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Community Champion

New FERPA requirements for cross-listed courses!

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With this statement that just came out today from LeRoy Rooker, what will be Instructure’s take on this interpretation of FERPA?  What will your institution's take be on this interpretation?

Ask the FERPA Professor| resources| AACRAO

Essentially, LeRoy Rooker’s statement is that an institution can allow a student to see other students in a course for which the student is officially registered, but cannot allow a student to see (or be seen by) other students in another (cross-listed) class in the LMS.  To me, it sounds like the door remains open for true cross-listed, in-person courses (like a Psychology and Neuroscience course which are really one-in-the-same, but some students register as PSY and others as NEU) since those students meet at the same time in the same physical classroom with each other.  But this new interpretation seems to shut down courses where one instructor teaches 4 sections of the same Accounting course and simply wants to cross-list those into one course shell in Canvas for the sake of their own convenience and the students would not normally see each other in the physical classroom since they are 4 separate Accounting classes.

Thoughts?  Comments?  Alternate interpretations of LeRoy's answer?  How will you adapt in Canvas?

Deactivated user​, Deactivated user​,  @Renee_Carney ​,  @scottdennis ​, mitch​,  @jared ​

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163 Replies

Very well written document,  @anthonem  I started revising my own while looking at yours and did find a few small things we cover that it doesn't. So I think it might become longer rather than shorter!

1) Setting by student to  "limit this user to only see fellow section users."  But perhaps your administrators take care of this setting, we do, so the teacher doesn't have to.

2)  We learned that old versions of the Canvas mobile apps allowed students to post to the main discussion even if they are in a group, so our teachers need to remind students to update their Canvas app.

3) For group discussions by sections, we remind teachers to a) add new students to their section group ASAP so they can't post to the main discussion b) Not just the first time a course is created, but also when there's a new semester and they've copied content from a previous cross-listed course, after they create the section groups they need to edit every discussion to use the group set.  c) we also instruct them to create the section group set as close to starting of semester as they can, using the automatic assignment by section to create the groups.  Afterwards they have to edit discussions and keep up with adding new students.

4) Now that discussions can be copied and limited to a section using "post to" for ungraded (or assign to for graded), we give them the option of duplicating discussions and editing them to be assigned to (or posted to) one section only.  Some find this easier than working with group discussions because it doesn't require keeping up with new students, or visiting multiple workspaces. Also teachers are not notified if there's a new post in a group discussion.

5) We tell them to not allow students the right to edit any Canvas pages unless the pages are in their group work area.

6) since we started using Namecoach, teachers have to hide that in cross-listed courses as well as People, Chat, Conferences and Collaborations.  Keep your eye on LTI's in your institution.  By the way, those items are referenced as tabs but now they are course navigation menu items.

7) If a teacher uses peer reviews in assignments, they should create separate assignments for each section to automatically assign the reviews. (Or else manually assign peer reviews by section if there's one assignment.)

I think that's it.


Thanks Nancy! I'll pass along your feedback. I really appreciate your looping back here and sharing.

Community Participant

I am in agreement with this comment.  There is simply little logic behind these interpretations.  FERPA does trump convenience, but let's apply FERPA logically.  Any student in a course on campus could be identified as being in that course by someone simply seeing them in a classroom.  Our student email systems within the whole college allows any student to message any other student.  There is nothing isolating about students being in separate courses.

The entire conversation hinges on whether a student might be in danger or find offense in being in a course with another student that would be dangerous to them.  When a student enrolls in a course, they don't know who will be in that course when the course finally meets.  If they fear associating with another student, then they might look at the course roster after they have registered.  The student doesn't have control over the registration process, nor would we alter the entire process for a single student.  The essential element is does the student have the ability to know who is in the class and can they freely decide to change their situation if they find a problem.  This interpretation is about students having the knowledge and the ability to keep themselves safe.

Just as students won't know who is registered in a course before or after they register, if courses were merged, there is no way that they would know.  Just as a student would solve the issue by looking at a roster of their registered class and make a decision for their own safety, they can look at the roster for a merged set of sections and make a decision as to their safety.  It is the exact same process.  How do we extend danger to merged sections but not use the same logic for a student simply registering for a single course?  Something is not logical here.  I believe that the only issue for the student would be awareness.  If the college or instructor clearly states that several sections will be or are merged and that you could be associating with students in other sections of the same course, you have now given the student the same awareness that they would have had from simply registering for any single section of a course.

Please someone shoot down my logic.  Have I missed something?  It seems like we are trying to use FERPA to eliminate the fraction of a gram of danger for a student.  I am committed to that reduction as well, but it is not possible to do that in the real world.  The answer is to give students the knowledge that they need to keep themselves safe.  The solution to this issue is to make students aware and if they find an issue to help them resolve that problem by every means possible.

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Community Participant

I understand what you are saying, but there is a lack of logic when applied to online courses.  Cross-listing courses makes sense because they are the same course.  If the issue is time and place, that you can't merge two classes that meet at separate times and places, then that point becomes mute when two sections meet online (same space) and without a scheduled meeting time (class arranged).  There is no time and place involved.  Even with time and place involved, students can see and contact one another.  There is no unreasonable amount of data shared among students in a class roster.  IF this were a FERPA issue then our entire registration process would be in violation.  We release information to students registered in the same course.  It is minimal, but it is there.  Merging courses is not any different than a student registering in any course.  They will initially be in a course where they will see students that they didn't expect.  The only difference is that there will be more students visible in merged sections.  The number is students visible to one another is not the issue.  I don't believe that this is a FERPA issue, it is essentially a safety issue.  We can't keep students safe from one another if we don't know their issues, but we can help students keep themselves safe by giving clear descriptions of their class circumstances.  It must be made clear to students that their section is being merged with other similar sections so that they can make the determinations needed to keep themselves safe.