Brown University complies with the provisions of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) which protects the privacy of student educational records. Under FERPA Personally Identifiable Information (PII) such as student IDs (e.g. SSN,TIN), race/ethnicity information, photos, and student registration information is protected information and cannot be divulged without student consent.
When using online tools such as Canvas, Brown blogs, Piazza, or social media tools such as Facebook or Twitter in a course, faculty need to be mindful of FERPA implications. Keep these guiding principles in mind:
- Be informed, keep students informed: Before asking students to upload profile photos and other personal information, make sure you know who has access to that data. Be mindful of the various privacy settings offered by the tools you use. Inform students about the people who have access to the data they share.
- Use Brown-vetted online tools: When introducing teaching tools such as Canvas and Piazza, Brown signs agreements with the vendors that ensure privacy of student data and FERPA compliance. Use tools vetted and supported by Academic Technology/CIS.
- Design Alternative activities: Some students might not want to use tools for security, privacy, or ethical reasons. Offer alternative ways for students to participate in course activities and consider the circumstances of student requests for accommodations on a case-by-case basis.
In addition to these guidelines, here are some specific tips about widely used teaching tools on Brown campus:
Adding people to your Canvas course
Enrolled students are added to your Canvas course automatically in the ‘Student’ role. You can add TAs and designers who are performing required teaching related tasks. Instructors, TAs and students officially enrolled for the course are the only people who should have access to the course roster.
If you need non-enrolled students or instructors not officially associated with the course to be added to your canvas course site, the people tab should be disabled to hide the course roster. The enrolled students should be informed that others will be participating in canvas activities (such as discussions and group activities) and may see enrollment information. If you do not receive objections, it implies consent to view roster information. If you know in advance that you will be including non-official participants in your Canvas course, add this information in the syllabus. In this case, students registering for the course is considered consent.
For other scenarios contact us at ITG@brown.edu. We will contact the registrar for case-by-case review.
Brown Blogs Privacy Settings
You can set up your course blog permission to “Visible only to registered users of this site” making it accessible only to the students in the course. If the objective of the blog is to provide more open readership to student work you can change the settings so that the blog is open to the Brown community or to the public. In either case, it is the instructor’s responsibility to inform students about who will be able to access the blog. You can also select a blog design theme that does not show the author’s name, and allow students to sign their posts manually if they would like to do so.