We encourage faculty to explore teaching on the open web using the Commons, but it is important to vigilantly respect student privacy. Both groups and sites have privacy settings that can be used to control visibility. Many class groups are private and can only be seen by the professor and class members. Some group sites are private, but many are open to the world wide web. Whatever you decide to do, be sure to discuss those settings with your students and make sure they are aware of the potential visibility of their work on the Commons. If they are uncomfortable with doing work in a semi-open or open space, then it’s important to allow them to complete course requirements via other methods.
Students can also use aliases to cloak their identities. When first registering on the Commons, a student needs to provide a username (one word, all lowercase, no special characters). By default, that name will be used to attribute content created by that student. However, on each member profile there is also a full name, which defaults to the username. After registration, most members of the Commons fill this in with their actual name. If a student is concerned about privacy, this field can be used as an alias. The student would then need to inform the professor of his or her true identity.
WordPress sites also have “screen names.” If the class does not use a group, this may be an easier alternative. The professor can easily go to “Users” and correlate screen names with actual names.
If the class is also using a group, this might not be the best option.