Online Community

FERPA and Student Privacy In Our Community

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects student educational records. Upon admission to a college or university the educational records rights transfers from the parent to the student. What does this mean for us in the Online Instruction Community? We should simply follow the reminders below to protect student records and privacy while interacting with each other in the community.

1. Student Grades: Occasionally we see screenshots in various teaching group or course group forum posts of students with their grades. More often than not, these screenshots are an attempt to help fellow instructors with grading best practices or to describe how to use I-Learn gradebook features. We simply need to make sure that we have blurred student names and grade data so as to not compromise the privacy of students and their educational records.

2. Class Lists: Like student grade screenshots, we also occasionally see screenshots or attached files of student class lists. While these lists do not inherently pose a FERPA violation since directory data is not considered personal identifiable information, we should be cautious about the data available in these lists. More often than not these types of lists are shared among instructors to help other instructors understand how they might organize their class rosters and information on each student. When posting examples be mindful of the risk and blur out any information you think could put the University at risk for a student grievance.

3. Student Names: We most often see student names used in the community when instructors are discussing how to deal with challenging student emails. There really is no need to include specific student names when discussing instructor best practices. Anytime you think to include communication from students as part of training or supporting instructor efforts to improve their teaching please remove student names from those communications.

4. When in doubt, don't give it out! Most of the time instructors share things in a desire to serve and help fellow instructors. Each time you post something from your course just ask yourself "Is there anything in this post that has specific information about a student?" If the answer is yes, look for alternatives to accomplish the same share without compromising student privacy.

Happy posting!

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  • Jared - thanks for the reminder. What do you guys use to blur out information that we should not be sharing?

    • I'm curious about this, too . . . Low-tech-me hasn't done that before, but I'd like to know how to do it!

      • Microsoft Paint or Adobe Acrobat PDF Editor has worked in the past for me. Usually I just do a white box that covers the information I shouldn't be sharing.

        • How do you use Adobe Acrobat PDF editor? I am pretty sure I don't have Microsoft Paint since I use a Mac.

  • Thank you for taking time to post this information.

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