Privacy Considerations

Your class is an intellectual community created and sustained by and for you and your students. The “classroom” includes the online environment (the Sakai LMS) and any interactions or engagements facilitated by technology. Please take special care to protect the privacy of this community from unintentional harms as well as external interference. In the course of their teaching, instructors enjoy significant academic freedom, as for instance in the choice of materials, instructional methods and approaches, style of expression and the like. Courses are subject to University and College/School approvals as well as accreditation and compliance requirements (e.g. federally mandated contact time per credit hour or discipline-specific requirements).  

Students have substantial rights and expectations of privacy in their interactions with peers and their instructor, including but not limited to the discussion of sensitive subjects in live class meetings and online discussions. Individual interactions with instructors (e.g. in office hours, or discussing academic performance) must remain private and are included within students’ FERPA protections.  Sharing or providing access to class interactions and events increases the possibility that students or instructors will be the target of external harassment, trolling, and other forms of unwelcome exposure. Such harassment is especially likely to be directed at women and People of Color.

Building privacy-protective features into any Notre Dame course, regardless of modality, will help to cultivate an open and effective learning environment. 

Privacy-Protective Steps for All Instructors

Instructors should follow the steps below to enhance the privacy of the classroom when using learning technologies as part of a course design.

  1. Provide a Clear Privacy Practices Statement on Your Syllabus. Include a written statement on your syllabus that outlines what students can and can’t expect, how they may share information about class discussions, topics, and how they should treat the contributions of other students. See below for more details.
  2. Use University-provided technologies to host course materials and facilitate asynchronous discussions. Host your course in the Sakai LMS and make sure any video materials are posted within Panopto for maximum control.
  3. Live class recordings should only be made with Zoom and only be hosted in Panopto. Zoom recordings will be posted into your Panopto folder automatically. To find out more about setting up and using Panopto, begin here.
  4. Panopto prevents downloading course videos by default. Do not permit downloading of live class recordings, except in mitigating circumstances and by individual request only. 
  5. Encourage remote students participating in a live class via Zoom to use headphones/headsets whenever possible to avoid broadcasting discussions. Encourage students to review their physical surroundings in advance of live class meetings and use virtual backgrounds if they prefer, to remain on camera during class meetings, and to maintain appropriate levels of engagement during the meeting.
  6. Avoid posting any learning materials you do not want to be shared (syllabi, assignments, video, files and documents, etc) on public websites or social media platforms.
  7. Follow this advice on the secure use of Zoom for class meetings, office hours or other online interactions.
  8. Absolutely DO NOT post or share any student-created materials or videos or images portraying students (e.g. screen captures of Zoom meetings) to public websites or on social media platforms for any reason.

Recording Live Classes (including sensitive subjects)

The classroom is a privileged space that should be shielded from external view in order to preserve the strongest possible conditions for intellectual discovery and collaborative learning. The potential unauthorized sharing of live classroom recordings raises significant privacy concerns. Students and instructors may feel hesitant about recording live discussions, especially when they know recordings will be posted later.  On the other hand, many students value the opportunity to review live class recordings as study aids or in the event of an unplanned absence. Colleges, Schools or Departments may have more specific guidance. 

As a resilience strategy, we encourage all instructors to record live class meetings when pedagogically appropriate. Recorded class meetings provide valuable continuity for students who experience unplanned absences;  class recordings will provide all students with useful study materials for later review. One of the most critical steps instructors can take to enhance privacy in their courses (dual-mode, hybrid, or online) is to develop shared privacy norms with their students-- an understanding of their obligations and responsibilities to peers, their instructor,  and the course community as a whole.  

When instructors provide a clear privacy statement on the syllabus, use learning technologies as intended to mitigate the risk of unplanned disclosure, and develop common behavioral norms as part of the course community, students and instructors should feel confident in the privacy of their in-class discussions of personal, sensitive and controversial topics.

Adding Privacy Statements to a Syllabus

A course-specific statement should reflect your overall course design, learning goals and subject matter; it should clearly include the kinds of actions students may and may not take. A written privacy statement is the foundation of privacy-protective behavioral norms within a course community.  Some critical elements of a privacy statement:

  • how students may use and share learning materials you created for the class (e.g. pre-recorded lectures, case studies, problem sets, etc.), within the University and outside of it;
  • how students may share information about other student perspectives, including on controversial and sensitive topics, especially with those outside of the course. 
  • when and why live class recordings are made and how students may access and use them. 
  • A prohibition on sharing live in-class recordings, student work products (e.g posts on a discussion board, written work) or communications outside the course community, except by permission.
  • Reminders that students and instructors may be exposed to unwelcome attention, external harassment, and other intrusive conduct as a result of even well-intentioned sharing of learning materials; that the intentional sharing of learning materials or private information with external groups or individuals represents a breach of trust and may be considered a violation of the applicable Honor Code; that the deliberate sharing of private images, communications, learning materials or other depictions of students or instructors for the purpose of inviting external commentary, ridicule, or embarrassment is an especially egregious violation of trust and University policy that will lead to severe sanctions.
  • Reaffirmation that our classrooms are communities built on trust, and that our learning and teaching relies upon a shared sense of respect, integrity, and common purpose.

The most critical measure to establish a private learning environment within your course is to develop clear standards, communicate those often, use the technology intentionally, and cultivate a course community in which students and their instructors share a commitment to fearless inquiry free from external intrusion.