Do our instructors know too much?

The pandemic has brought new challenges for many students, including adapting to remote learning and the frequent use of various online tools, such as the Canvas website. Many college students are probably familiar with the Canvas website as it is heavily used in the communication between students/instructors and in grading all assignments, exams, etc.

What many students are not aware of, however, is that our instructors have complete statistics of each student’s involvement with their website: this includes how often we view their page, a general time frame spent on assignments and students’ participation.  This makes me wonder whether our instructors are using these numbers as a determinant of our grades within our courses. 

 “The Statistics page displays statistics for all Commons resources shared by users at your institution,” the Canvas Q&A page states. “Statistics include the name of the resource, the author, the author’s email address, the approved content status, the number of times a resource has been favorited, the number of times a resource has been downloaded and a link to the source file in Canvas.” 

Some students are  concerned about the sanctity of their privacy on Canvas.

Two first-years, Lucia Jueguen ’24, and Katie Perez ’24, discussed their feeling about said privacy.

“I kinda knew about this already, but didn’t know they knew that much,” Juegeun said. 

Along similar lines, Perez also described her feelings about using Canvas for class

“It doesn’t exactly show how much effort you’re actually putting into the class, which I dont think is necessarily fair,” Perez said. “It also can be an invasion of privacy.”

Transitioning to all-online work brings a new pressure towards academics, with everything online having a definitive answer with no leniency in regards to time. For instance, an assignment due by 11:59 pm, is considered “late” if handed in at the exact time. Although many instructors are understanding when it comes to a few minutes after, it will leave a stain on the overall assignment which will be “late” and will statistically be marked as such.

Knowing that professors have this information raises the question of whether or not they will use this as a deciding factor in determining our grades. If so, the students would be losing out on a sense of communication amongst their professors in explaining their viewership and the time spent on specific assessments. For the students that always leave tabs open for weeks on end or download the same document various times (such as myself), we should be weary of the possibility that all this is being taken into account and that for those that compare our work to statistics, it could be heavily skewed. 

I then question if our professors have the ability to share this information with whomever they deem appropriate, such as the Learning Commons and other faculty members? 

With this knowledge being brought to light, it leaves many students feeling vulnerable like our professors know a bit too much about our involvement in courses. I also personally feel it to be violating and one-sided with them knowing this information about us, while we are left in the dark. 

On the other hand, there are some positives to come of this too. Some semi-positive aspects about this information is that it insures academic honesty amongst students on assignments/exams, which is trying to resemble the “real-world” as much as it can. Although, within the “real-world,” professors do not usually hold a stopwatch or timer when students hand assignments in, except for exams. Also, a professor would be able to see if students struggle understanding specific concepts from the amount of times they have viewed an assignment and the amount of time spent on it, which allows them to reintroduce the concepts within their lessons.

Why isn’t this information accessible for students, then? For struggling students, the stats of their involvement could be a telling sign of how they can improve upon themselves and better their overall learning, whether they need to spend more time on the course or participate a little more. Maybe the studying method they currently use is not working for them. 

With all this being said, our stats should not be a big secret kept away from us, and instead should be available to us, as students, as well as our professors. 

This article is in no means an attack on the instructors, but a means of informing the creators of the setbacks that are then set on the students and how to remove the one-sided aspect of it in hopes to benefit us all.