Supplemental Resources: Supporting Student Learning


FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, as amended, protects the privacy of student educational records. It gives students the right to:

  • Review their educational records.
  • Request amendment to records they believe to be inaccurate.
  • Limit disclosure from those records.

An institution’s failure to comply with FERPA could result in the withdrawal of federal funds by the Department of Education. In order to ensure compliance with FERPA, review UW-Madison’s FERPA resource page.

Whether you are delivering a face-to-face or an online course, it is important to identify the difference between Directory Information and Personally Identifiable Information. According to the US Department of Education,

FERPA defines “directory information” as information contained in the education records of a student that would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed. Typically, “directory information” includes information such as name, address, telephone listing, date and place of birth, participation in officially recognized activities and sports, and dates of attendance. A school may disclose “directory information” to third parties without consent if it has given public notice of the types of information which it has designated as “directory information,” the parent’s or eligible student’s right to restrict the disclosure of such information, and the period of time within which a parent or eligible student has to notify the school in writing that he or she does not want any or all of those types of information designated as “directory information.” The means of notification could include publication in various sources, including a newsletter, in a local newspaper, or in the student handbook. The school could also include the “directory information” notification as part of the general notification of rights under FERPA. The school does not have to notify a parent or eligible student individually. (34 CFR § 99.37.)

You may want to print and refer to this page and/or UW-Madison’s FERPA resource page as you plan for course contingency measures.

The online environment provides new options to communicate with your students. In addition to using Canvas, you may choose to use tools outside of your course to communicate with your students or hold virtual office hours. It is important to remember that you should not use any of these third-party communication tools to discuss grades. The best method to communicate with students regarding grades or other personally identifiable information is through Canvas since this is password protected and FERPA-compliant. In addition to the course mail tool, there are other areas in your online course where you can provide feedback and grades to students in a private area, including the grade book, the assessments tool, and the assignments tool.

Instructional Strategies & Best Practices

A few general guidelines to consider are provided below:

  • Do not e-mail or share NetIDs. This is personally identifiable information.
  • When mailing a group of students outside of Canvas, put all e-mail addresses in the blind carbon copy (BCC) box.
  • Do not email students grade information or other personally identifiable information.
  • Be careful not to post grade information in areas of Canvas where all students in the course may view the grade, such as replying to a public discussion post with grade information.
  • If you choose to use third-party public tools (e.g., blogs, wikis) include a FERPA statement in your syllabus reminding students not to include any personally identifying information on this public site.


Creative Commons License

This page was adapted from a TOPKit Sample Course prepared by the University of Central Florida (UCF)This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


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MTLE Resources Copyright © by Christian Castro; Naomi Salmon; and Madison Teaching and Learning Excellence is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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