Full Name system causes chaos / loss ot interoperability

Hi all,

We have a lot of problems with full name system, and asking why OpenEdX has that instead of the usual separate fields we got the answer
“chose to use full name to avoid issues with internationalisation issues where some cultures don’t share the concept of first and last name.”

We used to work with Canvas, which like nearly all LMS, has the “normal” account system with First Name and Surname : we simply enrolled our students through a csv and had no problems with the dashboard used for our students and sent to our partners.
We you have ten students, you can rectify your grades dashboard one your own, but when you have 300, with 20%+ from all over the world, and most names do no match your database, you cannot sort out which is the first name and which is the familiy name, this is a total nightmare.

so with OpenEdX we have chaos, even when we explicitly ask students to enroll with FIRST NAME Last Name 80% of students do not follow this requirement.

This causes havoc, as

  1. our dashboards to teachers become unreadable even when alphabetically sorted,
  2. they do not match university database when we need to issues grades. So we loose interoperability. Mail is not a solution, because students use their personal mail or (convently so) use Facebook/Google login

as we have 3000 students from 30 partner universities, this really creates a lot of chaos and hours of work + complaints from our partners and of asking students to modify their profile enter a correct name, monitor if and re-ask when this is not done…

I see the full name is culturally correct, and of good intentions for cultures which do not have the same concept for personal name and no first name / family name (which cultures btw?) but we if we could work work with that with a small number of enrollees, we cannot if we want to go to scale and do massive.

And even for cultures which do not have the same concept for their name, their members do have to have things like a passport and a bank account…

Another problem is that we issue official credits (ECTS) and that the mixup in names does not allow us to issue proper official certificates - this problem impacts all enrollees, not only our partner’s -.
With “honor” certificates that do not offer any check on identity, we could go on writing down anything : forward, backward, indistinguishable first and last names…. but if we need something that has any legal value => we need to identify with minimum mixup who is the recipient and match the civil register.

Anyone has an idea on what to do to move forward ?

it depends on what you’re trying to achieve. but if we assume that you want to make sure students register with the correct Full Name, i’d add an image of the certificate to the register form and “Full Name*” renamed into “Full Name (as it will be used on the certificate)*”. Ideally, when they type, the name on the certificate should change so they see if it’s ok.

same approach could be applied to the Edit Profile.

alternative solution is to employ SSO to your user database, so you’re sure they are using correct name (i.e. they won’t enter it in Open edX as it will be fed from your DB)

hope this helps.

The problem here doesn’t seem to be that Open edX uses the full name instead of first name and last name. The problem is that you try to use heuristics to match the students in different databases. Most of the problems you describe would also exist if you had first name and last name fields in Open edX.

Even if every student entered exactly the same first name and last name they use in the university database (which will never happen if the names are entered manually), you would have problems matching them up. International names frequently do not have a single canonical Unicode representation, and many characters can be either represented by a single Unicode code point or by combining diacritical marks with other characters. You may have multiple students with the same name. You may have problems with capitalization depending on locales, and lots of other things.

And these problems are not rare pathological cases. They are rather frequent, and overall you wouldn’t have much less of a mess than what you describe. The problem simply isn’t caused by using a single field for the full name. The problem is trying to link multiple accounts via manually entered names, which is never going to work properly.

The correct solution is to link the students in Open edX to your external database at account creation time. The best way to do this is to configure single sign-on against your university accounts, so the Open edX accounts are always linked to a university account. Alternatively, you can use the API or the mass enrolment tool in the instructor dashboard to invite students to your course using a list of email addresses that matches your database, and then link students via the email address.

The W3C has a great article about this and recommends doing things the way that edX does, and explains why.



Why did we never have to manage this chaos with the 10 previous sessions, when the MOOC run on Canvas, then ?