Lance Eaton on the invasive surveillance of LMSs
This week, I’m hurriedly putting together some revisions for a book chapter on data ethics that I’ve been working on for an open access volume on ethics in educational technology. I’m excited about the volume, and I’ve really loved writing the chapter, so it’s kind of fun to be doing these revisions, even if I waited for the last minute to do them.
One reviewer suggestion that I’m particularly grateful for is to elaborate on a sentence I wrote arguing that “learning management systems allow us to monitor students in invasive ways that would be unimaginable in a face-to-face context.” In making that argument, I was drawing from Lance Eaton’s 2021 article The New LMS Rule: Transparency Working Both Ways, which I’ve taken a lot from. Here’s the whole paragraph that I had in mind—and that I’ll be taking inspiration from as I respond to this reviewer’s suggestion:
I wonder why institutions would willingly encourage near-unquestioning authoritative power for instructors over students’ actions in their LMSs that they would not allow in the classroom. Can we even imagine a physical classroom where these things occur? An instructor looks over the shoulders of students to make sure they spend the appropriate amount of time on each page. Another puts a stopwatch to each student to track all sorts of things students do with the learning materials. One professor hooks students up to an eye-tracking device to make sure they can see exactly what the student sees. The level of tracking allowed and how instructors or institutions can leverage it should raise reasonable concerns, starting with how we think of the LMS. Thinking of an LMS as a “virtual classroom” obscures the level of surveillance and control an LMS affords us.
I love this point so much. If we wouldn’t collect the data in a face-to-face setting, is it right to collect it in a digital space? Just because we can?
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