We are not numbers: The use of identification codes in online learning

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Journal of Distance Education
This paper discusses students’ experiences with the use of identification codes in a graduate course delivered asynchronously via the Internet. While teaching an introductory masters level graduate course in distance learning, the authors discovered that the learning management system, Moodle, was programmed to display identification codes rather than student names when in the Student View mode. Consequently, when students participated in Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) text discussions, their posts were attributed to their computer-generated IDs. Investigation into the identification protocol revealed that the institution had adopted a policy of using identification codes to comply with Alberta’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) Act. We wondered what it meant to graduate students to be identified by a computer generated code rather than by name. In the context of an asynchronous CMC discussion forum, we asked how the use of an identification code affected students’ sense of identity within the online learning environment. Analysis of their responses revealed categories relating to personal identity (depersonalization and anonymity), social identity (community, learning, and engagement), and questions concerning suitable names for identification purposes. Most learners felt strongly that they should not be known through a numeric code and that their name was more personable.
Distance learning, e-Learning
Francis-Poscente, K. & Moisey, S. (2012). We are not numbers: The use of identification codes in online learning, The Journal of Distance Education 26(2). Available: http://www.jofde.ca/index.php/jde/article/view/801