Tag Archives: Security

INF532 – Information environments

Trying to find a needle in a haystack.
Like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
Morguefile image by impure_with_memory http://mrg.bz/5387c4

Is there too much of a good thing with the amount of content that you can find on the internet? Not only is there an overabundance of good content but it is fast becoming like the proverbial “needle in a haystack” for a user to locate quality information quickly and efficiently amongst the bad, tragic or just mediocre content on offer in our digital smorgasbord.

With the fast approaching world of Web 3.0 and the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) means that the internet and its horizon is an ever-changing and evolving landscape that can provide personalised information to the user and about the user. You do have to question if this is always a good thing.

2016 NMC Technology Outlook.
2016 NMC Technology Outlook.

The 2016 NMC Technology Outlook – Australian Tertiary Education noted that learner analytics and location intelligence, which information is a form of big data, are areas that will have an impact in the next few years.

Big Data and meta data (data about data) have become a key focus with regards to who is creating, storing, using and most importantly selling data about you and what you look at. Think about the last time you searched for anything and you will have been prompted with possible fee-for-service products that might be similar to what you have been looking at.

We live in a social world.
We live in a social world.
Morguefile Image by lauramusikanski http://mrg.bz/89b2a7

Another form that this takes is when you are on social media sites such as Facebook™ you will notice based on your searches, friends and groups that “sponsored” sites appear as suggestions you might like to follow. You will also be aware (if you are using a desktop that there is an advertisement stream that is tailored for you. How does it know what you have been looking at while you are not on Facebook, simply it is from the cache in your computer or smart device and your browser history.

But when you consider the importance of how you can use learner analytics and learner actions within your site to track what they have been reviewing to ensure that the content of the course is meeting their needs then bib data is not seen quite so much in a horrible tracking light – stalking your movements around the internet, but a useful tool to support and help students.

Big data is as important for education as it is for business.
Big data is as important for education as it is for business.
Morguefile Image by Prawny http://mrg.bz/b2f87d

With the increase in the cost of creating print products and the speed that these products become redundant saw the rise of Web 2.0 technologies that enabled user-generated content simply easily and cheaply. This power to the masses revolution of technology has meant that often we do forget that the internet is ‘forever’. Need proof that this is the case, then please feel free to review the Internet Archive Wayback Machine.

It is interesting that with the increase of the individual’s ability to have a voice on the internet has seen many companies fall-by-the-wayside as they have not adapted and changed their business structures to compensate for the new market place. Some may argue that if you do not adapt to the market place to survive then you do not have the right to survive.

Educators need to think if they are going to continue as a sage on the stage or move to a guide on the side facilitator role.
Educators need to think if they are going to continue as a sage on the stage or move to a guide on the side facilitator role.
Morguefile Image by pippalou http://mrg.bz/8afa17

So with that thought where does this leave educators? In this brand new world are we expecting teachers to become technology experts to guide students to some mythical promised land of better understanding? I would say that at best we need to encourage our teachers to become the facilitators of tomorrow. This means that we must move away from the “sage on the stage” mentality to perhaps taking up the guide on the side role where technology plays a helpful hand in supporting and augmenting learning for students. Technology can support student outcomes but should never dictate or drive the learning.

So the future is looking bright, but is it looking as bright as it once was or are we seeing it through a binary code induced haze? Time will tell.

References

De Saulles, M. (2012). New models of information production. In Information 2.0: New models of information production, distribution and consumption (pp. 13-35). London: Facet.

Kellmereit, D. and Obodovski, D. (2013). The Silent Intelligence: The Internet of Things. DnD Ventures 1st edition, California.

Roblyer, M. (2013). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching. Harlow: Pearson.

The New Media Consortium. (2016). 2016 NMC Technology Outlook Australian Tertiary Education. Retrieved 7 July 2016, from http://www.nmc.org/publication/2016-nmc-technology-outlook-australian-tertiary-education/

Unique Student Identifier (USI) and Big Data (the highs and lows)

A personal viewpoint

As of the 1st January 2014 all students, in the Australian VET sector, have been allocated a Unique Student Identifier. This code follows the student through their life and enables registered training organizations (RTOs) easier access to a student’s VET records and provides a simpler way for students to provide evidence for credit transfer makes it easier for students to transfer between training institutions (Mills, 2013).

But this got me thinking about Big Data and the relationship that this USI could offer in the future for RTOs. On the positive side there is the possibility of responsive training based on the needs of the client making it a system that can contextualize a learning journey through skill sets for the student to eventually achieve a desired goal, but it could also have a darker side the side where direct marketing and disreputable RTOs denying students training based purely on past performances in previous qualifications. Currently the USI does not store informal comments regarding student’s performance currently, but you have to ask yourself does that mean that the system will always stay like this, especially if K-12 students are eventually linked into it.

Education providers, if engaging in digital learning, have the ability to garner information about their clients easily through the technology that we use.  Every click a student does within a Learning Management System is recorded in the back end database, which will be archived along with the course in the VET sector for audit purposes. If utilizing social media every mention or micro-blog post can be saved to build a picture of the learners and their capabilities and needs. Now imagine this big picture that one RTO is able to build through, careful and critical analysis of the underlying data, an explicit picture of the student’s choices and make accurate predictions on the same students future study choices. If this data becomes part of public record then one bad grade somewhere in your past could in the future severely impact on what you are able to study in a dystopian world.

When you delve closer into USI there are some alarm bells that, for me, are set off. In the  Student Indentifiers Registers Privacy Policy (Office of the USI Registrar, 2014) it clearly states that the USI Registrar may disclose personal information to third parties, which is not limited to the list of third parties provided. Once these third parties have the information, then the student’s details are now no longer secure and safe behind the USI, a critical issue. Though there is a caveat on the USI site that it is finally the responsibility of the student to keep their login detail secure so no one can access their academic records if this data is shared with third parties, it begs the question what security measures are put into place by these other organisations and what data is actually being shared?

The Student Indentifiers Registers Privacy Policy (Office of the USI Registrar, 2014) clearly states that the content is held in a cloud computing solution, which adheres to the Australian Government Cloud Computing arrangements (Finance.gov.au, 2014). However, for me, personally there is also a big concern around security having all of the VET student’s qualification history in one place, no matter the security surrounding the system. Recently we have seen that big corporations using cloud computing systems have not been able to keep people’s personal data or content safe  such as Celebgate which saw celebrities iCloud accounts hacked in 2014 (BBC News, 2014). If this can occur to a high end security space then we do need to review this step into keeping the data in one repository held on a cloud based solution.

In all fairness the USI Registry System has been designed to keep training records and results safe, according to their website (Usi.gov.au, 2015) and goes on in subsequent pages to assure students that their information is safe. But the worry about security when it comes to student academic records is not an isolated concern for Australia but was raised in Education Week (Kamisar, 2014) that discussed issues around security for the organization inBloom which was touted as being the organization that would revolutionize personalized learning and target the needs of individuals based by synthesizing  student data. Admittedly there are marked differences between inBloom and the USI Registry System. One stand out difference is that currently the USI is not being managed by a private third party but by a Federal Government agency, however, given recent privatization and the push to consolidate services to reduce Government employment burdens it does beg the question if this will become outsourced in years to come.

Data mining is big business for organisations and more so the art of predictive analytics. Marketing departments in retails stores have been onto this for years as outlined by Duhigg (2012), so why wouldn’t the education industry want to start move into this field especially with a ready made supply of information. This could become a very lucrative market place with the value of this data being almost priceless, and we the consumers may never even realize that our information might have been shared. One must ask the question do students know that the information stored within the registry may be provided to third parties such as regulators, researchers current and former VET RTOs to name a few for a variety of purposes. When a student is enrolling is this ever explained in full to them and all of the ramifications, as in the current system you cannot enrol in a VET qualification without have a USI. I have to say that I could (if I wanted to) create a USI on the website (Usi.gov.au, 2015) and it would have been up to me to have explored all of the sub-pages to dig into what will happen to my results and who has access to my details, but I am not convinced that all of our VET students will do this.

We do not have a perfect VET system, but we are trying to put in place systems that will streamline workloads for organizations. But I do have to wonder who is looking out for the students? This blog post is really the start of my exploration into this very interesting topic and one that could have ramifications in years to come within all sections of the education industry.

References

BBC News,. (2014). Apple confirms accounts compromised but denies security breach – BBC News. Retrieved 1 May 2015, from http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-29039294

Duhigg, C. (2012). How Companies Learn Your Secrets. The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/19/magazine/shopping-habits.html?_r=2&

Finance.gov.au,. (2014). Cloud Computing | Department of Finance. Retrieved 4 May 2015, from http://www.finance.gov.au/cloud/

Kamisar, B. (2014). InBloom Sputters Amid Concerns About Privacy of Student Data. Education Week, 33(15), 1-13. Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/01/08/15inbloom_ep.h33.html

Mills, A. (2013). VET Transparency Agenda – what’s in it for me. Presentation, Training Providers Forum, Perth, Western Australia.

MindCET,. (2014). MindCET Snapshot #2 – Big Data & Education. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MrWQUMgcyk

Office of the USI Registrar,. (2014). Student Indentifiers Registers privacy policy v1.1 (pp. 1-8). Canberra: Department of Education and Training.

Usi.gov.au,. (2015). Skills Unique Student Identifier: Training Records and Results. Retrieved 1 May 2015, from http://www.usi.gov.au/Students/Pages/training-records-and-results.aspx