Interested in the Ethics of EdTech Apps? Let our Experts Help with Your Coverage

Interested in the Ethics of EdTech Apps? Let our Experts Help with Your Coverage

January 29, 20202 min read

There’s been a lot of talk lately about EdTech apps. There’s a long list of benefits and advantages for students looking to succeed in these modern and digital times.


However, with anything app-related – user privacy and what’s being done with all of your data that’s collected always comes to the forefront of the conversation. EdTech apps are a billion-dollar industry, and recently the experts from the University of Mary Washington were asked their opinions on the industry, the apps and privacy.


Jesse Stommel, senior lecturer of Digital Studies at the University of Mary Washington, said that EdTech providers had a responsibility to do more than just legally protect themselves with terms and conditions. “The onus has to be on the tech companies themselves to educate the users about data security and data monetisation…say ‘here’s why I’m collecting it, here’s what I hope to do with it, here’s why it should matter to you’,” he said.

For Dr. Stommel there was also still a danger when technologies were adopted widely across campuses and every student or lecturer was required to use them. “When certain companies become universal, staff and students don’t have a way to say ‘I won’t use it because I don’t want them to have my data’,” he said.


The fact that certain products had become so widely adopted, such as plagiarism tracking software Turnitin, was another reason to be cautious about data protection, he said.

Turnitin, which was sold last year for $1.8 billion (£1.4 billion), has been accused of monetising students’ intellectual property, since it works by checking submitted papers against an ever-growing database of previously submitted essays and detecting any similarities.

“Companies can start off small and they say ‘we will be good stewards of this data, we’re small, we talk to each other,’ but then that company achieves more and more success and it doesn’t necessarily have the standards in place to maintain that,” said Dr. Stommel, speaking generally. “Then what happens when they are bought out? What are the ethics of the company that has purchased them? What happens to the student data then?”

Dr. Stommel said that the most “moral” thing to do was for companies to collect as little data as possible but admitted “no company is approaching it in that way”. January 14 -

Are you a journalist covering how EdTech is now becoming a regular part of modern-day higher education? Then let our experts help with your stories.

Jesse Stommel is a senior lecturer of Digital Studies at the University of Mary Washington and is an expert in faculty development, digital education and modern learning. He is available to speak with media regarding EdTech apps – simply click on his icon to arrange an interview.

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