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Feature discussion: Extend permissions framework for who can publish to whom

Kristina Hoeppner's profile picture
Posts: 3329

22 December 2013, 4:31 PM


I'm posting this on behalf of Christian Kleinhanss who described this feature proposal in German. Everybody is invited to contribute to the discussion to see what a good way to implement this in Mahara core could look like.

Currently, either the site or institution administrator decides who can publish a page publicly online or as secret URL. However, there is no further distinction. The decision goes for all users no matter whether they are young students or teachers in the same institution.

This poses a problem because an institution might want to distinguish who can share with whom. For example, young students may only have the permission to share with their fellow classmates and teachers, whereas older students can share their pages with the entire institution, and teachers can share their pages with anyone on the platform and also publicly.

It would be nice if it were possible to group users into groups and then give them appropriate publishing permissions. Possible "groups are":

  • age
  • level of competency (to be determined by group admin / staff)
  • member of a specific group
  • gained a certain badge
  • based on a review process, e.g. 2 peers / a teacher / parent recommend that the user receives rights to publish publicly online

Why is this important? In Germany, the authorities are frightened by the possibility that a student using a (statewide) system can publish content that no teacher / adult is aware of and that is potentially objectionable, e.g. has pornographic / racist etc. content. It is clear that these users would violate the terms of use of the site and could be identified, however, it would be easier for institutions using the site to argue for the system if publishing permissions were more granular. At the moment, schools would probably choose not to allow public pages to prevent the potential misuse and thus deny responsible students and teachers the possibility to publish their pages publicly.

Kristina Hoeppner's profile picture
Posts: 3329

22 December 2013, 4:42 PM

Hello Christian,

Thank you very much for starting this discussion. A few points from my perspective:

More granular permissions won't really solve the problem of students posting objectionable content, I think, because they can still publish it within their school community / amongst their friends if they wish. The only difference would be that people not at school / within the school network would not be able to see that content. I think some different measures would be required for that. At some point in the past we discussed the implementation of a content filter that searches for objectionable words. That comes with its own problems though as Moodle users can attest to because when you block certain words, the filter blocked any occurrance of the letters and not just the word. Thus, once we had the word "assessment" blocked only because the first three letters are also a word and that had been blocked. ;-)

As for the more granular permissions for publishing pages, I definitely see the point for making pages public and would support a system where you have more choice as that would help schools who cannot set up multiple institutions on a Mahara site and thus group their users accordingly. "Public" and "Secret URL" would need to be decoupled though I think. We have a number of schools here in NZ where the students share pages with their parents, but maybe shouldn't really share them with everyone online openly.

The idea of a review system sounds intriguing. Aaron actually created something in that regard for so that spammers can't post links anymore. If you are a first-time site user, you can't post a link in text or publish a page publicly unless you got replies to a forum post from two existing users. In this case, this really cut down on spammers posting horrible links in the forums dramatically.

I wonder what others think because we'd also need to make sure that the permissions don't spiral out of control and make things more complicated. ;-)




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