Privacy of Student Records and the Usage of Audio Recorded Lectures

As our campus has temporarily transitioned to largely online formats, faculty and instructional staff are reminded of several important considerations regarding privacy of student records and the usage of audio recorded lectures.

Student Privacy

Your responsibility for student privacy in an online format is generally the same as it is for face-to-face instruction. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects the privacy of student education records. Regardless of the instructional delivery, student class enrollments are protected under FERPA and cannot be shared outside of a class.  Under FERPA, students cannot remain anonymous in a class. Students are permitted to know who else is in their class. 

Your access to student educational records and disclosure of any information are also subject to FERPA.  Ultimately, you are responsible to respect and maintain the privacy of your students’ educational records.  Do not share class rosters, identifying student information or grades without student permission unless it is with a university official who needs access to that information to perform their duties.  As you have always refrained from distributing graded work in an uncontrolled public place, remember to never post student records in an open shared online folder.  Instead, share graded work directly with the appropriate student through Canvas or in a Box folder only you and the specific student can access.  For more information and to expand your understanding of student record privacy, please refer our FERPA Tips page for Faculty/Staff: https://registrar.wisc.edu/ferpa-facstaff/

Instructor Recording and sharing class lectures 

Recently, questions have arisen regarding recording and sharing class lectures.  If a lecture recording only includes the instructor, the recording is not a student record and not considered protected by FERPA.  If a recording includes student interactions (questions, presentations, etc.) and those students are identifiable, the recording would be a protected educational record. The recording could only be made available to the students in that specific class and/or to university officials with legitimate educational interest in that information – a genuine need for access to perform their duties.  If the instructor wishes to further share the recording outside of the class, either identifiable students would have to provide written consent to release their participation or portions of the recording would have to be changed or omitted to avoid identifying students.  But again, if no students are identifiable in any way (seen, heard or named), the recording would not be FERPA protected.

Student Recording and Sharing Class Lecture

Sometimes students record lectures or copy lecture materials (including your recording) and post them outside of class on internet sites or provide them to note sharing companies. These acts can violate intellectual property rights held by you and the university. UW System Board of Regent policy authorizes you to limit or restrict students from copying, recording or using instructional materials or lectures unless necessary to reasonably accommodate a student’s disability. [Regent Policy Document 4-1] If you wish to impose restrictions, you should inform students of the limitations and the potential consequences of being subject to charges of student misconduct. Notification can be made through your syllabus, a lecture, or by other means to ensure awareness – a sample follows:

Lecture materials and recordings for [insert class name] are protected intellectual property at UW-Madison. Students in this course may use the materials and recordings for their personal use related to participation in this class. Students may also take notes solely for their personal use. If a lecture is not already recorded, you are not authorized to record my lectures without my permission unless you are considered by the university to be a qualified student with a disability requiring accommodation. [Regent Policy Document 4-1] Students may not copy or share lecture materials and recordings outside of class, including posting on internet sites or selling to commercial entities.  Students are also prohibited from providing or selling their personal notes to anyone else or being paid for taking notes by any person or commercial firm without the instructor’s express written permission. Unauthorized use of these copyrighted lecture materials and recordings constitutes copyright infringement and may be addressed under the university’s policies, UWS Chapters 14 and 17, governing student academic and non-academic misconduct.

Scott Owczarek, Registrar at University of Wisconsin–Madison