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Aurora Institute

Student Data Privacy Among Issues Explored at National Blended and Online Learning Symposium

Education Domain Blog

Author(s): Susan Gentz

Issue(s): Issues in Practice


Student data privacy is among the many issues that will be explored this year at iNACOL’s Symposium on Blended and Online Learning. iNACOL’s annual conference is the industry’s leading event for K-12 online, blended and competency-based learning. Experts, practitioners, educators, policymakers, and researchers gather and work to transform education. The symposium includes more than 200 sessions, in 24 tracks that range from District Blended Learning Programs, to English Language Learners, to Supplemental Online Learning Programs, and Talent/Human Capital/Career Pathways.

The number of proposed sessions submitted on student data topics and projected participants in the selected sessions provides further evidence of a growing interest—from parents to policymakers—in approaches to student data that can protect student privacy and power personalized learning.

For the past two years, student data privacy has been a topic of intense focus in many state legislatures, with 182 new bills introduced in 46 states. Of those bills, 24 new laws were enacted in 12 states. The Data Quality Campaign’s 2015 overview of student data privacy legislation provides a helpful scan of the landscape and echoes what iNACOL has heard from our members in the field.

We’ve learned that districts need guidance on developing policies for good governance and management of student data privacy and that third party providers (e.g., of online courses and software) need clarification of their responsibilities under the law. Two new resources from the US Department of Education’s Privacy Technical Assistance Center, that are among the many to be featured a the iNACOL Symposium, seek to address these gaps: Checklist for Developing School District Privacy Programs and Responsibilities of Third-Party Service Providers under FERPA.

Sessions include:

Can Privacy Concerns Derail Online Learning? with Alan Simpson, iKeepSafe.orgKathleen Styles, U.S. Department of Education; Brenda Leong, Future of Privacy Forum

Growing concerns about student data privacy can create headaches and hurdles for educators working to expand online and blended learning. Innovative educators must understand how student data is collected, used, and protected in order to strengthen parent confidence in digital learning. We’ll discuss FERPA, COPPA, and new state laws, ways to find products that support privacy compliance, and strategies for communicating about privacy and online learning with parents and other stakeholders.

Session Learning Outcomes

  1. Understand FERPA, COPPA, and the growing number of state privacy laws.
  2. Discover ways to find K-12 online learning tools and products that support privacy compliance.
  3. Develop strategies for communicating about privacy and online learning with parents, students and other stakeholders.

The Devil’s in the Details: Evaluating Privacy and Security Provisions in Ed Tech Terms of Service Agreements with Michael Hawes, U.S Department of Education

This session will walk attendees through the process of deciphering the privacy provisions often buried in apps’ Terms of Service (ToS) agreements. You will learn about the laws governing the privacy and security of student data, and gain experience evaluating a provider’s adherence to those rules and best practices using the ToS or Privacy Policy of an app or service you currently use. You are encouraged to bring your laptop and a link to the ToS of an app or service you use.

Session Learning Outcomes

  1. Learn about the major laws, regulations, and best practices for student privacy and data security applicable for online educational services.
  2. Understand the legal function of Terms of Service agreements and their implications for your school or district.
  3. Gain experience evaluating sample Terms of Service agreements for compliance with law and adherence to privacy and security best practices.

Clear As Mud: Concrete Steps to Improve the Transparency of Your School’s or District’s Data Practices with Michael Hawes, U.S. Department of Education

Parents are concerned about their children’s privacy, and schools’ websites often do a poor job of explaining what student information is being collected and how it is being used. In this session, attendees will be guided through a series of questions to evaluate the transparency of their schools’ websites. Concrete steps will be identified to improve transparency, and to engage parents in a meaningful discussion on the value and use of student data. Attendees are asked to bring their laptops.

Session Learning Outcomes

  1. Understand the importance of transparency for your school or district, and how lack of transparency can hinder your objectives.
  2. Learn how to evaluate the overall transparency of your school or district’s data practices.
  3. Improve your transparency to inform parents about your data practices and to engage them in a constructive conversation about the value of data.

Balancing Cloud Computing and Security in Online Learning with Gregory Marks, Michigan Virtual University; Ryan Gravette, Idaho Digital Learning Academy; Bob Swiggum, Georgia Department of Education; and Nicklous Combs, Intel Security.

The Virtual School Leadership Alliance brings online education leaders from Idaho, Georgia, and Michigan together to examine the benefits of cloud computing while at the same time maintaining or improving security. The term ‘security’ is used to encompass control of student information, control of other confidential information, system protection against attacks, and assuring high service availability. The panel will seek attendee input and discussion. Summary documents will be provided.

Session Learning Outcomes

  1. Understand when cloud computing helps and when it does not.
  2. Know security issues, what to consider, and how to mitigate.
  3. Recognize major planning factors in making the shift to cloud computing.

Learn More

To learn more about the impact of student data privacy policies on blended and online learning, and to connect with experts about the new resources from the US Department of Education, register for the 2015 iNACOL Blended and Online Learning Symposium. The 2015 iNACOL Blended and Online Learning Symposium (November 8-11 in Orlando, FL) will connect attendees with expertise, analysis, and trends in online, blended and competency education– including data privacy. Attendees will have access to over 200 sessions over two and a half days. We will continue to follow this issue throughout the year. To stay connected, sign up for regular iNACOL updates, connect with us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter at @nacol.


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