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Andy Lane


It is interesting to see that the problem is phrased as one of potential liabilities (to the institution). I am no lawyer but any situation which might lead to complaints or even litigation is likely to be based on the degree of negligence involved with respect to either an explicit or implicit agreement created by someone (a student) registering/paying a fee for a course or programme of study.

In the first example it would make a difference if the University involved has tested the client download on several different machines and discovered no problems before saying the service should be used.

In the second example there would be a difference if there was a formal reporting procedure for events affecting assignment submissions where passing comment in an audio conference would have been prefigured as insufficient notice.

So what is important is the design of the overall system and the place of technology in it. What functions a University needs to manage itself and which can it outsource has to be taken hand in hand within a clear framework of selceted and tested services. And within this there are the degrees of freedom to choose the service. For storing stuff, does it matter whether it is on a University server or someone else as long as the risks are known by whoever makes the choice? Similarly with conferencing. No it doesn't up to a point, except the point can be quite a big one. It does matter where the activity is assessable and it needs to be discoverable and recoverable. It also matters if the learners are not au fait with web services and begginers in teh wide world of elearning. It also matters if the service is not readily accessible to all - particularly students with disabilities. So choices or web services by individual lecturers or groups of students may be exclusionary to others.

So what are all the purposes of the choice of a web service, and is it fit for all the purposes and have all reasonable attempts been made to assess its suitability for all those purposes? That is why some form of control over services will always be needed in formal education. The key is in setting up appropriate controls.


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