AAEEBL Digital Ethics Principles: version 1

Principle 7: Content Storage

ePortfolio creators should know where their content is stored, who has access, and how to remove it. 

ABSTRACT: Before working in an ePortfolio platform, students, educators, administrators, and staff should review the Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions with particular attention to how the platform will collect, store, and use data and if students can opt out of data collection or remove their data. Providers should communicate these details in clear and accessible language. 

Strategies for applying this principle include…

  • Reviewing the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy (and other relevant documents) of the ePortfolio site and seeking counsel, e.g. at your institution, if you are not clear whether the site is safe or appropriate to use. 
  • Identifying how the provider will collect and use your personal data, whether you can opt out of data collection, and how you can remove your data before creating an account on the ePortfolio-making platform and adding content.
  • Recognizing that deleting your account does not mean your user data will be removed from data repositories unless the end user license agreement says this.
  • Considering how complex, time consuming, or costly the portfolio transfer process is, if there is one. 
  • Informing students on how the institution, vendors, and/or website hosting system may preserve or share their ePortfolio information with other parties, systems, or entities.
  • Sharing guidelines on data ownership, storage, and sharing in clear and accessible end user license agreements.


Scenario #1:

You are an undergraduate senior. You are required to develop a ePortfolio of your experiences and reflections over the duration of your final capstone course. As part of the assessment task, you are able to use the web portfolio platform of your choice. Your institution provides you with a list of possible options and outlines the benefits of using each one. However, you are concerned about how each platform may use your information once it is uploaded because recently you have seen advertisements pop up on your phone based on your previous web searches.
When you mention your concerns to classmates, they also share their concerns about the security of their information once it is “in the cloud.” As a result, the group asks the educator if they can investigate licensing agreements for the popular platforms and add relevant information to the existing resource as a class activity. 

Your educator is excited to hear you are interested in learning more about the platforms and creates an activity where you work through end user license agreements in groups to identify how platforms use, store, and manage user data. After this activity, you are in a better position to decide which platform you want to use based on the best benefits and the least amount of acceptable compromises you are willing to make.

Scenario #2:

You are a graduate student. You have spent several semesters perfecting your ePortfolio on the university’s proprietary platform. You assume that upon graduation you will be able to transfer your content to a new platform that is accessible to potential employers. However, when you ask about the transfer process, you find out that it is virtually non-existent. 

You are allowed to download your content onto a thumb drive and take it with you, but the university does not assist with the process after that point. You have never used another platform, and the university only provides support and instruction on its own platform. 

The institution should ensure that students are able to maintain their ePortfolio beyond the constraints of the institutional platform, while providing instruction on how to transfer the content to a new platform. When students are using a platform where transfer is impossible, that should be explained initially, and another entity, such as a career center, should be available to help students create a public-facing resource. Alternatively, the institution can make the platform available to its graduates to continue creating portfolios.  

Scenario #3:

You are the ePortfolio Program Director and decided on the purchase of a particular ePortfolio platform that is the primary platform for your institution. You receive an email from your ePortfolio provider stating that the end user licensing agreement (EULA) will change in three months, the negotiated notice period for your institution. In preparing your response, you want to consider any changes to student data collection and storage. When you negotiated the contract with this provider, you were clear about your institution’s policies regarding student data collection and storage and required that the provider notify you via email of any changes and give you the right to terminate the contract if changes violated the institutional policy. 

You saved a copy of the old EULA and can now compare it to the new EULA with your institution’s legal counsel. After comparing versions of the EULA, you seek clarification on these changes from the platform representative in preparation to communicate these updates to stakeholders and students. Once your institution is satisfied to continue with the platform under the new EULA, students are presented with the changes directly in the platform and asked to review them. 

Scenario #4:

You are a program administrator and/or staff member who has been asked by your institution to start a campus-wide ePortfolio initiative as part of its Quality Enhancement Plan. There is nobody at your institution who regularly vets technologies intended for teaching and learning, and you have limited knowledge of ePortfolios and suitable platforms in general. When you gather a committee to consider different ePortfolio technologies, you make a list of priorities: students’ ability to edit and share their ePortfolios both as students and after they leave the institution, universal design practices for creators and viewers, privacy capabilities for authors, and minimal direct cost to students. However, the committee soon realizes it has thought very little about use of student data, which is a big concern. 

As a committee, you develop a series of criteria related to student data and privacy and their acceptable options. These criteria will help eliminate some potential ePortfolio platforms. These questions include the following:If students choose their own platforms for ePortfolio creation, you provide resources that inform them about potential platforms and how each platform collects, uses, and stores user data.


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This document was created by the AAEEBL Digital Ethics Task Force: Amy Cicchino (Auburn University), Megan Haskins (Auburn University), Megan Crowley-Watson (Edward Waters College), Elaine Gray (Appalachian State University), Morgan Gresham (University of South Florida), Kristina Hoeppner (Catalyst, New Zealand), Kevin Kelly (San Francisco State University), Megan Mize (Old Dominion University), Christine Slade (University of Queensland), Heather Stuart (Auburn University), and Sarah Zurhellen (Appalachian State University)

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