As instructors, we have the opportunity to pick technologies for ourselves and our students based on a learning need.  However, the process of approving technologies for academic use is designed to do two things: 

  1. Choose from among competitors to pick the technology best suited to a particular pedagogical use 
  2. Raise issues with technologies that instructors may not have the time to investigate or have limited interest in. 

The following two examples indicate the types of issues that might arise using technology that is not approved for academic use, and are followed by a list of questions you might ask yourself if you choose to proceed, in order to help you in managing the use of that technology in your course and by your students.  

What could go wrong?

Pedagogy example:

Bob is looking for a quick way to quiz students in class. He selected a tool where he can easily add questions and send the code to his students. Later, at a session at the Gwenna Moss Centre, he gets a recommendation not to use quizzes with short timers because they encourage students not to think deeply. Bob hadn’t really considered that idea, but really appreciated the summary document he got about the common options and advantages and disadvantages of each quizzing tool that had been assessed.

Compliance example:

Adithya had their students create infographics as a major assignment for class, and most students really appreciated their innovative approach.  However, one student appealed for a grade change, and when Adithya went to look for a copy of the assignment, the version in the software was different from the one that had been marked.  The whole process got complicated quickly, and the department noted that Adithya was responsible for keeping a copy of all major assessments, which they did not know. Also, it was hard to do given the tool they had selected for students to use.

Privacy example:

Michelle requires students to use a tool that requires students to sign up for an account and give their name, email, address, phone number, date of birth, citizenship and sex/gender.  The privacy policy and terms of use say that the service provider can use any of this information for not only providing the service, but for other business and marketing purposes, including disclosing or selling it to third parties for unknown purposes.  A student signed up as required by the instructor and is now being targeted with political campaign misinformation on social media.

In these cases above, helpful advice to prevent issues and technical solutions could have helped instructors for tools that had been assessed, and instructors can ask for tools to be assessed to get extra advice.

Taking responsibility for potential issues 

If you are thinking about using a tool that has not yet been assessed, here are some critical questions to ask yourself. These questions are designed for times where you require students to use specific technologies in the instruction or assessment, not for times where students may pick any technology of their choice. 

Please note you are assuming the responsibility for risk that you or your student incur when you mandate use of a specific tool if you haven’t had USask processes like Technology Assessment look after that for you. These example questions are designed to help you think through potential issues:  

  • Legal 
    • Will students be required to create an account, or will you be required to create an account on their behalf and what information will this collect? 
    • What does the application do with intellectual property?  Might I be inadvertently giving away my intellectual property rights or requiring students to? 
    • What does the legal language in the terms of use or privacy policy (if you found one) say about what might happen to a student’s work or personal information? 
    • How does the application handle making things public versus private by default? Is it consistent with your course outcomes? 
    • Will students be forced to download something on to their device to use this tool? What will the download do once it is on the device? 
  • Data use 
    • How will your data and student data be stored so it is safe, and can’t be used to harm you? 
    • Will your data be sold to a third party without you and your students’ informed consent? 

  • Role in assessment 
    • How does the application make it clear what work is done by whom? 
    • How will student work product be saved?  Can it be altered after it is submitted? 
    • How can student work products be downloaded? 

  • Integration 
    • Will this require my students to log in? What will happen if they lose access to the account or hide their identities for academic misconduct purposes? 

  • Cost to students 
    • Does this cost students anything to use?   
    • Is it limited to specific types of devices or browsers that might have hidden cost for students who do not have them?  Might it be prohibited or limited in some countries? 
    • If I mandated a specific tool, did it cost less than $50.00, and was it listed on the course outline as a required purchase on the first day of class?  Note: Students should not be sent directly to vendor sites to purchase accounts.  

  • Method of purchase and related policy  
    • Do I know if this tool can be reimbursed before I purchased it? 
    • Is there a similar tool already available?  What pedagogical reason would make this tool significantly superior to available tools with similar required functions?