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 law

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), http://epress.trincoll.edu/webwriting/chapter/dougherty-public.

Top 4 Tips for Designing Canvas ePortfolio Assignments

Hello CIC Instructors,

Portfolio Season is upon us!

Even if you’ve taught portfolios before, you may want to review the material on the CIC Faculty Guide for step-by-step instructions on building ePortfolios in class. There are also instructions for students on the CIC Student Guide.

Additionally, you can find extra resources, lesson plans and support on the EWP Instructor Resource page dedicated to portfolios (log in is required).

Below, you’ll find a few additional tips on designing Canvas ePortfolio assignments and introducing them to your students.

1) Before your class meets on the scheduled training day, you will need to set up a portfolio assignment page on your Canvas site so that students have a place to submit links. Here are instructions on setting up Canvas Assignments.

2) It is also helpful to provide students with a link to the skeleton portfolio, which models the portfolio itself and provides tips for generating content.

3) Several sample portfolios can be found at the end the faculty guide post on Canvas ePortfolios. It may be helpful for your students to look through one or more of them, either alone or as part of a class activity.

4) Remember to have your students submit their links on the day of the portfolio training. To do this, have students go back to the portfolio dashboard by clicking the link below the Edit this page button. Right-click on the Copy this link option and submit to instructor on Canvas eportfolio assignment page. This lets the instructor make sure she/he can view all submissions. Students do not have to submit again after the first time. The instructor will see their updated content.

As always, please let us know if you have any questions about this process! We are always here and happy to help.

Happy Portfolio-building, everyone!

Saving and Transferring Files in the CIC

Hello CIC Instructors!

We are pleased to let you know that we’ve updated the CIC Faculty Guide with new instructions and screenshots to correspond with the new technology in the labs. The Faculty Guide is a wealth of information and is definitely worth perusing when you have a moment, even if you don’t have pressing questions. You can find it here.

Save As

Since the new computers will automatically clear the desktop of any saved work when the students sign off, it is now more important than ever to develop clear practices for saving and transferring work in your CIC classes. To that end, we’ve also added a page to the Faculty Guide that walks through some of the more effective saving options: USB/ flash drives, the U Drive, Canvas files and cloud storage. Please take a look at it when you have the chance – and if you have a different way of saving and transferring student work that you’ve found to be successful, please let us know in the comments! We’d love for this blog to become a space where CIC instructors can interact and share ideas.

Have a great week!