Student privacy in Canvas courses with cross-listed sections

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When face-to-face course sections that do not meet together are cross-listed into a single Canvas course for administrative convenience, instructors should take steps to ensure student privacy and compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Specifically, students in courses with cross-listed sections should not be permitted to see or interact with students in sections other than their own unless the sections share a common meeting place and time.

To reduce the burden on instructors, section privileges for students in SIS classes are configured to limit the visibility of students in other sections in Canvas (for details, see About section privilege restrictions for students below). However, this setting does not cover all Canvas tools, so you'll need to take additional steps to protect your students.

About section privilege restrictions for students

By default, students are enrolled into Canvas courses with limited section privileges. This setting has no impact in single-section courses. When sections are cross-listed in Canvas, however, this setting prevents students from seeing the names, section affiliations, and user profiles of students in sections other than their own in the full roster view of the Canvas People tool, as well as in the IU Photo Roster, Canvas Inbox (Conversations), and Collaboration tools.

Exceptions for online and combined sections

Students enrolled in the section types below are permitted to interact with students in other sections of the same type, so the default section restrictions do not apply:

  • Sections associated with an online course offered under the IU Online Course Connect (IUOCC) model. IUOCC "campus of enrollment" (child) sections are automatically cross-listed into the "campus of instruction" (parent) course, and students in these sections can see and interact with one another.
  • Sections listed as "100% online" in SIS.
  • Sections listed as "combined" in SIS; combined sections are sections of the same course offered under a different subject and/or course number.
Instructors teaching multiple offerings of the same IUOCC and/or 100% online course are permitted to cross-list all online sections into a single Canvas course. However, online sections should not be combined with face-to-face sections with a fixed meeting time. Also, courses listed as combined in SIS should only be cross-listed with combined sections of the same class taught by the same instructor at the same meeting time.

Additional steps to ensure student privacy

Unfortunately, some Canvas tools do not respect section privilege restrictions, which can result in FERPA violations. If none of the above-described exceptions apply to your course, you'll need to disable or lock down tools that expose information about students in other sections. The following steps are recommended:

  • Settings:
    • Under Settings > Course Details > more options, make sure the selections are as follows:
      • Check Disable comments on announcements
      • Uncheck Let students create discussion topics
      • Uncheck Let students organize their own groups
  • People:
    • When adding TAs to your course, select Can interact with users in their section only, and add them to only the sections for which they are responsible.
  • Groups: The names of all students are visible when students organize their own groups, regardless of section assignment.
    • When creating groups, require group members to be in the same section.
  • Chat: The names of all students who post are visible, regardless of section assignment.
    • Under Settings > Navigation, disable the Chat tool.
    • Create separate groups for each section. Students can then chat with group members, all of whom will be in their own section.
  • Discussions: The names of all students who post are visible, regardless of section assignment.
    • For graded discussions, create differentiated discussion topics restricted to individual sections.
    • For ungraded discussions, use the "Post to" option to post topics to individual sections instead of the entire class.
    • When creating groups for group discussions, create separate groups for each section.
  • Messages/Inbox:
    • When sending a Canvas message to two or more students in different sections, check Send an individual message to each recipient. This will send a separate copy to each recipient and hide the names of the recipients in the message header.

Enable cross-section collaboration

If it's important for students to be able to collaborate with students in other sections in your course, you can work around the default section privilege restrictions by setting up mixed-section groups in Canvas, which will allow them to interact with one another in the group space as well as send messages to one another in the Canvas Inbox (Conversations) tool. For instructions for creating Canvas Groups, see How do I add a group set in a course? in the Canvas Instructor Guides. You can also remove the restrictions to Chat, Discussions, and Groups described in Additional steps to ensure student privacy above.

Before taking any action, however, let your students know why you would like to lift the privacy restrictions and request consent from each of them. Here are two ways you can request and document consent in Canvas:

  • Use the Canvas Quizzes tool to give a one-question survey asking for consent to collaborate with students in other sections.
  • When setting up your course groups, use the self sign-up option. In addition to mixed-section groups, create one group for each section. Tell your students that by signing up for a mixed-section group they are tacitly granting consent to collaboration with students from other sections.

Place any students who are unwilling to give consent in groups with members of their own section.

This is document aqns in the Knowledge Base.
Last modified on 2024-02-05 09:02:47.