Online Learning and Privacy

Its never too late to learn and with the ever increasing presence of online learning courses and unpredictable recession more and more adults are turning to the internet to learn a skill and/or advance their cv. Looking at my previous post – Online Learning Infographic – the results for a demand in online courses are evident with institutes reporting a 73% increase in applications for online learning courses. The Open University is one such online source offering a myriad of courses ranging from Arts and Humanities to Social Sciences; it has something to appeal to almost anyone. Providing options to study in a postgraduate program, towards a degree or an introductory module and with over 22,000 students in the postgraduate program alone – The Open University is incredibly popular.

I spoke to Nikki – who is studying Spanish and French with The Open University – about her experiences with the online learning service which she referred to as “sometimes DIY”. Nikki continued to reveal that the Open University were very flexible with assignments and tutor’s are helpful via providing appropriate feedback. Moving on I wanted to discuss the notion of privacy; the Open University stores highly personal details of each student such as their date of birth, address, even income and bank details. I asked Nikki if she had any concerns of her private details being stored on the Open University’s database “not really, just type your name into google – 15 seconds of fame!” was Nikki’s reply. This relaxed attitude is very common. But, when it comes to your privacy and identity is there cause for concern when enrolling with an online learning source? It is noteworthy to explain in regards of privacy this article will refer to the storing and retaining of personal details on a website database. After all, there are some very easy ways to steal one’s identity. Professor and software developer Herbert H. Thompson conducted an experiment in 2008 to see how easy it was to steal one’s identity – the results were shocking. The average internet user is (in my opinion) completely unaware of how little privacy they really get when they put any information on the internet. As is evident from Herbert H. Thompson’s article, all you need is a few details about a person to access their bank account. In the words of Steve Rambam private investigator specialising in internet privacy “privacy is dead – get over it”. As petrifying as this is, I doubt there will be a decrease in people enrolling for online courses, however, I wonder if an increase in identity theft and loss of privacy will result in this? Only time will tell………

New York Times
Privacy Issues Online PDF File
Open University
Digital Fingerprint

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Filed under Identity, Online Learning

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