Beware of Privacy and Other Issues When Signing Up for Free Courses

Claude AlmansiBy Claude Almansi
Editor, Accessibility Issues
ETCJ Associate Administrator

Note: This post arises from my personal experience with one “free” online course for teachers provided by an Italian nonprofit association. Hopefully, other similar offers are managed with more care. However, in case not all of them are, here goes, as a cautionary tale.

Didasca’s course about “Google Apps Education”

Last year, the Italian Didasca association launched its first free online course for teachers about Google Apps for Education. If you know how to use an office suite to produce content, doing so with Google Docs or its version for schools, Google Apps, is a no-brainer. However, using such collaborative online tools with minor students presents some specific issues, in particular privacy issues, which I assumed the Didasca course covered.

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Why Unjoin Ning Networks that Won’t Pay

Claude AlmansiBy Claude Almansi
Editor, Accessibility Issues

In Ning’s New Deadline for Pay-Only: Aug. 30, I quoted the announcement of the new deadline set by Ning for paying to keep a network online. It now turns out that creators of Ning networks that won’t do so cannot delete them anymore.  In view of this, the  following passage in the announcement of the new deadline  becomes worrying:

…As a result, we have extended the deadline for selecting one of the three new plans (Ning Mini, Plus and Pro) to August 30, 2010. Beginning on this date, we will block access to any free Ning Network that isn’t subscribed to one of the three plans.

“block access” – and not “delete” – this means that after August 30, Ning will  have sole access  to, and use of:

  • the content posted in these networks
  • the profile data of all members of these networks, which include their e-mail addresses.

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Facebook Is Unfit for Educational Use

Accessibility 4 All by Claude Almansi
Due to Ning’s decision to go pay-only on June 1 (see End of Free Ning Networks: Live Online Discussion: Apr. 20), some educational networks are moving from Ning to Facebook, for instance, College 2.0. However, Facebook is unfit for educational use in several respects.

Privacy

Facebook’s privacy is notoriously dismal, as Britt Wattwood pointed out in Yes or No on Facebook | Learning In a Flat World. See also Delete Your Facebook Account: “Quit Facebook Day” Wants Users to Leave by Catharine Smith (Huffington Post, 2010-05-15) and Graham Cluley’s 60% of Facebook users consider quitting over privacy on his Sophos blog (2010-05-19). According to Cluley’s survey, 16% of users have already quit for that reason. True, Ning’s privacy is bad too, but if you have to move to another platform, it makes sense to choose one where privacy is better. Continue reading