[wp-edu] Student Usernames and Privacy

Alexandre Enkerli enkerli at gmail.com
Sun Aug 28 17:17:55 UTC 2011

Summary: If you were to create accounts for students, what would you
use as a username?

The academic year is about to start (or may have already started, for
some of you) so we’re probably all hard at work with preparations.

As a teacher, my preparation has more to do with the material than
with logistical issues. But I’d like to use WordPress to supplement
Moodle, as a kind of pilot project.
For multiple reasons, privacy is a major concern, at my university. So
I need to ensure that student information is as hidden as possible.

Over a year ago, I tried getting students to register on a BuddyPress
site I created. Didn’t really work, as very few students ever signed
up and many found the registration process confusing. This year,
solving these “onboarding” issues is a priority.

I’ll be teaching four courses and should have a total of 300 students.
Some changes in enrolment occur during the first two weeks of a
semester, but it’s rather manageable.

Since I’m “just” a teacher, I don’t have a way to authenticate
students using their university credentials. But I do get CSV rosters
with some info about students:
* Student ID
* Last Name
* First Name
* Phone Number
* Email
* University username (“netname”)
* Major
* Registration Date

What I was thinking of doing is create a WordPress account for each
student using the “Import Users from CSV” plugin and invite each of
them to courseware groups using the “Invite Anyone” plugin. Doing some
tests, it seems to work as a way to bypass the registration process.

An issue, though, is what username to use. Since they’re used for
slugs and “@mentions”, BuddyPress usernames are rather public, even
with plugins to hide them. The info I’m given is supposed to remain
private. Since usernames can’t be changed (easily) and since I’m
assigning them myself, I’m not really sure how to go at it.

* One thing I could do is get all students to send me a choice of
usernames. A bit convoluted, and it delays the whole process until I
get to meet with students and explain the whole thing. I can do this
through Moodle, but it still might require that I discuss things with
* Using arbitrary numbers would solve most of these issues. But it’d
make the whole thing quite impersonal and I’m wary of assigning
numbers to students. It kind of defeats the purpose of having a
“social” site for my courses. (Since I teach sociology, these things
are important.)
* Creating usernames using their first and last name could make sense.
It’s common enough a practice. But it’s a bit like the arbitrary
number case in that it makes thing more impersonal. Also, I might need
to give a way for some students to change their username, as full
names are considered a potential privacy concern. Although, with the
WPVN Username Changer plugin, that’s not much of an issue.


Alex Enkerli, teacher

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