The Privacy Concerns of Course Recordings at UCLA

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Dr. John Villasenor, Co-Director at the UCLA Institute for Technology, Law and Policy joined the podcast to discuss the pro and cons of course recordings and the different factors an institution should consider when developing their policies around them.

Should College administrators require recording and, if so, should they do so as a function of class size? Should they leave it in some cases or all cases of the discretion of the Faculty member? These are really, really hard questions. You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, a proud member of the connect e Tou podcast network. I'm Eric Olsen with Helix Education and we're here today with Dr John Vas and your code director at the UCLA Institute for Technology, law and policy. John, welcome to the show. Thank you very much for having really excited to talk with you today about the pros and the cons of course,...

...recordings. Before we dig into that, can you give the listeners a little bit better understanding of both Ucla and your rule there? Oh well, I'm on the faculty at Ucla and I'm on the factories particularly. I teach not only in the engineering school but also in several other schools UCLA. I have an appointment in the public policy department and at the law school, in the School of Management. In my work is on the broader implications of Technology, so how technology touches other areas such as public policy and law. Yeah, really excited to dig into this issue today that I think a lot of us, and at the Admin level, might not have thought of before. John, at the beginning of this semester you receive an email from your eight coordinator in your school of law asking if you wanted to opt out of your course being recorded. I'd love for you to walk us through the pros the cons that you debated in your head first, to help us think through the student benefits, of course, recordings. Yeah, and so let me just cavy at all this by saying, of course, this was the pre pandemic world,...

...yes when it was still reasonable to expect everyone to show up physically in the same classroom. Yeah, and I was was told that the practice was you had to opt out. In other words, unless you PREU specifically chose not to have your class recorded, it would be recorded. And I did opt at, as I had for that course in previous years as well. Just for context, I'll mention this is a small course, roughly twenty five students, on digital technologies and the constitution. So how Constitutional Law Frame Works interract digital technologies and it's a very discussion oriented course with lots of student participation. So it's not not at all the sort of you know model where I'm just standing in front of a big giant lecture hall kind of, you know, talking to to everyone on really it's a very highly interactive course. Yeah, and so help us think through through the with that background, the student benefits of course recordings. Why these course recordings are helpful? Well, you know. So, first of all, I didn't record this course, but certainly I'm highly sympathetic to the argument that they are helpful because, for example,...

...if a student is unable to attend class for any number of completely legitimate reasons, then obviously there's a benefit if that student can simply go back and watch the recording. Perhaps it's not quite the same as being in the classroom, but it's certainly a lot better than if they have no access to the recording at all. So from the student standpoint you can certainly see in that respect, for students who have to Miss Class or, you know, if a student, you know, has to be out of town for an interview. There are clearly some advantages to those recordings. Awesome, and yet you decided not to help us understand the the student privacy concerns that that maybe overlooked too often when we think about course recordings. Yeah, so this is a student class where, you know, there's a lot of discussion among students. I encourage students to be very engaged with asking questions and you know, it's interesting because classroom isn't private in the sense of, you know, of student...

...a says something and student be wants to talk outside the class about what student a said. Well, there's no, of course, legal barrier to student be talking about that. So you don't have privacy in a classroom in the way you might have privacy in your own living room. But there is, to me, there's almost an implicit, you know, assumption that when you're in these classroom discussions that you're not broadcasting them to the world. And of course, to be fair, universities that record classes don't tend to broadcast into the world, but the fact remains that a recorded conversation is one I think that all of us would approach somewhat differently and more carefully than one that isn't recorded, simply because when conversations are recorded and discussions of recorded, there's more of a risk of things being taken out of context and used potentially in ways that are detrimental to somebody who might have said something, you know, relatively an occuous in context, but that might not sound so an ocuous out of context like. And it's just that the other issues that you want students to...

...be free to explore their thoughts, to sort of start and stop to think, hey, how about this? No, on second thought, that's a bad idea. How about that? And I just think that it chills conversation in a classroom if everybody knows that every word they say is going to be recorded. And then, I guess I also say that, you know, universities typically promised that the recordings are going to be available, you know, only to the students in the class and they're going to be deleted after the academic semester recorder is over. But I'm highly skeptical of that. And you know, you can you can imagine, you know, in today's environment, let's say, you know, whenever anyone runs for political office. Of if there were recordings of every one of their classroom discussions, you know people would go mind those trying to come up with things they might have said that they could be, you know, taken to task for something, and I think think it's healthy for people to be able to be in a classroom environment and not be subjected to recording. And then the final thing I'll say is that we, you know, we sort of live in increasingly what has become sort of a digital panopticon. We're sort of everything we say or do everywhere goes...

...tracked and the classroom, inside the classroom, has has traditionally been one of the relatively few spaces outside the home where there isn't that sort of tracking and recording, and it's sort of a shame from a privacy standpoint to see that last barrier fall as well for all of those listening in the year two thousand and thirty two, because John is running for office and they're looking for dirt. Welcome. Hope you learned something right, John. You mentioned just the inherent interactive nature of this particular course for you and how conversational that is. Should that be a factor as college administers are thinking about policy and and what are options here? This idea of a default? Let's record large lectures, let's not record small interactive classes, let's leave it to faculty discussion, like is happening UCLA. What are our options here? Yeah, that's a that's a great question. I think that that's a really good point in the sense that you look at one end of the spectrum. If you have, you know, a course where you have, I don't know, four hundred people...

...in a lecture hall and the Professor is basically just talking in this very few questions. You know, I have no illusions or or conception. I know that when I'm standing there in front of a very large group of students that I'm I can't claim any privacy interest with respect to what I'm saying right, and so it wouldn't be detrimental at all to the class or to me if a recording of this class of four hundred people was made. And so I don't think this. So then that gets sense. There's very little damn or much less downside and more upside, because if you have a class of four hundred people, just statistically every single class there's going to be some students who, for whatever reason are unable to be at the class. I think the concern I have is when you start making recordings of students, and you know, that's and that's why it's very different when you have a small, interactive class where students might do quite a lot of the talking. To me, that does change the privacy equation. Yeah, and let's take that to the extreme. You were very comfortable being on record your guarding your student privacy.

Should colleges think about this from the other standpoint? If a professor gets accused of something, I hate speech, for example, do they maybe want to lean on the side of let's just record everything to to make sure that we can protect our students and discipline our faculty if necessary? There certainly is an argument that someone could make that, you know, if there's ever you know, and by the way, it doesn't have to be simply be a professor. Anybody in the classroom could say something. Yeah, that is potentially, you know, controversial and leads to some sort of sort of you know, downstream action, where downstream consequences, where it becomes of interest to know what was actually said. And of course you can make that argument, but the question is, you know, does does that sort of forensic record keeping more than outweigh the value of having spontaneous, unrecorded classroom discussions and I guess,...

...you know, for me I still fall on the side of, you know, believing that these sort of spontaneous, you know, unrecorded classroom engagements are they give students more freedom to explore and think. Now, of course, again, this is all pre pandemic when I was writing that piece, and the dynamics of obviously changed quite a bit since then, but at least that's what I thought as of January two thousand and twenty. Yeah, finally, John, as you mentioned, this situation for you did come up prepandemic, but now, post or or current, in the midst of it, we have a lot more students learning online, in these learning environments where, course, recording has become come much more common or available. Any final next steps? Advice for institutions currently swimming in this much heavier online learning space, who may not have had to think about these decisions before or what their policies are? For them, any next steps for them navigating this issue? Where should they start first? Yeah, that's Gosh. How many hours do you have?...

Right? And that's you know, Pu was part of the answer to that question to pay. You know, if we're mostly online in fall two thousand and twenty but back in the classroom after that, that's very different than if, for mostly online for the next two and a half years, right. And so you know, I think you know, certainly with the pandemic, you know, a large fraction most, you know, perhaps nearly all, instruction is going to be online. That's somewhat a distinct question from the recording question. Right. I still would think that for the large classes it's, you know, obviously going to make more sense in that context than in the small classes. I'm just you know, anecdotally, in my own law school class at Ucla we did move online in the middle of the semester. Law School, UCLA's on semesters, and and we didn't record the class. In the last, you know, four or five sessions I had just great attendance and everyone was engaged and and so it worked out in that case not to record. But there'sn't you know, there's a really interesting and important question, which is should college administrators require recording and, if so, should they do so as a function of class size? Should they leave it in some...

...cases or cases of the discretion of the faculty member. These are really, really hard questions, John. Thank you so much of your time to day and helping us think through some of these hard questions. What's the best place for listeners to connect with you if they have any follow up questions? Well, there are certainly I'm easy to find at UCLA. They're certainly welcome to send me, send me an email and I'd be happy to engage with them. Awesome. Thanks against so much for joining us today, John. Okay, thank you. Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven, enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges, downloaded today for free at Helix Educationcom. Playbook. You've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix...

Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show on Itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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