Legal Considerations While Using Web 2.0 Tools

Stephanie Delaney, the director of eLearning at Cascadia Community College, gave a presentation last Wednesday about web 2.0 tools and the legal considerations faculty members should take while using them. The presentation is fantastic and is available in full through Tegrity here. Topics she covers include FERPA, student privacy and faculty responsibility. Here’s a sneak peek at the helpful advice Delaney offers:

  • Students shouldn’t be forced to post personal information on the internet and should be presented with privacy options when using Web 2.0 tools in education. For example, if making a Twitter account is part of a project, students uncomfortable with using their real name should have options like making the account under a pseudonym or opting out of that portion of the project.
  • Faculty and staff should understand that their activity online will be tied to the institution as long as they work there. Exercise caution online and remain professional.
  • Although many institutions don’t include a social networking policy for faculty in their contracts, act as if they do. Many instructors have found themselves in trouble at work because of what they have posted on their private Twitter/Facebook/Blog.
  • Address issues to your students that can come up while using web 2.0 tools, such as cyber bullying and stalking, on the first day of class. If you teach students what this looks like from the start, they are more likely to be responsible online.
  • Keep track of all of the work done on web 2.0 tools that you may, for any reason, need later. Think proof of a student’s grade or a lawsuit.
  • Nothing is private. Things you post on the internet will be there forever.

You must use web 2.0 tools carefully in the academic world, but don’t let this discourage you from using them at all. Web 2.0 tools have potential to make class more interactive, personal, and may help students with their technology and social networking skills in the future. The bottom line for this presentation is that while using web 2.0 tools, be responsible and think before you post anything.


  1. I skimmed the presentation and am really glad to see conversation about all of this. Two things about which I’m curious:

    We don’t keep copies of all student work turned in on paper, so I’m curious about the recommendation that we track all Web 2.0 work in case of later challenges. I’m wondering what the difference may be.

    I also continue to wonder about the “opting out” option that I’ve also heard recommended elsewhere. If a student isn’t comfortable giving class presentations, or actively participating in class, or having work displayed as an art major, or performing on stage as a drama major, we don’t offer “opt out”. It’s understood that there are legitimate educational goals in expecting those things, and we support students to do them. I understand the wish for some students to participate anonymously in cyber space and completely support that and actively recommend that to my students. It’s the “opt out” option that I’m less clear about. I need more help thinking about that.

  2. Think about it – Jane. Assignments versus being on the internet. Performances versus the internet. No school should require a studnet to use their real name or contact information as the internet is like standing in the middle of the street telling people passing by all about you. Privacy has to be honored and it has nothing to do with the completion of assignments. Opting out is a legal issue especially if that person then gets bullied, stalked – guess who will be responsible? Students are in control over this, not teachers. You may assign a person to go online but this by no means they have to disclose their real identity.


  3. You can also go the “walled garden” approach where content/access is restricted to members of the same class or school. Of course, it is always important to note that not all systems are perfect and chances of information leak is still there.

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