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? Shouldthey leave it in some cases or all cases of the discretion of the Facultymember? These are really, really hard questions. You're listening to enrollment growthuniversity from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders lookingto grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growthtechniques 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, aproud member of the connect e Tou podcast network. I'm Eric Olsen with HelixEducation and we're here today with Dr John Vas and your code director at theUCLA Institute for Technology, law and policy. John, welcome to the show.Thank you very much for having really excited to talk with you today aboutthe 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 andyour rule there? Oh well, I'm on the faculty at Ucla and I'mon the factories particularly. I teach not only in the engineering school but alsoin several other schools UCLA. I have an appointment in the public policy departmentand at the law school, in the School of Management. In my workis on the broader implications of Technology, so how technology touches other areas suchas public policy and law. Yeah, really excited to dig into this issuetoday that I think a lot of us, and at the Admin level, mightnot have thought of before. John, at the beginning of this semester youreceive an email from your eight coordinator in your school of law asking ifyou wanted to opt out of your course being recorded. I'd love for youto 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, ofcourse, this was the pre pandemic world,...

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

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

...a says something and student be wantsto talk outside the class about what student a said. Well, there's no, of course, legal barrier to student be talking about that. So youdon't have privacy in a classroom in the way you might have privacy in yourown 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 notbroadcasting them to the world. And of course, to be fair, universitiesthat record classes don't tend to broadcast into the world, but the fact remainsthat a recorded conversation is one I think that all of us would approach somewhatdifferently and more carefully than one that isn't recorded, simply because when conversations arerecorded and discussions of recorded, there's more of a risk of things being takenout of context and used potentially in ways that are detrimental to somebody who mighthave said something, you know, relatively an occuous in context, but thatmight not sound so an ocuous out of context like. And it's just thatthe 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 thatevery word they say is going to be recorded. And then, I guessI also say that, you know, universities typically promised that the recordings aregoing to be available, you know, only to the students in the classand they're going to be deleted after the academic semester recorder is over. ButI'm highly skeptical of that. And you know, you can you can imagine, you know, in today's environment, let's say, you know, wheneveranyone runs for political office. Of if there were recordings of every one oftheir classroom discussions, you know people would go mind those trying to come upwith things they might have said that they could be, you know, takento task for something, and I think think it's healthy for people to beable to be in a classroom environment and not be subjected to recording. Andthen the final thing I'll say is that we, you know, we sortof live in increasingly what has become sort of a digital panopticon. We're sortof everything we say or do everywhere goes...

...tracked and the classroom, inside theclassroom, has has traditionally been one of the relatively few spaces outside the homewhere there isn't that sort of tracking and recording, and it's sort of ashame from a privacy standpoint to see that last barrier fall as well for allof those listening in the year two thousand and thirty two, because John isrunning 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 coursefor you and how conversational that is. Should that be a factor as collegeadministers are thinking about policy and and what are options here? This idea ofa 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 ouroptions here? Yeah, that's a that's a great question. I think thatthat's a really good point in the sense that you look at one end ofthe spectrum. If you have, you know, a course where you have, I don't know, four hundred people...

...in a lecture hall and the Professoris basically just talking in this very few questions. You know, I haveno illusions or or conception. I know that when I'm standing there in frontof a very large group of students that I'm I can't claim any privacy interestwith respect to what I'm saying right, and so it wouldn't be detrimental atall to the class or to me if a recording of this class of fourhundred people was made. And so I don't think this. So then thatgets 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 singleclass there's going to be some students who, for whatever reason are unable to beat the class. I think the concern I have is when you startmaking recordings of students, and you know, that's and that's why it's very differentwhen you have a small, interactive class where students might do quite alot of the talking. To me, that does change the privacy equation.Yeah, and let's take that to the extreme. You were very comfortable beingon record your guarding your student privacy.

Should colleges think about this from theother 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 justrecord everything to to make sure that we can protect our students and discipline ourfaculty 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'thave to be simply be a professor. Anybody in the classroom could say something. Yeah, that is potentially, you know, controversial and leads tosome sort of sort of you know, downstream action, where downstream consequences,where it becomes of interest to know what was actually said. And of courseyou can make that argument, but the question is, you know, doesdoes 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 stillfall on the side of, you know, believing that these sort of spontaneous,you know, unrecorded classroom engagements are they give students more freedom to exploreand think. Now, of course, again, this is all pre pandemicwhen I was writing that piece, and the dynamics of obviously changed quite abit since then, but at least that's what I thought as of January twothousand and twenty. Yeah, finally, John, as you mentioned, thissituation 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 commonor available. Any final next steps? Advice for institutions currently swimming in thismuch heavier online learning space, who may not have had to think aboutthese decisions before or what their policies are? For them, any next steps forthem navigating this issue? Where should they start first? Yeah, that'sGosh. 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 theclassroom after that, that's very different than if, for mostly online for thenext two and a half years, right. And so you know, I thinkyou 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 stillwould think that for the large classes it's, you know, obviously going to makemore sense in that context than in the small classes. I'm just youknow, anecdotally, in my own law school class at Ucla we did moveonline 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 andso 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 recordingand, if so, should they do so as a function of classsize? Should they leave it in some...

...cases or cases of the discretion ofthe faculty member. These are really, really hard questions, John. Thankyou so much of your time to day and helping us think through some ofthese hard questions. What's the best place for listeners to connect with you ifthey have any follow up questions? Well, there are certainly I'm easy to findat UCLA. They're certainly welcome to send me, send me an emailand I'd be happy to engage with them. Awesome. Thanks against so much forjoining us today, John. Okay, thank you. Attracting today's new posttraditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven, enterprise wideapproach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this neweducation landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growthplaybook with fifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solve today's most pressingenrollment growth challenges, downloaded today for free at Helix Educationcom. Playbook. You'vebeen listening to enrollment growth university from Helix...

Education. To ensure that you nevermiss 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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