• Law, Policy -- and IT?

    Tracy Mitrano explores the intersection where higher education, the Internet and the world meet (and sometimes collide).


The latest in law, policy and IT

Thoughts on MOOCs, privacy, the cloud.

May 22, 2013

MOOCs: edX has some new partners, Cornell among them, named CornellX.  Sometimes a later adoption is the right financial and strategic move, as was the minimal wait the Provost (with all kinds of administrative and faculty support behind him) gave before committing the University.  My personal opinion?  I am thrilled with the choice, the process, so far, as how the CU came to this decision, and look forward to future developments.  Cornell has some outstanding teaching as well as research faculty.  Moreover, in this digital age, I could not imagine a better approach to its long-standing commitment to outreach both as New York State's land-grant college and as a private university.  Salute!

Privacy:  The Cornell-George Washington Law School Privacy Information Forum was a success!  Excellent speakers, fantastic facilitators and engaged participants. The insight I gained addressed the question, "Why doesn't higher education adopt more readily the privacy officer model now fully embedded in corporate America?

Historically, because it was a leader in privacy with the Family Education Rights Privacy Act, and therefore already has processes and solid stakeholders, such as registrars, so it may not experience or even actually need a "privacy" officer per se.  The real answer is the old lawyer's response: It depends.  There are a lot of other privacy laws now, most obviously GLBA for interest-bearing financial accounts (bursar, for example) and of course patient health care record of covered entities (HIPAA for hospitals or clinics).  While those examples have their privacy and security officers by statute, coordination is the key among these three federal law requirements.  And on the state front, we have Data Breach Notification laws too.  My opinion: if the history, culture and traditions of an institution mitigate against the appointment of a central privacy officer per se, then let's take the issue to the next step: Institutions still need an authoritative information management officer.  

My principal contribution to Cornell in this area has been helping to put together a Regulated Data Chart which seeks to educate stewards and custodians on the appropriate use of data in our enterprise technologies.  More about which I would be happy to discuss in later blogs, but for now reviewing it is the homework:  http://www.it.cornell.edu/policies/infoprivacy/regdata/index.cfm

Cloud Computing:  The site above arose out of the need to address information management in cloud computing, although as we worked on it, it became clear that it was education we long could have used for on-premise services.  Cloud computing has so many interesting components: consortial pricing and negotiation with Net+ Services of Internet 2, a very big win for higher education and growing; attention to information management; new internal processes within institutions for development of such services.

These new processes are taking shape in ways that, once again, suit the institution.  Some schools have created project management in order to guide it.  Some have created ad hoc committees.  But overall, the pattern is inserting the life cycle from identified need to implementation as a more intensely collaborative effort involving: contract lawyers, procurement, business pricing, technical support not only for plug-in but also for functionality, technical security assessment, institution policy harmonization and information management, and finally strong communications and outreach for the users.  It is a cycle, not a linear process, one which I have likened to "gears" working together rather than a straight line of individual check boxes for procurement.  And the sooner a school adopts it, the more efficient and professional it will become to address cloud computing in the higher education environment.

That's all for now, more quick snap shots to come!


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