University of Oregon

For Instructors: Student Privacy and FERPA Compliance

 

Web publishing, blogging, and social media can support a variety of educational goals, including but not limited to:

  • Sharing academic insights, expertise, dialogue, and feedback with fellow students, with the university community, and with the general public
  • Fostering information management and media development skills needed for 21st century professional careers and responsible digital citizenship
  • Building a body of work that can be added to a professional electronic portfolio

These are important and beneficial learning objectives. Due to the public nature of internet publishing, however, these goals must be pursued using methods that comply with established University of Oregon policy and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA). Under these policies and laws, enrollment in a class as well as work conducted for the course constitute protected education records that cannot be disclosed to third parties without prior written consent.

There are several methods students can use to protect their privacy when working with course-related blogs, or any internet-based course activity with potential for public view:

  1. use of an alias (pseudonym) that is shared only with the instructor. Contributions are visible to readers, but the student’s identity remains private.
  2. Password-protecting contributions and sharing access only with the instructor. The student and faculty member use the blog software to participate, but contributions to the blog are not publicly shared and the student’s identity remains private.
  3. Preparing posts and comments offline and turning them in for assessment without posting to the class blog.
  4. Contributing some or all work openly to the course blog without using an alias. Students who choose this option must provide written consent to release their course-related blog posts and the fact that they are registered in the class to others in the university community and to the general public as long as the blog is accessible on the web. The purpose of releasing this information is for the educational opportunities listed above.

These options are listed on the Consent for Disclosure of Education Record: Course Blog Participation form on the Office of the Registrar’s website. If you require use of blogs, social media, or other publicly accessible communication tools, please have all of your students complete this form, sign it, and turn it in to you.

Note that students have the option of checking more than one method. This is to allow flexibility of access according to specific assignments. For example, a student might choose to use an alias (pseudonym) for comments on the work of other students, but publish a capstone portfolio project under her real name so it can be more easily discovered by search engines. 

For further insights on student privacy in the online environment, read Why students should not be required to publicly participate online by Tiffany Derville Gallicano, Assistant Professor, UO School of Journalism and Communication. 

Additional questions about FERPA or students’ rights to privacy may be directed to the Office of the Registrar (541) 346-2935 or registrar@uoregon.edu

 

Maintained by: Andrew Bonamici, bonamici@uoregon.edu

Last Modified: 10/17/2012

Created by bonamici on Oct 17, 2012 Last updated Aug 1, 2014
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