. That’s blockchain.”

How It Works

Oral Roberts University’s “Blockchain Essentials for Education” event used technology from Trusted Key to demonstrate the process of receiving a digital certificate. Here’s how it works:

Screen 1 shows a user receiving an alert that the certificate is ready. The user clicks the “issue certificate” button at bottom of the e-mail. In Screen 2, the user receives the request in the Trusted Key Identity Wallet to approve the receipt of the certificate. In Screen 3, the certificate has been issued to the user’s Identity Wallet and appears in his or her “My Identity Documents” repository. In Screen 4, the user can open the certificate to see the details and a customized image, which could be made available to an employer, for example, as proof of participation.



Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media’s education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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Big Data Is Getting Bigger… So Are the Privacy and Ethical Questions

Big data is getting bigger. So are the privacy and ethical questions.

The next step in using “big data” for student success is upon us. It’s a little cool. And also kind of creepy.

This new approach goes beyond the tactics now used by hundreds of colleges, which depend on data collected from sources like classroom teaching platforms and student-information systems. It not only makes a technological leap; it also raises issues around ethics and privacy.

Here’s how it works: Whenever you log on to a wireless network with your cellphone or computer, you leave a digital footprint. Move from one building to another while staying on the same network, and that network knows how long you stayed and where you went. That data is collected continuously and automatically from the network’s various nodes.

Now, with the help of a company called Degree Analytics, a few colleges are beginning to use location data collected from students’ cellphones and laptops as they move around campus. Some colleges are using it to improve the kind of advice they might send to students, like a text-message reminder to go to class if they’ve been absent.

Read more at 

Big Data Is Getting Bigger. So Are the Privacy and Ethical Questions

Big data is getting bigger. So are the privacy and ethical questions.

The next step in using “big data” for student success is upon us. It’s a little cool. And also kind of creepy.

This new approach goes beyond the tactics now used by hundreds of colleges, which depend on data collected from sources like classroom teaching platforms and student-information systems. It not only makes a technological leap; it also raises issues around ethics and privacy.

Here’s how it works: Whenever you log on to a wireless network with your cellphone or computer, you leave a digital footprint. Move from one building to another while staying on the same network, and that network knows how long you stayed and where you went. That data is collected continuously and automatically from the network’s various nodes.

Now, with the help of a company called Degree Analytics, a few colleges are beginning to use location data collected from students’ cellphones and laptops as they move around campus. Some colleges are using it to improve the kind of advice they might send to students, like a text-message reminder to go to class if they’ve been absent.


Others see it as a tool for making decisions on how to use their facilities. St. Edward’s University, in Austin, Tex., used the data to better understand how students were using its computer-equipped spaces. It found that a renovated lounge, with relatively few computers but with Wi-Fi access and several comfy couches, was one of the most popular such sites on campus. Now the university knows it may not need to buy as many computers as it once thought.

As Gary Garofalo, a co-founder and chief revenue officer of Degree Analytics, told me, “the network data has very intriguing advantages” over the forms of data that colleges now collect.

Some of those advantages are obvious: If you’ve got automatic information on every person walking around with a cellphone, your dataset is more complete than if you need to extract it from a learning-management system or from the swipe-card readers some colleges use to track students’ activities. Many colleges now collect such data to determine students’ engagement with their coursework and campus activities.

Of course, the 24-7 reporting of the data is also what makes this approach seem kind of creepy.

The founder of Degree Analytics had worked with an oil company that used remote sensors to monitor its far-flung wells to track whether any drill bits were about to fail. He’s now adapted that idea for his new company — except this time, it’s the students’ devices that are, in effect, the sensors.

Just having the information isn’t enough. Colleges need to know what to make of it. When it comes to using the information to improve student retention, Garofalo says the assumptions his company makes aren’t all that different from what a host of other data-analytics companies do with the data they collect. it just has richer information on where students are and when, as long as they’re on the Wi-Fi.

Ms. Blumenstyk is a senior writer at The Chronicle of Higher Education covering innovation in and around academe. For more than two years, Ms. Blumenstyk has been curating the weekly Re:Learning newsletter. Going forward Goldie will be using it to share her observations on the people and ideas reshaping the higher-education landscape. 


Degree Analytics is only about three years old, and it’s moving slowly: It has fewer than 10 clients so far. But this fall it will begin a pilot project with the giant California State University system. It will start at the Sacramento campus, but Cal State uses the same Wi-Fi and networking equipment for its entire 23-campus system, so it could easily expand. The system’s chief information officer, Patrick C. Perry, isn’t sure how the experiment will unfold. But, as he told me, “we are piqued.”

I have no reason to doubt anyone’s good intentions. The founder and chief executive of Degree Analytics, Aaron Benz, seems genuinely passionate about using data science to help students. If his company wasn’t doing this, it wouldn’t be too long before another company did. Perhaps some already are.

My concerns are broader: Just because colleges and companies can collect this information and associate it with all sorts of other academic and demographic data they have on students, should they? How far should colleges and companies go with data tracking?

I’m not the first to ask questions like this. A couple of years ago, a group of educators organized by Martin Kurzweil of Ithaka S+R and Mitchell Stevens of Stanford University issued a series of guidelines for colleges and companies to consider as they began to embrace data analytics. Among other principles, the guidelines highlighted the importance of being transparent about how the information is used, and ensuring that institutions’ leaders really understand what companies are doing with the data they collect. Experts at New America weighed in too.

See how is enabling individuals to claim their data as PROPERTY


I asked Kurzweil what he makes of the use of Wi-Fi information. Location tracking tends toward the “dicey” side of the spectrum, he says, though perhaps not as far out as using students’ social-media habits, health information, or what they check out from the library. The fundamental question, he says, is “how are they managing it?”

St. Edwards says it didn’t make extensive disclosures during its one-semester test last spring because it didn’t examine individualized data. But the university says it would be more open if it ever got much beyond the current point of differentiating students by categories like commuter and noncommuter. It’s unclear exactly how Sacramento State will disclose its experiment to students.

When Degree Analytics begins discussions with a college, Benz says, “the No. 1 thing we talk about is privacy.” The company holds meetings with students and takes other steps to make sure they know how their data is being used. It also recommends that colleges create Wi-Fi login pages that explicitly and simply describe their use of the Wi-Fi data — with a clear opt-out option. Even for Degree Analytics customers that do integrate the Wi-Fi data with other student information, he said, the company makes sure that the information is aggregated to cover period of time or a particular event, and not for one-on-one individual tracking. It’s not designed, Benz said, to answer questions like “Where’s Jimmy at 8:01 p.m.?” But, he acknowledged, that’s because of company policy. The technology could easily allow it.

Benz said his company’s policies, if anything, make its use of the data a lot more transparent than most colleges are about how they might use Wi-Fi network information. Fair point. Really, do most students realize that their institutions could use the data now to suss out whether they’re cheating together on remote exams?

So is this the future? Benz, at least, certainly hopes so. Inspired by the Wi-Fi-based StudentLife research project at Dartmouth College and the experiences Purdue University is having with students’ use of its Forecast app, he’s in talks now with a research university about a project that would generate other insights that might be gleaned from students’ Wi-Fi-usage patterns.

He wonders, for example, whether the data could inform decisions about how mental-health facilities are being used. I wonder just how far these kinds of tools can go — and how mindful of the potential pitfalls colleges and companies will be as they take them there.

Reposted from the Chronicle of Higher Education January 31, 2018

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