Peeping Professors: the alarming lack of privacy on Blackboard

Christine Colleran

Remember when you were in eighth grade and your biggest fear was your crush actually finding out how many times a day you viewed their MySpace profile? (I know I’m not the only one who was this creepy). Well students, in a way, our greatest worries have been realized.

The seemingly benign Blackboard website, the end all be all of our academic world, can serve as an invasive spy tool for our professors. Shocked? So was I.

Professors can not only monitor when you log on to Blackboard, they can track exactly where you go (and how long you stay there). Even more disturbing, they can gather details regarding mouse movement and what you decide to print. Finally, as if this wasn’t Big Brother enough already, professors can get individual student summaries tracking your personal clicks and moves on Blackboard to date.

I can see it now, professors peering over these reports, evaluating students click-by-click. Finding out how many of us actually never looked at the slides on statistics (come on- nobody really looks at slides on statistics), discovering which students never opened the study guide before the test (But I read! Sort of), or identifying who was cramming at four in the morning, and who went to bed prepared.

Granted, Blackboard doesn’t actually say that the reason I am clicking on a certain class at four in the morning is because I am currently cramming; but professors are intelligent, curious people who make educated inferences.

My bitterness on the subject may originate from the fact that I don’t always read every article assigned to me (I definitely might read at least a half of them). However, regardless of personal study habits, it seems there are real flaws in this Blackboard monitoring system. Not everyone studies and operates in the same way. What if a student is trying to save some trees (we’re nothing if not eco-friendly here) and shares articles with a friend in class? What if a student is a quick reader, but a professor assumes they weren’t on the article long enough to have truly read it?

Drawing our own conclusions based on information we are supplied with is part of human nature. This method of monitoring students on Blackboard is supplying professors with incomplete information which reduces students to mere clicks with a mouse. It has potential to create unfair prejudices and biases about certain students based only on Blackboard activity.

I hold most of my professors in high regard, and despite how it may sound, I am not trying to pit us students against our teachers. I am just trying to make everyone aware of the fact that you could easily be under this form of surveillance in some of your classes.

We can go back to the song Santa Clause is Coming to Town for final thoughts on the matter: Professors know when you are sleeping, they know when you’re awake (4 a.m. log-in). They know if you’ve been bad or good – so read that article for goodness sake!
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