An interesting and disturbing decision was made by officials at Georgia Tech. They have decided to take down all student content from a GT-hosted wiki platform called Swiki after declaring that information disclosed on the openly available wiki infringed the 1974 Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). That wiki initiative was one of the first ever, period. It started in 1997. As explained in a blog post by Mark Guzdial, professor in the School of Interactive Computing:
Georgia Tech’s interpretation of FERPA is that protected information includes the fact that a student is enrolled at all. The folks at GT responsible for oversight of FERPA realized that a student’s name in a website that references a course is evidence of enrollment. Yesterday, in one stroke, every Swiki ever used for a course was removed. None of those uses I described can continue. For example, you can’t have cross-semester discussions or public galleries, because students in one semester of a course can’t know the identities of other students who had taken the course previously.
Comments to the post show a lot of support and concern over this interpretation of FERPA, and many fear that it will spread to other institutions and shut down their own initiatives. Tom Hoffman’s comment states that “this sort of interpretation of FERPA is more common in K-12.”
Do you think GT’s reaction is appropriate? Is this the beginning of the end for educational practices where students post their work publicly, or are there ways you can think of that would be still be acceptable under GT’s conditions?