A Commons for Online Learning : Supporting civic data protection education in the digital classroom

Apr 15, 2021

I am speaking about my current research on creating a data protection-focused data commons for online learning at the British and Irish Law Education and Technology Association (BILETA) Annual Conference 2021 as part of the ‘Legal education, regulation and technology enhanced learning’ session.

Abstract: COVID-19 meant that UK higher education institutions had to implement online teaching models overnight, without time for due consideration of appropriate data protection practices or impact assessments. This not only affects students’ and staff’s university experience, but also how their institution processes their personal data as data subjects under the General Data Protection Regulation. As lecture capture, tutorial recording, and educational surveillance become implemented and, in many cases, mandatory, students and staff may less willingly participate in classes, creating a chilling effect on education. The GDPR offers solutions such as applying fairness and transparency principles and exercising data subject rights. However, this is insufficient where data subjects have no choice but to accept their institutions’ terms or be locked out of academia, the lack of consideration of group rights under the GDPR, and the power imbalances between data subjects and their institutions.

Given data subjects’ lack of autonomy over their online learning personal data, our paper introduces a data protection-focused data commons, a collaborative space for resource sharing and contribution to support data subjects’ personal data preferences. We develop an application for existing educational platforms that accounts for best practices for tutorial recording, learning analytics, and educational technology. Further, we test the application on students to measure its effectiveness for encouraging the co-creation of better data protection solutions. Our paper demonstrates how a data protection-focused commons can balance the implementation of educational technologies with the need to deliver online learning to benefit student’s and staff’s academic experience.

Janis Wong
PhD researcher

Janis Wong is an interdisciplinary PhD researcher in Computer Science at the Centre for Research into Information, Surveillance and Privacy (CRISP), University of St Andrews. Janis is interested in the legal and technological applications in data protection, privacy, and data ethics. She is also a Research Fellow at the Open Data Institute.