Trust, Privacy, and the Digital UniversityGo to Critical Reviews
"Organizations today have to be based on trust. How many people can you know well enough to trust? Probably 50 at most. " Charles Handy, author, management philosopher, and consultant to multi-national corporations (Rapoport, 1994)
The Digital University
Broadly speaking, the term digital university refers to the successful migration of many key activities from paper-based methods to digital methods. Successful migration means not only that we can do things that we now do better, but also that our institutions and many constituencies have opportunities to do things that we could not do before.
While this migration includes the assimilation of e-commerce (the buying and selling of products and services) into our institutions, it also includes many other "e-activities." We are migrating to a digital world that comprises, for example:
- Online applications and payment of admissions fees.
- Campus-wide, integrated administrative computing systems, and eventually integrated administrative and academic computing systems.
- Online purchasing and loan programs.
- Online recruiting of students, staff, and faculty.
- Web access and interaction with personal (including medical) information.
- Multi-institutional and consortia-based educational models.
- Web-based courses and testing.
- Virtual communities.
- Online, collaborative research.
- Online auctions of university intellectual property.
- Digital library resources.
- Electronic grant and development initiatives.
As we migrate, we change in a fundamental way how we fulfill our mission. For example, our constituencies will have quick, electronic, and often interactive access to a variety of institutional data and information, and the ability to reuse these. Trust will often be based on electronic, rather than face-to-face, meetings and personal relationships. If we are successful, our institutions will continue to enjoy the trust of our many constituencies while remaining competitive in an increasingly global and multi-faceted higher education environment.
The Importance of Trust
In the 1960s film The Graduate, Dustin Hoffmans character was advised that the key to success was "plastics." In todays evolving digital universities, that key is "trust."
Trust is fundamental for many reasons. For one, the rapid pace of technology innovation means that technology change often takes place before we understand its potential implications. For example, what impact, if any, do the hundreds of commercially-sponsored campus web sites and "smart cards" (Van Der Werf, 1999) have on our responsibilities under FERPA (NCES 1998; CAUSE 1997)? How (and how well) are we protecting faculty and institutional intellectual property, including course notes, syllabi, and research on Web sites? From an institutional perspective, how can we best address intellectual property ownership and royalty issues, and manage potential conflicts of interest?
There is no model for migration that we can follow. In the area of distance education alone, for example, some higher educational institutions have entered into a variety of partnerships with for-profit companies, others have joined non-profit educational consortia, some have done both of these and are also delivering courses directly to students, while others have formed for-profit subsidiaries. Faculty are breaking new ground outside of their institutions (Marcus, 1999). Further, the unique circumstances at each of our institutions--including our different missions, funding levels, cultures, strengths and weaknesses, concerns, constituencies, tolerance for risk, and varying infrastructures and approaches to outsourcing--may preclude development of a single model that will work for all of us.
In society at large, there is no coherent set of laws, regulations, and policies on the handling of digital data and information, nor rules for enforcement, that have withstood (or been amended by) diverse challenges over time. In fact, these are just now being worked on at the state, national, and international levels among governments, interest and advocacy groups, and trade organizations.
We are facing issues that we have never had to face before. For example, customer "profiling" (Dembeck, 1999; Gold, 1999) and "targeted marketing" (Tedeschi, 1999) were virtually impossible, or at least much less sophisticated, prior to the digital revolution. Today, a persons offline and online buying habits can be merged. Private data can be easily obtained (Penenberg, 1999). Students who are working at their computers through dinner can be interrupted by a vendor who sends a pop-up window to their computer screens offering to sell them a pizza (Woody, 1999).
When things go wrong online, its the credibility of the institution thats at stake, not just the reputation of the registrar, accounts office, a school or college, or any individual group. In industry parlance, its our "brand name" thats at risk.
Finally, trust is key because a successful migration to a digital university requires that we build new, "electronic relationships." In some cases, we will want to build community and viable, long-term relationships with people that we have not met face-to-face. We will need to partner with all of our constituencies to share risk and reward so that we may all take advantage of the opportunities that technology offers.
Handys comment helps to put into perspective the scope and complexity of the migration that we face.[Something is missing here. Immediately prior to this sentence you need to identify Handy, cite the reference, and what tell the reader what comment he made.] Thats because we need to build trust not simply among his 50 people, but rather among hundreds, even thousands of people---a highly diverse, global audience that includes faculty, students, and staff, as well as parents, alumni, donors, sponsors, vendors, partners, collaborators, governments, and educational institutions.
Selected Actions To Help Ensure a Successful Migration
While each of our institutions will have to develop and refine these according to individual circumstances, below are some suggestions as a starting point for creating a mission, guidelines, and action steps.
Higher education institutions are becoming digital universities. To migrate successfully, they need to address proactively the role and importance of an "old-fashioned" value (i.e., trust, in a digital world). Institutions must act with a clear sense of institutional mission, set goals, and identify actions. Institutions will likely find that they face some common technical, policy, legal, and other issues. However, they will likely find as well that a successful migration requires unique approaches and solutions.
Cause Task Force (1997). Privacy and the handling of student information in the electronic networked environments of colleges and universities. Retrieved June 1999 from the World Wide Web: http://www.educause.edu/asp/doclib/abstract.asp?ID=pub3102
Cranor, L., Reagle, J., and Ackerman, M. (1993, April). Beyond concern: Understanding net users attitudes about online privacy. Retrieved December 1999 from the World Wide Web: http://www.research.att.com/projects/privacystudy/
Dembeck, C. (1999, July 7). Is it customer profiling or harassment? E-Commerce Times. Retrieved from the World Wide Web: http://www.ecommercetimes.com/news/viewpoint/view-990707.shtml
Gold, S. (1999, November 16). Privacy advocates warn e-commerce sites against profiling. Cable News Network Financial Network (cnnfn). Retrieved November, 1999 from the World Wide Web: http://www.cnnfn.com/news/technology/newsbytes/139455.html
Hicks, M. (1999, October 25). A matter of trust. PC Week Online. Retrieved November, 1999 from the World Wide Web: http://www.zdnet.com/pcweek/stories/news/0,4153,2376988,00.html
Industry privacy failures hurting e-commerce, latest surveys show. (1999, September 9). Privacy Times. Retrieved September 10, 1999 from the World Wide Web: http://www.privacytimes.com/NewWebstories/indus_priv_9_9.htm
Marcus, A. (1999, November 22). Why Harvard Law wants to rein in one of its star professors. The Wall Street Journal, pp. A1, A10.
Mosquera, M. (1999, November 17). Security lawsuits to replace Y2K litigation. TechWeb. Retrieved November, 1999 from the World Wide Web: http://www.techweb.com/wire/story/TWB19991117S0005
National Center For Education Statistics (NCES) Task Force (1998, September 22). Safeguarding your technology. Retrieved June 1999 from the World Wide Web: http://nces.ed.gov/pubs98/safetech/.
Penenberg, A.L. (1999, November 29). The end of privacy. Forbes. Retrieved December 1999 from the World Wide Web: http://www.forbes.com/Forbes/99/1129/6413182a.htm
Rapoport, C. (1994, October 31). Charles Handy sees the future. Fortune, pp. 155-156, 158, 162, 164, 168.
Reuters. (1999, October 11). The new e-industry: Privacy. Wired News. Retrieved October, 1999 from the World Wide Web: http://www.wired.com/news/business/story/22178.html
Tedeschi, R. (1999, May 10). Targeted marketing confronts privacy concerns. The New York Times on the Web. Retrieved June 23, 1999 from the World Wide Web: http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/99/05/cyber/commerce/10commerce.html
Van Der Werf, M. (1999, September 3). A vice president from the business world brings a new bottom line to Penn. Chronicle of Higher Education, pp. A72-75.
Woody, T. (1999, August 6). Back to school in the Internet economy. The Industry Standard. Retrieved August 6, 1999 from the World Wide Web: http://www.thestandard.net/articles/display/0,1449,5812,00.html
Zimits, E., and Montano, C. (1998, April). Public key infrastructure: Unlocking the internet's economic potential. iWorld. Retrieved June 1999 from the World Wide Web: http://www.iword.com/iword32/istory32.html
I don't rate this article very highly. The concept of "trust" it uses is very weak. There is a serious and significant literature on trust in the knowledge economy, and the author seems unaware of it. Second the definition of "digital university" is poor, and unhelpful. Many of the applications have been computerized for many years, and been a feature of HE for 30+ years. There is potentially something interesting in the argument about the shift of power which new technologies can involve, but this is dealt with summarily.
Recommend publishing. A thought-provoking, timely, "call to action" piece. Many of the items in the lists could be expanded. However, having them listed provides good emphasis. Covers topics, trust and privacy in the digital university, that need to be addressed right now in higher education
Thinking my first reaction was too harsh, I decided to let some time pass and reread this article. My initial impression didn't change. I can't help but feel that the writer's trying to stretch an interesting thought into an all-encompassing field theory on virtual ed. "Trust" just can't bear the load. The virtual phenomenon is much too complex and defies reduction to a notion as vague as trust. To be publishable, the writer would need to focus on a specific aspect of electronic learning that lends itself to the idea of trust and zero in on it, constructing his case for trust in this specific instance. The lists in his paper are a good starting point: select one of the items and develop it. I wondered, too, if perhaps "risk" might be a facet of "trust" that may be worth investigating as an alternative. I don't want to discourage the writer. I believe he/she is onto something worth writing about; however, he doesn't quite have it here.
I just did a quick read of the article and I like it quite well. I don't remember seeing anything in TS on this topic yet and it really raises many important issues facing all universities, virtual and otherwise. It could profit from offering a more coherent point of view on where we might or should find the answers. I would say that the author just needs to tighten up the final section using a bit more of a thematic approach; ie, rather than noting all of those bullets, take the top three themes/bullets do a short bit on each. I would then think it a very worthy contribution to TS.