Add a 'sandboxed' project category for educators having students use iNat

It’s pretty common for educators to use iNat for class projects, but this can come with a lot of other issues as well (as other topic threads have already discussed).

A possible way to deal with this is the make a new project category specifically for educators that temporarily keeps observations that are part of said project ‘sandboxed’ until they’ve been reviewed by the instructor (or other relevant person).

Once the observations in the project have been reviewed they can individually (or en masse) have their status changed from the ‘sandbox’ status to normal observation status.

This might help mitigate some of the issues and complaints people have had with student iNat projects, and doesn’t seem like it would be that difficult to implement.

Oh my god, yes.

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i think my comments from a different feature request sort of apply here: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/improve-how-unknown-observations-are-treated-and-displayed/302/23.

this kind of functionality could potentially cause observations to be forever relegated to some dark corner of the system, never to be seen again, which i don’t think is a good thing in general.

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I like the idea of a time limit, i.e. Sandboxed observations are automatically made public after 30-90 days or something.

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YES! A nice idea.

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There is also another existing request for draft mode. I use a camera and edit my photos at home before uploading.

But others upload everything, then get thru adding their own IDs over the next few days. They have asked for draft mode to prevent others adding IDs before the observer has had a chance.

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I think that there’s a fundamental difference here from a “draft mode” in which the observer ultimately retains power over their observation, and this proposal in which the project admin has power over other users’ observations.

iNat has come down pretty squarely in the past on giving users ultimate control of their observations, and this seems a step away from that.

This could also lead to some serious confusion for users who might not understand why their observations were showing up on iNat proper.

The professor/teacher would also need to be quite active in monitoring student observations and approving/releasing them for this to work. My concern with this is - it’s precisely the teachers/professors who aren’t very active on iNat or don’t understand how it works well who generally create projects that become problems. My guess is that this subset of teachers/profs wouldn’t use the feature much (they’re often just looking for an activity to tick a box), while those teachers/profs that would use it are generally the more active ones that monitor students’ submissions already. So while some teachers might find it useful, I doubt that having this option would prevent the worst of class projects.

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I tend to agree with you. Having observations ‘censored’ until approved may also create a stigma amongst student users - ‘Oh, my observations are not good enough, why should I bother’. As I have said in another forum post, many of the most active people are young, and to have them put off by something like that would be detrimental.
Yes, sometimes student projects can be an annoyance, but really, that’s all it is. And, yes, the teachers who do not understand iNat need some education themselves. And we also have a part to play. Many times we change an identification without explaining to the observer why its been changed. It takes more time, but it may plant seeds. I had a response from a younger woman this morning thanking me for identifying and explaining a moth ID. Perhaps it will have a larger effect on how she perceives the platform. Perhaps not, but it’s at least worth the effort!

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Is there a way I can use all of my votes for this suggestion?

All very good points! I agree wholeheartedly. Above everything I make sure to make identifications a discussion and provide evidence for the original poster, and do it in a kind and welcoming way. My main focus is moss which is already a fairly niche area, so it’s especially important not to chase people away from learning. We’re all still learning and will continue to for the rest of our lives. Science should never be elitist!

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Thank you, and welcome to the forum!
Youth are our future.

That occured to me as well, and would probably be a good idea to have some sort of default time limit on it. @pisum

From what I understand, projects impose a bit of strain on the iNat system, so another idea might be to have the project have an option to cancel itself after a certain amount of time and all observations jo to normal ones afterward.

@cthawley - yes, there are details and specifics that would need to be worked out, and instructors would need to be more engaged in the project than some of them are. To my mind, as a former instructor myself, and as someone who is managing a project, that’s something they should be doing anyway if they’re using iNat as part of a classroom experience. The time constraint that @retromud mentioned might be a way of dealing with this.

@mamestraconfigurata - there are details to be worked out, for certain. An option would be for any ID that someone else confirms automatically comes out of the “sandbox” without the instructor having to manually do that (or having to wait for a certain time). A search filter for “sandboxed” observations could be added, or just a note that said observation is “sandboxed” pending ID confirmation or class/project evaluation.

@mossnerd - absolutely, anything like this would need to be implemented in a way that did not impair anyone’s learning potential or interest in continuing use. There could be a simple implementation where educational projects are linked with each other, encouraging students to view and ID other student observations, and , following the previously mentioned idea, once another party provides or confirms an ID it is automatically out of the “sandbox”. Not sure if linking educational projects is a good idea or not, but it’s something worth considering.

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