Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA)

by Nancy Swenson

“How does FERPA relate to me: as the parent of a college student? As an administrator who works with student records? As a student? As a researcher? As an instructor? What are FERPA implications for teaching, research, or parent’s access to students’ records?” -Dagoberto Diaz, Community of Practice Discussion


Faculty have a multitude of online tools and programs that can be used in online teaching and learning. Similar to copyright, there are complex privacy and legal concerns about using tools outside of the institution’s learning management system environment. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) governs student privacy and educational records.  Addressing FERPA in faculty development is essential to educate faculty to protect student privacy in the online environment.

Addressing FERPA

There are numerous ways to present FERPA during faculty development:

  • Create a “top ten” list of questions and answers
    • Common questions can be collected and sent to appropriate campus resources (registrar office, general counsel, etc.) to be answered.
    • This approach provides one authoritative source for answers to common questions.
  • Include appropriate campus FERPA person(s) in faculty development
    • Provide opportunities for faculty to pose specific questions to authoritative sources.
    • Examples include: submit a public question utilizing individual or group discussions or private questions through an individual assignment.
  • Differentiate between directory information and FERPA protected information
    • Directory information such as dates of attendance, major, etc. can be released without consent
  • Create activities to identify online tools/resources privacy policies
    • These types of activities will familiarize faculty with how to determine if privacy policies are FERPA compliant. Some possible ideas are to create an interactive activity or learning widget to reinforce the information.
    • Any questions should be directed to campus appropriate resources.
  • Refer faculty to existing campus FERPA faculty development opportunities:
    • If not already required, encourage faculty to complete FERPA training through other organizations such as human resources or the registrar’s office.


Each institution has their own interpretation and policies governing FERPA. Use campus resources whose primary responsibility is to address FERPA. Including FERPA campus resources during faculty development will encourage faculty to reach out directly whenever a FERPA issues arises. This method will help promote a culture of FERPA awareness.

Institutional Resources

General Resources

Sample Course

The TOPkit sample course has additional information regarding the Federal Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA) and things to consider when communicating with students in the online environment.

Week 2 Content in the Online Environment