When public universities contract with ‘ed tech’ vendors: issues concerning ‘Learning Management Systems’ and online learning


This paper presents early findings of research on two timely topics. The first concerns problems plaguing the U of T’s chosen provider of learning software, Canvas: extensive data mining with no possibility of withholding consent; lack of transparency about the actual or potential monetization of that data and resulting algorithms; and the surveillance risks to U of T faculty and students posed by the fact that Canvas stores all of our data on Amazon Web servers. These problems are common in for-profit ‘ed tech’ systems, not just Canvas, but there are some non-profit community-governed alternatives which we will explore in due course. The second topic concerns international students’ vulnerability to surveillance and state control when taking U of T courses online, if they are physically in home countries that exercise digital surveillance and/or censorship. Little is known about the extent to which state digital surveillance by various state security bodies is or will be extended to online courses offered by foreign universities, beyond the well-documented situation of Internet censorship
in China; but we want to alert colleagues and begin to collect relevant

Authors: David Allens, Leslie Chan, Nikita Chirila, Mariana Valverde