The Web We Need to Give Students

This article first appeared in Bright, a Medium-based publication

Student privacy has become one of the hottest issues in education, with some 170 bills proposed so far this year that would regulate it. These legislative efforts stress the need to protect students when they’re online, safeguarding their data from advertisers as well as from unscrupulous people and companies. There’s some pushback against these proposals too, with arguments that restrictions on data might hinder research or the development of learning analytics or data-driven educational software.

But almost all arguments about student privacy, whether those calling for more restrictions or fewer, fail to give students themselves a voice, let alone some assistance in deciding what to share online. Students have little agency when it comes to education technology – much like they have little agency in education itself.

The Domain of One’s Own initiative at University of Mary Washington (UMW) is helping to recast the conversation about student data. Instead of focusing on protecting and restricting students’ Web presence, UMW helps them have more control over their scholarship, data, and digital identity.

The Domains initiative enables student to build the contemporary version of what Virginia Woolf in 1929 famously demanded in

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