Lies, damn lies and your on-line identity

Some might say …

It is an all too frequent story nowadays in the Daily Mail or one of the other more excitable, right of centre, daily rags. Some hapless individual has been taken in by a tracksuited ne’er-do-well in a trailer park in Idaho, posing as Miss California on a social network, and now suddenly all their credit cards have been maxed out and there are quite a few embarrassing photos of them floating round some rather unsavoury news groups … or something sort of similar.

Is that person you are talking to on Facebook really who their shiny bio and photo make them out to be ?

This has been a slightly hot topic recently in education technology circles. How to persuade students that opening every aspect of their lives up to scrutiny by anyone on social networks (without a bit of care at any rate) isn’t really a good idea.

Well now professors in Indiana, Connecticut and South Africa have hit upon a really radical solution. Rather then waiting for someone else to deceive their students by posing as something they aren’t, to gain their trust, they’ve decided to jump in and do it themselves first ! Destroying all trust in on-line interaction as they go !

Full details here

On the other hand …

Canny Professors in Indiana, Connecticut and South Africa have realised that peer support, interaction and appraisal are just as important drivers for their students as they are for themselves.

Worried by lack of student engagement and participation in some on-line discussions (now a vital part of many courses) they got themselves student accounts set up, under a suitable alias, and got into the discussion to kick start it – fearing that without this intervention an important aspect of their student’s education would be neither addressed nor assessed.

Now some liberal worriers have got all excited about this “deception” and how unethical it is, convinced that it will destroy trust and potentially damage the students’ educational experience !

Surely if engagement can be stimulated, enhancing the education experience and reducing dropout for cohorts of students … isn’t that worth the risk ?

What do you think ?

Is this going too far, or is it justified ?

Or am I going to have to pretend to be Alan Speight to convince you to air your opinions ? 🙂


  1. Interesting. It's the old problem of the teacher/lecturer being present and changing the dynamics of a group and thus what students might say or write. I can see why they've done what they've done but I'm not sure they've taken the best route. Why not get students from the year above or postgrads to contribute? Hmmm…. that sounds like a certain Enhacment project 🙂

  2. It does indeed sound like an enhancement project … any one has any thoughts about how to get that student engagement going, Matthew and I would be glad to hear them.

  3. … also, does Alan Speight actually read this blog?

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