This month in EDUCAUSE: Privacy, teaching post-pandemic, accessibility, and VR

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My name is Irina (Irene) Knokh. I’m the EDUCAUSE ambassador for U-M and your advocate for EDUCAUSE. I provide articles of interest and upcoming trends in each newsletter.

Key articles of interest:

Chief Privacy Officer: Positioning Privacy in Higher Ed” by Susan Bouregy, Jeff Gassaway, Blanche Stovall, and our own Svetla Sytch.

Privacy has evolved from a primarily compliance concern for higher ed institutions (think FERPA and HIPAA), to an increasingly complex convergence of ethics, socio-political and human factors, technology, and regulations. Many people are confused about privacy—what it means and how they can safeguard it—and this issue became more apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic, when governments and organizations had a hard time finding a balance between protecting autonomy and ensuring public safety. 

There is a general belief that those who grew up in the digital realm, have little concern about privacy, but research reports have found that Americans, and students specifically, do indeed care about their privacy. In today’s academic reality of online courses, AI tools, and analytics, a better understanding of privacy is critical and universities and colleges have a compelling responsibility to provide transparency and education on these topics.

To support the growing ethical and legal requirements in the realm of privacy, the role of the university Chief Privacy Officer (CPO) is continually evolving. As privacy rights become even more intertwined with higher ed institutions’ missions, CPOs and their cross-functional campus partners are in a unique position to not only protect their constituents’ privacy, but establish high privacy standards for academia and society at large.

2023 Faculty and Technology Report: A First Look at Teaching Preferences Since the Pandemic

Key takeaways:

  • Faculty emphasize balancing the needs of students with their own preference for teaching modalities.
  • There’s a concern for the safety of students and staff, especially with Covid still a significant concern; also, if violent events occur on campus, it will take students time to come back because of the trauma. 
  • Faculty are sensitive to equity and student needs; they are, though, pressed for time and the adjunct faculty also need more support. 
  • Faculty who taught online, including pre-pandemic, may prefer online or hybrid models. 
  • Faculty may not have a choice about the teaching modality. 
  • Some faculty also feel that it is better, sometimes, to have hard copies in class vs. screen distractions.
  • At the same time, faculty put a lot of materials online and use instructional support (IT, instructional designers, and technologists).
  • The challenge is a) not enough time, b) access, especially if the campus is spread out.
  • Faculty may prefer teaching in person because it’s easier to “feel and read the room” and student engagement is better.
  • A lot of instructors prefer teaching in person with learning technology.

With that in mind, let’s look at the 2023 Students and Technology Report: Flexibility, Choice, and Equity in the Student Experience.

One of the biggest challenges, turns out, is Internet access on campus. Compared to students living off site, the satisfaction with internet access in the dorms or libraries is not great. If there are widespread outages, and no Wi-Fi access—that’s a huge issue. Many students who live off campus may choose flexible online programs or will go elsewhere if they are not satisfied with the technology services. Connectivity is a must.

Students living off-site may have families, work, or any other obligations relevant to them. To them, flexible remote and hybrid options are more appealing than on-campus in-person experiences. The exception is interactive work that’s required in person and labs.

Students are collaborative; they express needs and preferences for their own modality of course attendance; however, they value flexibility for everyone, including doing what’s best so that most learners are accommodated. It’s also important to consider instructors’ limitations and preferences.

Students appreciate in-class and online experiences combination, depending on activities (interactive and labs on-site). Many do value middle of the ground online/in-person mix. See Figure 4 for more details in the “Empowering Students to Choose” section. Students want to choose how to attend (hybrid/in-person). This is a critical consideration for learners living on

campus-they prefer everything, as much as possible, face to face. Students’ satisfaction with hybrid courses is higher if they were given an option.

Accessibility is a huge concern. The report lists several types of disabilities below.

  • “Learning disability
  • Mental health disorder
  • Mobility impairment
  • Sensory impairment”

Students are somewhat satisfied with the technology used by instructors; depending on the disability or disabilities they have. The challenge is to get information and find resources. Many students are just unaware of technology and other options available to them. Quite a few students do not register with the offices of disabilities and accessibility assistance on campus because they don’t believe that resources are available. Institutions need to do better to spread awareness and the availability of resources to everyone.

Suggestions from the report writers:

  • “Listen to your students and acknowledge their needs.”
  • “Listen to your faculty and staff”
  • “Work on options for developing a hybrid learning policy” if your institution doesn’t already have
  • one.”

EDUCAUSE did a QuickPoll Results about Risk and Opportunities in Higher Education Accessibility.

What’s needed:

  • More institutional support
  • Leadership teams need to do more—hire more staff, dedicate more budget to accessibility resources,
  • and cultivate awareness amongst institutions and their peers.
  • Staff and faculty training on accessibility resources and use
  • Investments in more staff knowledgeable about accessibility and accessible technologies

Institutions, especially larger ones, face lawsuits related to accessibility; this is a big risk in addition to not supporting staff and students with their accessibility needs.

Key graphs and figures to review:

  • Table 1: Levels of Agreement with Accessibility Statements about Respondent Institutions.
  • Figure 2. Distribution of Accessibility Supports Regularly Assessed and Reported On.
  • Figure 3. Availability and Enforcement of Staff and Faculty Accessibility Training.

Speaking of resources, LGBTQIA inclusivity is important in IT. Check out the infographic by Stephanie Brooks.

Wrapping up! Learn about starting VR projects from scratch at South Carolina State University. Review the processes and background of the projects, including engineering and transportation. Project leaders deeply involved students in all aspects of the work. Review the resources highlighted in the article.

Outcomes and suggestions:

  • Learn from peers.
  • Apply for grants.
  • Pay attention to planning and communication.
  • Be patient and realistic.
  • Collaborate with faculty and students.

If you have any questions about the content, tidbits you’d like to share, or anything EDUCAUSE related, email Irina “Irene” Knokh, instructional design and technology consultant, Professional Development and Education for Nursing, or Chris Eagle, EDUCAUSE coordinator for U-M.