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Student Privacy (FERPA) in Virtual Classrooms and Other Educational Recordings

FERPA Guidance

The U.S. Department of Education recently provided guidance to schools and colleges regarding the sudden transition to distance learning due to the COVID-19 outbreak and issues of student privacy covered by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

What is an Educational Record:

  • Any medium in which personally identifiable information relating to a student is fixed, such as audiotape, visual recordings, transcripts of spoken words, chats, emails, and any other record maintained by UTSA.        

When Classroom Recordings may be a FERPA record:

  • If any student, or information about a student, is identifiable in a recording of a class (name, image or voice) or other educational event maintained by UTSA, it most likely constitutes an educational record protected under FERPA.

When Classroom Recordings may not be a FERPA record:

  • Recordings of the instructor without any student interaction and/or disclosure of any student’s personally identifiable information is most likely not an educational record.

 

To ensure FERPA compliance in virtual classrooms and other educational recordings, UTSA has established the following guidelines:

  • Limit access to remote/virtual instruction to only students enrolled in the course and other officials as needed (teaching assistants, faculty supervisor, sign language interpreters, captionists, etc.). For your online platform, Instructors should review the privacy tips here.

  • Instruct all students enrolled in the course, in person and in your syllabus, that students must protect passwords and are prohibited from recording or sharing recordings of the class sessions or meetings unless the student has a Student Disability Services approved accommodation to record.

    • Include in your Syllabus a statement as follows:

      Class Recordings: Students are expected to follow appropriate University policies and maintain the security of passwords used to access recorded lectures. Unless Student Disability Services has approved the student to record the instruction, students are expressly prohibited from recording any part of this course. Recordings may not be published, reproduced or shared with those not in the class, or uploaded to other online environments except to implement an approved Student Disability Service accommodation.

  • If the Instructor records any part of a course, the Instructor needs to do the following:

    • Update the Class Recording Syllabus Statement as follows:

      Class Recordings
      : The Instructor may record meetings of this course. Any recordings will be available to all students registered for this class as they are intended to supplement the classroom experience. Students are expected to follow appropriate University policies and maintain the security of passwords used to access recorded lectures. Unless Student Disability Services has approved the student to record the instruction, students are expressly prohibited from recording any part of this course. Recordings may not be published, reproduced or shared with those not in the class, or uploaded to other online environments except to implement an approved Student Disability Service accommodation. If the instructor or a UTSA office plans any other uses for the recordings, consent of the students identifiable in the recordings is required prior to such use unless an exception is allowed by law.

    • Plan the recordings so that they do not show students or any of their personally identifiable information.

    • If a student appears on camera by name, image or voice and you plan on sharing the recording outside the current classroom, you can:
      • Edit the recording to remove any portion in which a student appears or blur the student’s image and distort the student’s voice. If the recording de-identifies students and their personally identifiable information, the recording may no longer be an educational record subject to FERPA or requiring prior student consent; or
      • Obtain individual written consents from the students appearing in the video (name, image or voice) if you plan on disclosing the recording to either third parties not listed as exceptions to the general rule requiring student consent prior to disclosing FERPA records or UTSA officials for a non-educational purpose or to students outside your current class that semester. FERPA consent can be requested of all students at the outset of a semester, class or event. See student consent information and the consent form below. You do not need a FERPA consent/release if you only make the recording available to your students in that current class. 

    • Store recordings only on University-approved devices and servers.

 


Required Record Retention

  • Per FERPA regulations, any recordings made of classes including a student’s name, image or voice must be protected as an education record. UTSA recommends retaining them for a period of at least one year and then destroying them.

  • If the instructor leaves UTSA, the instructor is still bound by FERPA regarding use of any recordings and by the terms outlined in this guide.

  • The instructor must retain copies of signed consent forms for as long as the recordings are retained and/or the copies of the recordings are shared.

Resources:

 


When is Student Consent Required?

Generally, student consent is required* when:

  • You record the class; and
  • A student’s name, image or voice appears in the recording; and
  • You plan to share the recording with anyone outside the current class of registered students for that semester.

Generally, student consent is not required* when:

  • You do not record the class; or
  • A student’s name, image or voice does not appear in the recording; or
  • The recording is only available to the registered students within the current class for that semester.

* FERPA allows for many exceptions to the general rule requiring consent such as when the recording is shared with other UTSA officials with a legitimate educational interest in the recording, with federal or state programs auditing or evaluating the education program, organizations conducting evaluations to improve instruction and other defined exceptions.  For a complete list of exceptions, see HOP 5.1, Section IX, Paragraph C, Subparagraph 2.  

Review the Consent & Release Decision Tree


What Constitutes Student Consent to Release a FERPA Record?

  • A student’s consent allowing the release of the recording to persons outside the classroom must be both informed and voluntary.

    • Informed means that the request for consent must inform the student of all of the intended uses of the recording.
    • Voluntary means that consent is freely given without persuasion or coercion and that the student receives neither advantage nor disadvantage by providing consent.
  • The student’s consent must be documented in writing by a  signature and date of signature. In addition, the consent must specify the records that may be disclosed, the purpose of the disclosure, and identify the parties to whom disclosure must be made.

 


What Happens if a Student Does Not Consent to be Recorded?

  • A student who does not consent to appear in a recording must have the same educational experience as a student willing to be recorded. 

  • If a student refuses to provide consent, a recording may still be made as long as it contains no record of that student.
  • A student’s consent or lack thereof may not be tied to a student’s grade in the course in any way.