WATER COOLER [POLITICS & POLICY]
When cybersecurity startup UpGuard assessed the websites of eight learning management system companies, they found the most popular, Blackboard, had the highest risk of security breaches and hacks.
UpGuard’s CyberSecurity Threat Assessment Report, or CSTAR, provides a FICO-like score based on risk. From the outside, CSTAR assesses industry breach patterns and employee satisfaction ratings, security risks on company websites, and protection against third-party impersonation for fraudulent communications, assigning a score that, like a person’s credit score, tops out at 950. An internal scan can go deeper to assess system vulnerabilities, regulatory compliance, and network integrity, but a basic scan assesses the security risks visible to hackers.
PRIVACY PROBLEMS: Analysis of a personalized learning platform developed by Summit and Facebook shows privacy concerns, The Washington Post reported. The platform developed around 2010 shows a student’s year-long learning plan and offers personalized lessons for everyone. Dozens of schools in the country are reportedly using it, but students’ personal data — email addresses, grades and internet activity — are being tracked and shared. Parents are asked to sign a consent form that allows the data to be shared with companies like Facebook and Google, according to The Post.
Young Invincibles, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization that works to resolve issues facing young adults, has published a new education agenda that is currently supported by more than a million students. The “Student Agenda for Postsecondary Reform” focuses on improving the quality of federal data that tracks how well students perform at colleges and universities.
Young Invincibles created the agenda with input from workshops, listening sessions and roundtable conversations held over the last two years. Ultimately, the agenda is a call to action to “improve how the United States collects and uses data” in the higher education system, so that students can see salary, job placement, loan repayment and other information that would influence their school or major choices.
“In short, students, policymakers, and institutions are unable to answer basic questions about colleges and the outcomes they produce,” said Tom Allison, deputy director of policy and research for Young Invincibles, in a statement. “This is a remarkable lack of transparency and accountability for the over $500 billion colleges spend every year, half of which comes from students and families who have taken on in total over $1.3 trillion dollars in debt to finance these tuition dollars.”
Universities are grappling with the best way to integrate traditional classroom learning and workforce training in the face of changing economic demands. Employers want graduates with work experience and competencies beyond the credential they’ve earned, as much as they want someone with solid communication and writing skills. Meeting all of these demands is a challenge for higher education, but not one that is insurmountable, says Christopher B. Howard. The newly inaugurated president of Robert Morris University, a small private school in Moon Township, Penn., argues that colleges and universities must find a way to produce graduates who are astute members of society and competent members of the labor market. — Danielle Douglas-Gabriel
The world as we know it in higher education ended in 2008, when the financial collapse decimated home values and other investments for millions of Americans, wrecking their plans to finance their children’s education. Eight years on, many colleges and universities struggle to navigate this new landscape, but we still have the chance to be on the right side of history — if we act now by ensuring students graduate with skills relevant for today’s workforce and an education that prepares them for an increasingly complex and unpredictable world.