Private vs Public Notes

Where to draw the line in corporate learning

  • Katherine Guest
  • Sep-13-2021

If your learning solution provides an integrated Note-taking feature for users, should it be for personal note-taking or something that is sharable with others? Can or should an Administrator, Manager, Mentor or Trainer see a user's notes? It's best to consider all valid "use cases" before answering these questions. Whereas it is technically possible and in certain cases reasonable, does it make sense in the corporate world to allow a user's personal notes to be made public facing given the increased concern for user data privacy? What scenarios does it work well in? What could be the downsides?

Users typically take notes related to a particular Course topic to highlight concepts they think are important or to mark material they may have found confusing so they can revisit and review it in more depth later. If all notes are "public" by default, will the average user feel comfortable even recording their thoughts? They may feel they are exposing an area of weakness in a topic area to an instructor or manager, or inviting unwanted comments or judgement from a colleague or classmate.

Respecting a learner's privacy by giving them a "private space" to think and journal electronically will increase UX ‘stickiness' and lend a sense of added personalization to the user experience. For sharing, use a class or cohort tool such as a forum instead. Forums give learners a targeted place to post a comment or question when they want feedback and are okay that others will see the thread. OnPoint's forums can be set up specifically for a single assignment (e.g., all users assigned to that item), and at the group level (e.g., all users who are members of a particular group).

Finally, the emphasis placed on personal privacy in places like Europe with its General Data Protection Regulation ("GDPR") and domestically here in states such as California with their California Consumer Privacy Act ("CCPA") guidelines, suggests that users leaving your learning environment can opt to have all their thoughts shared through public notes expunged from every place they were posted, creating potential technical and process-related challenges for your team and organization to comply with.

Ideally, a note-taking feature that offers a private space for user comments as well as a readily accessible cohort forum for sharing selected notes provides the best of both worlds, so that when a note is taken, the decision to keep it private or share it with others can be easily made by the user from the same UI screen.