Publishers have been providing online platforms with their textbooks for a while now. I’ll be honest: I’ve never really been impressed. Granted, I usually teach classes like Voice and Diction, classes that don’t run many sections, so publishers don’t create as many materials for that class as they do for Public Speaking, a class runs many sections in just about about every institute of higher learning.
Also, since I don’t use these platforms, I’ve never had direct access to them. I’ve only seen them when the publishers introduce them to the area or when I’ve tried to help colleagues.
Most of these platforms allow students to upload recordings of their speeches on their platforms. However, when we asked the publishers’ representatives who controlled access to those speeches. We never got a straight answer. This set off alarms for me and a few of my colleagues.
However, one of the things they promoted was a speech bank. Several of us figured that the various publishers used these uploaded speeches to populate their speech banks. So, we resisted uploading speeches on the publisher platforms.
Now, before the pandemic, this wasn’t too much of an issue. Most of our Public Speaking classes were either face-to-face or hybrid. Yes, we would run one or two fully online sections, but, honestly, those instructors were tech-savvy, so they didn’t need my help. I don’t know if they used the publishers platform to upload student speeches or not.
Once the pandemic hit, the situation changed, but I still wasn’t all that involved in the publishers’ platforms. I was more involved in helping our instructors set up their zoom meetings and Blackboard accounts. However, I do know that many instructors did have students upload their speeches onto the platform we were using. It was just the simplest thing to do.
Still, whenever I was asked, I told them not to upload those speeches onto the platform, to maybe set up a locked anonymous youtube channel. This may not have been the BEST solution, but it was the best I could think of.
Now, most of our classes are face-to-face or hybrid again (seriously, at least in Communication Studies, students seem to prefer those types of classes to strictly online courses), this isn’t as much of a concern, but I honestly think that, long term, we should build our own platform and materials. I hesitate to mention this to the powers-that-be because I would have to do most of the work, and our faculty is allergic to change so I wouldn’t get much by way of cooperation.
It’s really interesting for me to think about these textbook-associated platforms primarily from the standpoint of surveillance; it makes sense that they’re doing that, but I’ve always thought about these “added features” as a profit-making venture: if a textbook includes an associated online platform, every student needs to buy a new book in order to get access to the associated platform. Libraries can’t share access codes for a platform, and used textbooks can’t pass access along. I really appreciate your focus on all the privacy and surveillance issues at play here.
I totally agree—the data management issue for so many learning management systems is really a concern, for all the reasons you highlight here. I see this as a parent in the K12 context, too, and like you it was especially apparent during the pandemic. Can you go up one level in terms of your analysis to connect your personal experiences with these systems more specifically to the readings or to the broader implications on education?