Photo Courtesy of: Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

VIU has implemented a Course Retention Process to protect and streamline course and student data in VIULearn, our virtual learning environment (Brightspace by D2L). Since implementing VIULearn in Spring of 2012, there were over 40,000 courses in our system as of June 2018. Because we create a blank ‘shell’ for every course each and every semester, some of these courses we not used and were cluttering the system. However, we still had many courses that had been activated with content. In July 2018, we deleted courses from Intersession 2012 through to and including Intersession 2015 – essentially half of our courses! In July 2019, we will delete courses leaving only the past two years accessible. See our website with more information: Link

Cleaning up our VIULearn platform provides many benefits for both faculty and support staff along with those who manage and work daily in the technical side of VIULearn. We are enacting responsible management of student data for privacy regulations, as well engaging in good practices for managing data in post-secondary institutions.

Privacy and management of data is taking a front seat in many post-secondary school discussions these days (see Data Protection Primer and Responsible Use of Student Data in Higher Education). Canadian and provincial privacy laws encourage responsible actions with respect to all types of data. Institutions are also developing risk management offices, privacy and security policies and having impactful conversations about retaining student data.

In other regions of the world there are similar conversations particularly since the implementation in May 2018 of the updated European Law, GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) designed to harmonize data privacy laws across Europe. This new law has applicability for companies around the world as there is a new territorial scope. The law now applies to any company processing personal data of European Union (EU) people whether the company resides in the EU or not. For example, companies like Amazon and D2L will soon need to consider the applications of the law for any citizens of the European Union who are using software and platforms in Canada. While there new and upcoming privacy regulations and processes to protect student and faculty data, the question becomes how long do you retain it?

There is also a significant management issue of data if you have no retention process. While storage is relatively cheap and limitless in our technological world, the are significant risks involved in keeping data indefinitely. Institutions need to be mindful of what they are retaining and why they are retaining it. If we keep only what is necessary, we reduce our risk and ease up the management of sorting through large quantities of data every time we go looking for a course or course materials. Additionally, if we encourage users to make back up copies, save courses and keep what they feel is important for future use, we focus our energies on a smaller collection of important data to manage and store.

Here are some of the reasons VIU has implemented a new Course Retention Process for VIU:

  • Ease in Managing Content from Year to Year: VIU faculty will now have a clear direction on how long their courses will be stored in VIULearn and how they can take copies of older courses and keep them safe for future use. It is a good exercise each year to consider what to back up/keep versus what is no longer required. Annually, it helps everyone manage content.
  • Reduced Storage and Loading Speed for VIULearn Instance: Less content in VIULearn means faster updating, loading and transfer speeds for technicians and support specialists who need to navigate through 1000’s of courses each time they respond to a request.
  • Cleaner Interface for Usability in My Courses Widget: When we delete full semesters of courses, the My Courses Widget has fewer courses to load and display, and faculty see fewer semesters in their listing and filter options.
  • Ease in Back-End Management of VIULearn: Much of what goes on with VIULearn happens at the technical and support end. Staff from the Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning will now be able to provide quicker support with less courses to sort through.
  • Privacy of Student and Course Data: Ensuring greater control over how much student and course data lives on servers from year to year will bring VIU in line with privacy policies and data retention practices that are in the works or are here already.
  • Adhering to Best Practices in Post-Secondary Education: Other institutions have or are implementing a data retention process for courses, videos, blogs and other content generated by faculty and students. VIU will look at a process for VIUTube and VIUBlogs but for now we are focused on VIULearn. Some institutions have a one year retention policy; most are two years.

Note: It is important to note that students were not affected by this course retention process. This is because students lose access to their online courses after a specific set of days and have never seen previous semesters in the My Courses widget (unless enrolled in a course where the teacher has altered the course end date).

VIU faculty who want to make a back up copy of their course and save it for future use can find out how to do this from the handout below or this web page.

VIULearn Course Retention Process and Quick Guide: Word Doc | PDF