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Networked practitioner: open or closed practice?
Networked practitioner: open or closed practice?

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2.4 The case for closed: security

There are two principal security issues: authentication and privacy. Whilst authentication can be essential to protect organisations’ systems, users often encounter usability problems, such as passwords and pin numbers, which are very labour intensive or simply unworkable. The result is that users either try to circumvent the mechanisms or simply move to other systems to complete their task (Preece, 2000; Whitten and Tygar, 1999). Security mechanisms for distance learning and in virtual learning environments must be designed appropriately to meet students’ and teachers’ needs to ensure that they effectively protect our information without hindering our ability to undertake the tasks we need to complete.

Users seeking to protect their own privacy encounter further complex usability problems. These usability issues often relate to concepts of ownership (e.g. intellectual property rights, copyright, privacy rights). Many distance learning systems do not provide adequate feedback on these topics, or offer sufficient control over rights (Preece, 2000; Bellotti and Sellen, 1993; Adams and Blandford, 2005).

Although some usability issues only relate to specific online settings, others are more universal.

Assessment and personal progression data is an obvious concern for students and thus authorised access to that data has to be secure. Alternatively, some learners may have concerns about access to their images, while others are completely happy with no restrictions. (It is interesting to note the number of people who turn their camera towards a view or a wall while taking part in video conferencing, while others are completely happy to face the camera. This can be related to the reasons why some students choose distance learning, which can give some anonymity. In an odd way, forcing openness here can curtail an individual’s freedom to control how they are perceived by others.)

All of the above would suggest that there should be flexible personal controls on personal information.