According to an article by Nick DeSantis of The Chronicle of Higher Education, student data–from test scores to dining hall menus–are spread across multiple software systems and trapped in university servers. However, new start-up companies are trying to make college data access more user-friendly for students. The government is currently pushing for a “MyData button” to be installed on all college sites. Said button would allow students to easily access information like grades and test scores, and it would make it easier to sync this data with smartphone apps and websites.
Unfortunately, installing a way to consolidate data like the MyData button would be expensive, and the cost would be passed down to students. Furthermore, student privacy laws like Ferpa (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) would be hard to reconcile with the new technology. Despite the costs, however, a MyData button would make it easier for transfer students, an ever-growing group, to keep track of their student data. Also, some educational companies say that the technology behind programs like the MyData button is advanced enough that, if given the money, they could have it installed within weeks.
In the absence of a MyData button, some independent programmers have created their own student data consolidation technology. Ben Greenberg and Rui Xia created software that “scrapes” textbook data from online school stores so that students can compare textbook prices. Greenberg argues that, until all data is made conveniently accessible, people like them will just find ways to work around the current system. Meanwhile, Harvard is taking a step toward free data by attempting to create a live data feed from course catalogues and dining hall menus, and the University of Waterloo has opened their course and exam-schedule information to students.
However, before people can start making student data truly accessible–says Michael D. Sessa, executive director of the Postsecondary Electronic Standards Council–they have to know what sort of data the recipients want and how they will use it. Until then, attempts to open up student data will be a tangled, inefficient mess with little to no benefit to students.