How to Make Your Writing Pedagogy in Line with FERPA Law

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

If you’re using a non-UW protected digital tool for a course assignment, or if your course theme is about public writing, we recommend that you include a “public writing and student privacy policy” clause in your assignment prompt or course syllabus. Here’s a sample you can use:

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:

table of canvas roles

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.

And as always, feel free to send us any specific questions to Sumyat or Kimberlee.

Works Consulted:

EWP Instructor Policies

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),

Updating Preferred Names on Canvas

Last week, the UW responded to concerns about name representation on institutional interfaces. Both staff and students have long wanted the freedom to represent their preferred names on UW information systems and directories.

According to a recent email from Phillip J. Reid (Vice Provost, Academic and Student Affairs), students can update their preferred names by going to This website allows students to update their preferred name, which will then appear on select institutional systems. The following interfaces are available for the Autumn 2016 Quarter:

  • Class photos
  • Rosters
  • UW Directory
  • Grade Page

There will be additional interfaces made available in the Winter 2017 Quarter, which include:

  • Canvas
  • MyPlan
  • MyGradPlan
  • Electronic Academic Records (EARS)
  • Degree Audit Reporting System (DARS)
  • Panopto

To get more information about these changes, see the Office of the University Registrar’s Preferred Names page.

Because Canvas is not an available selection until Winter Quarter, we wanted to take a moment to share how Canvas users can have their preferred name represented.

1. Go to Canvas.

2. Click on “Account.”

3. Click on “Profile.”

4. Click on “Edit Profile.”

5. Enter the name that you would like to appear on Canvas.

6. Click “Save Profile.”

As always, please let us know if you have any questions!




Scheduling Conferences with Canvas

Tired of using a piece of paper to have students sign up for conferences? Then it’s time to try the Scheduler function on Canvas. Here’s how:

  1. Log in to Canvas and click “Calendar” in the purple menu bar.

2. On the Calendar page, click the Scheduler tab on the upper right, and then click Create an appointment group.

3. In the Edit Appointment Group, under the Calendar menu, select your course.

Muting Assignments in Canvas

If you use the SpeedGrader in Canvas, you’ve probably noticed that your comments are live as soon as you post them, which might frustrate you if you want all students to get their feedback at the same time. Fortunately, there’s a solution to this: muting the assignment until you’re done posting feedback.

  1. Click on Grades in the left navigation menu.
  2. In the grade spreadsheet, hover your cursor over the assignment you want to mute. You’ll see a button appear in the bottom right corner of that cell.
  3. Click that button, and you’ll see a menu with the mute assignment option. Click Mute Assignment, and students won’t be able to see the feedback until you unmute it.mute assignment
  4. Don’t forget to unmute when you’re done with feedback! Go through those same steps to unmute the assignment.

As always, let Ann or Kimberlee know if there’s anything we can help you with.

Using Headsets in the CIC

Planning an in-class activity with VideoANT? Want your students to record their comments to each other on a Canvas discussion board or peer review activity? Then you’ll want to take advantage of our headsets (headphones and microphone), which are stored in the office across the hall from the labs (088) and available for your use. Below are step-by-step instructions, with screenshots, for configuring the headsets on the computer (this is unfortunately not an automatic process, nor do the computers remember the configuration after they’ve been rebooted) and for recording media comments on Canvas. As always, I’m happy to help you during class if you’d like someone to walk your students through the steps.

Configuring the Headsets

  1. Plug in the headset cord to the USB port on the left side of the monitor.
  2. On the desktop, right click on the sound icon in the bottom right corner.
  3. Click Playback Devices on the menu (this configures the output sound).1 sound menu
  4. In the Playback Devices window, click on Headset Earphone, and then click Set Default. 2 playback set default
  5. A green check mark will appear next to the Headset Earphone icon. Click OK. If your activity only involves students listening with the headsets, then you’re done. If you want them to record audio, then proceed to the next step. 3 playback ok
  6. Right click again on the sound icon in the bottom right corner of the desktop.
  7. This time, select Recording Devices.
  8. In the Recording Devices menu, click on Headset Earphone, and then click Set Default. 4 recording set default
  9. A green check mark will appear next to the Headset Earphone icon. Click OK. Now you’re ready to go.5 recording ok

Recording Media Comments on Canvas

As of October 2015, this ONLY works in the Chrome browser, so please instruct your students to use Chrome if you want them to record comments on Canvas. Please also have them make sure the toggle switch on the top of the monitor is in the far right position (if it is to the left, the camera will be blocked).

  1. In the “Reply” box on the Canvas discussion board, click the Upload/Record Media button. 6 discussion media
  2. A window will open, and you will need to click Allow to grant Flash access to the camera (or if you are doing audio-only comments, to the microphone). 7 allow flash
  3. You may also see a pop-up asking for permission for Canvas to access the camera/microphone. If so, click Allow.
  4. You may get yet another prompt from Flash asking you to allow use of the camera and microphone. If so, click Allow and Close.
  5. Please note that it may take awhile for the camera image to load, but it will, and you’ll see a red dot over the recording image. Click anywhere in that image to begin recording. record
  6. When you’re done recording, the audio/visual file will appear as a link in the “Reply” box. Click Post

As always, if you have any questions, let Ann or Kimberlee know.

By Ann Shivers-McNair

Evaluation Questions on Space and Technology

As you probably know by now, UW’s online evaluation system allows instructors to add questions to the standard evaluation form, and the EWP encourages instructors to add questions regarding teacher and peer feedback and conferences (see the recommended questions and step-by-step instructions, with screenshots, for adding those questions here).

Whether you teach in our state-of-the-art CIC labs or in a windowless basement room with no classroom technology, you know that the physical space and technologies available in your classroom impact how you teach, and how you use the space and technologies impacts how your students learn. To encourage instructors to develop a reflective practice about their use of available space and technologies (however challenging they may be!), we’ve developed a set of space and technology questions you can add to your evaluations.


  1. How did the instructor’s use of the physical space of your classroom support or detract from your learning?
  2. What suggestions do you have for making more effective use of the classroom space?
  3. How did the instructor’s use of classroom technology (if any) support or detract from your learning?
  4. What suggestions do you have for making more effective use (if any) of the classroom technology?

And here’s how to add those questions:

Go to your IAS Faculty page.


From the “Add Items to Evaluation” page, you’ll type each question into the Comment Items add option.


After you type one question, click “add.”


Then repeat this process to add the remaining questions.


Then you can review and reorder your newly added questions using the tools to the right of the questions.


Finally, you can preview how the questions will look to your students.


As always, if you have any questions, let us know! And if you have additional evaluation questions you add to your form, or if you want to talk about your students’ responses to these questions, we’d love to hear from you.

Enabling Apps on Canvas

Hello CIC Instructors!

As many of you know, Canvas contains a variety of apps that enable you to use certain functions directly through the site, rather than having students open another window and navigate to pages separately. For example, if you would like students to post videos from Youtube as part of a Discussion, they don’t need to copy and paste links. If you enable the Youtube app, they can easily embed the video without going through any extra steps.

To enable an app such as Youtube, click on “Settings” in Canvas’ left-hand menu. From there, click on “Apps.” That should show you all of the apps that it is possible to enable:


To add an app, simply click on it and then select “Add app.”

add app

After you’ve done this, you and your students will automatically see the option reflected in Discussion and Announcement windows. For example, after you’ve enabled Youtube, you will see it in the taskbar like this:

app appears

We hope this proves to be convenient in your teaching!

As always, have a great week and let us know if you have any questions.

Resources for Using Video Media

Hello CIC Instructors!

Though many instructors have started using Panopto to capture lectures or draft presentations, we wanted to share a couple of the other resources that are available for students to construct less formal projects, like filming a documentary or commercial advertisement.

This post is inspired by CIC Instructor Jacki Fiscus, who has had great success in her 121 using video media and other forms of multi-modality (assignment provided below!). When her students were wondering about resources that they might use to film and edit a documentary, we found a few links to share:


– The Odegaard Learning Commons has video editing workstations; moreover, all machines in that space have iMovie:

* Odegaard has a new video studio students can reserve:


– UW-IT online tutorials for using digital video authoring software available in general access computing labs:

* Note that the CIC lab has Adobe Premiere. UW-IT staff can come to the lab and give a custom workshop during class. See the workshop guide for more information.

We’re really excited by the possibility of incorporating video composition into our CIC classes!

Here is Jacki’s excellent assignment:


If you are interested in learning more about this, please contact us and we’d be happy to help (or, we can put you in touch with Jacki, the expert)!


Managing Canvas Navigation

Hello CIC Instructors!

As we all know, Canvas is an excellent platform for creating and sharing course content. There is so much you can do (in fact, there is almost TOO much to do!)! Since there are so many options, the site can seem overwhelming to both students and instructors.

An excellent fix for this is to control what you want your students to see by reducing the amount of options in the navigation bar on the right hand side of your screen. If you’re not using – say, Tegrity – in your class, great!  You can eliminate that as an option!

To manage the navigation bar, first click on Settings.


Next, select Navigation from the bar at the top of the screen.


Now, you can drag and drop menu items in order to eliminate them from the navigation bar. Select the items that you don’t want students to see, and drop them!


Here is where the eliminated items will live (in case you want to reintroduce them in the future):


…and that’s that!

Thanks, and have a great week in the CIC! As usual, please let Kimberlee or Tesla know if you’re experiencing any issues.



Introducing the Amazon Education for Canvas App

Hello CIC Instructors,

We hope your quarter has gotten off to a good start!

We wanted to let you know that the UW is participating in an ongoing project with, piloting an app that lets you distribute course content directly from Canvas to a Kindle app in your students’ mobile devices (Kindle, iPad, Android, etc.).

Obviously, using this app would enable your students to read course documents directly on their phones or tablets, which may increase their engagement with the texts (or change it in interesting ways!)!


Some of the other benefits include:

– Documents that are uploaded to Canvas “Files” are synced automatically to the students’ devices (they don’t have to go back and sync each one individually)

– As new documents are added or existing documents are changed, an updated version is automatically sent to students

– Any work that students do with a document on one device (such as highlighting or annotating) is automatically synchronized across all Kindle readers

There is no cost for the UW to participate in this pilot. Similarly, it is free for students to download the Connect to Kindle app here. Amazon also offers a $10 gift card to students who participate.

UW IT Connect is running the pilot. If you are interested in trying the app with your current or future courses, please contact Tom Lewis (Director of Academic and Creative Applications) at This will definitely be an interesting opportunity to provide feedback that actually influences the future of this app and its role at UW!

For any questions about the Amazon Education for Canvas app specifically, please email As usual, for all other questions or concerns, please email Tesla at or Kimberlee at

Have a great rest of the week, CICers!