Digital Reputations and Posting Classwork Online

When it comes to the issue of students posting things publicly online, my focus (as a student AND a teacher) is how it will affect the online “self” we are all curating. Is the classwork attached to our full real name? Will it show up on the first page of search results because it is recent?

Many people likely think it’s paranoid to worry about one’s class choice and discussion contributions showing up in an online search. I agree that there are few scenarios that jump to mind where the risk is high. But I still like to think critically about any digital footprint I leave.

If I am a non-degree student and I enroll in an ECE class about infants, or a special topics class on a certain religion, that may lead people to make certain assumptions about me. Normally no one would find out what classes I’m taking in a given semester. But a publicly available class forum does mean a potential employer or nosy acquaintance could run across that information if the class requires public posting online.

I think the other posts this week have already pointed out many of the pros and cons of public posting. On the “cons” side, some folks discussed intellectual property concerns (my name is attached, but it’s a class blog not a journal article; does that mean anyone can “steal” my curriculum now?) Others mentioned the knowledge and maturity gap of grade and high school students compared to grad students (how do we encourage free flow of ideas and discourage bullying?)

On the “pros” side, the “public” label of my posts encourages me to think a little more carefully about my arguments and dig deeper for evidence I can link to. Being able to have hyperlinks and tags is nice for when I want to revisit content later. I think this blog archive could come in handy in the future, so it’s nice that it is searchable and I could easily share it with colleagues if I wanted to.

As people we are all evolving; a student’s opinion going into a discussion may change by the end after he or she has heard the stories and evidence others provide. So, I’d rather they have the opportunity to revise things. I have a friend that teaches critical race theory, and has some very tough and productive discussions in class. But they are non-recorded discussions, and students are asked to keep things “inside” of class. Am I just not giving students enough credit in thinking they won’t speak as freely if they know their words will be posted publicly? I guess I come from a community where, if you’re going to blast your opinion on the internet, it’s because you are comfortable being an “outspoken activist.”

The question was posed, in which circumstances do the advantages supersede the concerns? I would really like my answer to be “whenever the circumstances will allow true learning to occur.” But I am still wary of having any discussions that would relate to religion or politics in a digital public forum, because screenshots make everything permanent. I guess I’m still working on what is and isn’t “hype.”

11 thoughts on “Digital Reputations and Posting Classwork Online

  1. Bob

    I get it. The concerns you share are a lot of why I lurk. I very infrequently post on public forums. However, I want to make a distinction between “opinions” and the “scholarly work” we are doing here. All of us have found sources to inform our reasoning and we have crafted arguments for our conclusions. I haven’t flinched at over sharing or felt the need to call anyone out on unsupported claims or fallacious arguments. I have seen folks wrangle with conflicted points of view practicing objectivity and compassion. So to my thinking there is little “opinion” in what we have done here. We may not be as deep or specific as more practiced scholars of the subject, but, neither are we opinion mongering. Perhaps you are right and politics, religion, personal finance, sex life, and medical maladies have no place in an online course. But, I wonder about the first two…. In this course I would consider that over sharing, perhaps. However, I can imagine a religious adherent taking this course in support of their religion based school. I would expect s/he to have important religious topics as part of the content in his/her sample unit — however, if s/he tried to convert me that would be problematic or conversely if I tried to talk them out of their religion — that would, I think be slipping into “opinion.” I wonder if that makes a difference in your misgivings?

    1. Owen

      Interestingly, Bob, in another course I participated in, I had a peer who was an instructor at an online Madrassa (Islamic school). He authored faith-based units and moderated pseudo-discussions on religious topics. It worked just fine, I think, because the content was secondary and everyone knew that.

  2. Jenny

    I like how you pointed out that our course selection is now available to an online search and that it is a part of our digital footprint. I can see possible issues surrounding this, conversely, perhaps having a course such as this one will add to our “digital resume.” I agree that we must be more thoughtful about our course choice or at least comfortable with that knowledge being available.

  3. Owen

    Hi Alda,
    I helped design an online course on the history of domestic ungulates in Alaska. We debated whether or not to hold the discussions (potentially very controversial) in the open or on a platform like Blackboard. In the end, we chose to go open. I’m sure some of the level of discourse was somewhat curbed, if you will. On the other hand, many folks across the state were able to benefit from hearing different viewpoints on a very contentious subject.
    Here’s the course if you’d like to take a look:


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