Since the ways we teach writing especially nowadays may inherently involve digital literacies and public-facing writing media, we’d like you to be cognizant of ensuring your classroom practices comply with the FERPA law. Here are some things to keep in mind for assignment design and assessment, and some resources for more info.
FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974) says that educational records (which include not only students’ grades, but also records that identify students’ course numbers/titles/times/instructors) cannot be revealed to a third party without the written consent of the students. Because UW cannot guarantee the security of internet-based resources outside the UW NetID, keeping student records anywhere else is a risk (and UW can’t help us legally if there’s a data breach outside their NetID protection).
Just for the sake of clarification, we should NOT:
- post student grades in public or leave boxes out for student paper drop-off or pick-up;
- discuss student grades over email except Canvas messaging;
- store electronic copies of student papers or grades in your personal Google Drive, Dropbox or other cloud service.
Check out here for a detailed overview of FERPA from the UW registrar office.
When you use course assignments that ask students to use non-UW protected, publicly available digital tools or media, it’s important to do the following:
- Obtain students’ written consent whenever you ask them to use a non-UW-protected digital tool (I’ve included a sample consent form below). Note that if students create anonymous user names, you do not have to get their written consent, but you do need to be prepared to provide an alternative for students who have legitimate concerns about putting their work online.
- Give students a viable alternative to using the non-UW-protected digital tool: they should not be penalized in any way for not using the non-UW-protected tool.
Taking these simple steps allows you to safely and conscientiously use great digital tools and resources in your class. Please view here for details on EWP instructor policies regarding using UW-sponsored software, publicly available open software, and public writing for the context of service learning composition such as ENGL 121. Go to section 15: use of blogs and other forms of public writing in teaching.
This assignment/course may involve using a non-UW-protected digital tool or writing on the public web. In accordance with the federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), it is your right as a student to sign ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on the consent form regarding your privacy and making your writing potentially publicly accessible. If you don’t give consent or want to make your writing private or restricted-access such as password protection or giving access only to our class members, I will work with you to implement these accommodations which will have no effect on your assignment/course grade.
And here’s an example consent form (credits to Ann Shivers-McNair, a former CIC AD) for using a non-UW protected peer-review program that informs students of their rights, the security specifications of the platform, and their right to opt out:
All the work you do in this course, including your peer review work, is your property, and you have legal control over who has access to it. Eli Review is a platform for conducting peer review and revisions on your projects in this class; it is password protected, and peer review projects will be restricted to members of our class. Your work will be stored in a secure database accessible only to Eli developers for the purposes of site-wide, de-identified statistics or system diagnostics. Your name will be attached to the work stored in the program database, because you will create a profile in the system in order for the system to generate the individual reports you will see after you complete a peer review task. You do retain legal rights to your work.
By agreeing to use Eli Review in this class, you are consenting to allowing your work to be non-anonymously stored on the Eli database. If you are not comfortable with this, you can use Canvas for peer review instead, and you will not be penalized in any way.
I hereby DO/DO NOT consent to use Eli Review for course-related review and revision work in ENGL 131 during Spring 2014 quarter.
I understand that consenting or not consenting to use Eli Review will not affect my grade in the course.
Let’s say, you create a class blog or a collaborative website where students write for and interact with the public in some ways, you may be able to use a Creative Commons license with the consent of the students, specifically a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 license. This blog post by Jack Dougherty, an associate professor of educational studies at Trinity College, includes a sample clause you can adapt and explains how he asks students to do public writing without violating the FERPA.
Also, when you add guest teachers, librarians, or observers to your Canvas course, it’s important to give appropriate access level that stays safe within FERPA. Please refer to this cheat sheet from UW Tacoma’s FERPA & Canvas guidelines page:
If you’d like to learn more about FERPA in general, there’s an online UW FERPA Training that you can complete in 15-20 minutes to help you equip with recommendations and a reference guide.
Jack Dougherty, “Public Writing and Student Privacy,” in Web Writing: Why and How for Liberal Arts Teaching and Learning, ed. Jack Dougherty and Tennyson O’Donnell (University of Michigan Press/Trinity College ePress edition, 2014), http://epress.trincoll.edu/webwriting/chapter/dougherty-public.