Piazza Response To Blog Post On Student Privacy

Based on Thursday’s blog post “Popular Discussion Platform Piazza Getting Pushback For Selling Student Data”, Piazza’s CEO Pooja Sankar invited me to meet at their offices Friday afternoon. Given the nature of Thursday’s post, I offered to publish any statement that Piazza had in response here at e-Literate, an offer they accepted. I will defer further analysis for a few days.  – PH

Update: In the process of making copy-editing changes, we accidentally temporarily removed links accessibility and FERPA compliance documentations. They have been restored to the current draft.

Sorry about that.

Statement From Piazza CEO Pooja Sankar

We at Piazza take our obligations to our community of students, professors, and institutions of higher education very seriously. We cherish and safeguard the privacy of our community. But we made a mistake by not engaging and responding to a way befitting of the trust placed in us. Many of our 1500 Universities reached out quite reasonably to enter into legal agreements for the free service. But as a lean, sub-30 person company without in-house legal, we were overwhelmed with all the (expensive) requests for one-off contracts (for a free Q&A service). We handled it poorly. This unfortunately gave people the impression that we were arrogant. You deserve better. We can do better. Continue reading

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Popular Discussion Platform Piazza Getting Pushback For Selling Student Data

Piazza is a collaborative question-and-answer platform that is “completely free” and can easily integrate into an institutional LMS, or in some cases replace the LMS. In our interviews for e-Literate TV, we have heard several glowing reviews about student engagement increasing thanks to the nature of the collaborative discussions. But in a case study of the aphorism that “if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product”, there are some significant privacy concerns around student data being sold, and several universities are pushing back.

The source of the dispute is not one of a vendor getting caught selling or sharing data behind the scenes, however. Piazza is quite open about their ongoing usage of student data to generate revenue – in their privacy policy, in their click-through terms of service, and throughout their web site. The source of the dispute is Piazza’s lenient interpretation of privacy concerns and their apparent unwillingness to comply with institutional policies or guidance on student data privacy. Continue reading

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Update: LMS Usage In Large Online Programs (Top 50 in US)

By: Phil Hill and Justin Menard. Cross-posted at LISTedTECH

Three and a half years ago Phil wrote a post “Snapshot of LMS Market for Large Online Programs in the US” giving a view into this growing segment of higher education.  Large online enrollment institutions typically mean a centrally-coordinated provision of online courses, often with duplicate course sections, and these programs tend to use more of the LMS than ad hoc online courses or blended courses. Further, these programs are dynamic – they are far more likely to grow significantly or shrink significantly than face-to-face or blended programs. As such, this segment can have different usage patterns than the broader market. Thanks to the partnership between e-Literate and LISTedTECH for our LMS subscription service, we have a much richer data set now. One of our subscribers asked a question over the weekend about this subject, so it seemed time to update this view.

What we are showing below are the 50 institutions with the greatest number of students taking at least one online class based on the IPEDS database, for graduate and undergraduate combined. The most recent enrollment data set was for Fall 2014, so the enrollment data is slightly out of date. But the LMS listings should be up-to-date. In fact, we are showing some leading data, such as the University of Phoenix usage of Blackboard Learn and Kaplan University usage of D2L Brightspace – neither school has fully transitioned to the new LMS, but they have made official decisions and begun deployment. We have grouped the schools by sector, as well. Continue reading

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Teaching Using Adaptive Learning

The entire six-part interview series with McGraw-Hill Education’s adaptive learning experts is now up on YouTube. (Full disclosure: In the months between the filming and the publication of these videos, McGraw-Hill became a client of MindWires.) Here’s a good segment on teaching:


The first example Matt Haldeman gives is a math class, which is where we see adaptive learning used the most. The interesting part of it is how he describes the change in the teacher’s classroom activities. This is a critical aspect this often isn’t picked up when these products are used in higher ed math classes—particularly outside of developmental math.

The second example is a history class, which is a less (stereo)typical example. The focus is on class preparation. In other words, the adaptive platform helps students come to class knowing what you hope they’ll know but often haven’t really absorbed from a reading assignment that is meant to give them the raw materials they need for an interesting class discussion on a topic.

Here’s the whole series, if you want to all six segments in order:


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Webinars: When Cockroaches and the LMS Rule the Earth

Thanks to the good folks at NobleStream, Michael and I are participating in a series of three colloquiums (or colloquia or webinars, you choose) hosted by Howard Weiner. This past Wednesday, the three of us discussed the vision that Michael and I have for e-Literate and our consulting practice with a focus on learning platforms. In fact, the title of the series is “The Modern Learning Platform: Not Your Mother’s Old LMS”.

At one point Howard asked us about why the LMS is so important and why we started our subscription service around the LMS, to which Michael responded in Feldstein fashion (question starting at 39:00):

Depending on how you define it, I have a feeling that, for better or for worse, long after humanity is dead and gone, cockroaches will still be using the LMS. It’s just this durable category. People talk about it dying or disappearing or morphing, and what happens is that it slowly evolves. It’s become this critical piece of infrastructure.

Continue reading

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