FERPA Considerations

Special thanks to Humbolt State University and San Francisco State University for sharing these tips and considerations.

Overview

The federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects, among many things, student information. Multiple institutions across the country have expressed concerns about possible FERPA violations when meetings with students are being recorded (e.g., zoom, google hangouts, etc).  It is important for instructors to think about whether or not their use of a technology is FERPA compliant. For example, if an instructor is using Zoom and is not recording a meeting with students (e.g. synchronous class meeting), then the instructor’s use of Zoom is compliant. If, however, the meeting is recorded, then it may be in violation of FERPA policies.  

  1. instructors use university-supported systems (e.g., Zoom, Camtasia) to record their class sessions/lectures for the purpose of student learning, and 
  2. use their CI Learn/Canvas course to limit access to the recording to the members of the course from which it originated and 
  3. access to course recordings is limited to the semester the course is held. 

We recommend that instructors use the Zoom/Canvas integration to schedule their Zoom meetings from within their Canvas course to ensure that only the appropriate group of people have access to the recordings during the duration of that one semester. Students who do not wish to be recorded can turn off their video and/or change their username as the session is being recorded.  Instructors can remind the students that the recording should be limited to only the members of the course. If the students share the recordings outside of this context, then it becomes a student conduct scenario.

Here are some questions a department chair can ask their instructors to help determine whether or not it is FERPA compliant:

  1. What is the purpose of these recordings? Is it to enhance student learning?  
    • Yes, then move forward.
    • No, then it could be a FERPA violation.
  2. Who is the intended subject of these recordings? Is the focus on the instructor and their course content, as shared during a lecture, or is the focus on the students and their interactions? 
    • If the focus is on the instructor and course content, then move forward. 
    • If the focus is on student interactions, then it could be a FERPA violation.
  3. Have students been given strategies to remain anonymous in the recordings if they prefer?
    • Yes, then move forward.
    • No, then it could be a FERPA violation. See tips above.
  4. Who is the intended audience and what is the method for distribution of these recordings to that audience? Is access to the recording limited to the class from which it originated? 
    • If the audience is for enrolled students in that course, then move forward.
    • If the audience is for anyone else, then it could be a FERPA violation.
  5. Has the instructor taken care to protect the privacy of the student educational rights and privacy, such as through the password protected environment within Canvas?
    • Yes, then move forward.
    • No, then it could be a FERPA violation.
Updated on March 26, 2020

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