FERPA Guidelines for Distance Education Courses

As classroom technologies continue to evolve, more instructors at SRJC are using video and audio recordings of class sessions and student projects. 

Recordings are sometimes used to allow enrolled students to watch a missed class session or to review an earlier session they attended. Instructors may want to share videos with another current or future class section. Depending on how the recordings are created and edited, they may include personally identifiable information (PII) about students and thus constitute education records that are protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) -- the federal student privacy law. 

These FAQs provide guidelines for acceptable practices in making and using video and audio recordings in the classroom setting. Additional information about photos, video, and audio recording under FERPA can be found on the U.S. Department of Education web page: FAQs on Photos and Videos under FERPA. See also the Department of Education's guidance on FERPA and Virtual Learning During COVID-19.

1. What are the guidelines regarding the requirement by faculty for students to use their cameras during student meetings/lectures?

FERPA does not protect a student's right to maintain anonymity in an online course.

Reference: https://studentprivacy.ed.gov/faq/student-has-opted-out-directory-information-and-wants-be-anonymous-online-course-are-we-required

According to October 2020 Legal Opinion from the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office, an indiscriminate cameras-on requirement risks violation of student privacy rights under the California Constitution, and potentially implicates other federal and state privacy and civil rights laws. However, if there are circumstances where full audio and visual student participation is essential to instruction, a carefully tailored cameras-on requirement might be appropriate.

Faculty should be sensitive to students who might not be in an environment/location that is adequate for them to have their cameras turned on. In such cases, allowing students to add virtual backdrops are highly recommended.

If keeping the video camera on during class is a barrier to participation due to a student’s disability, please have the student contact the Disability Resources Department to arrange for an academic accommodation.

Primarily, it must be understood that if a class meeting is recorded and kept by an instructor, it becomes an educational record which is protected under FERPA.

2. Are instructors’ video or audio recordings of classroom lectures protected student records?

If a recording includes only the instructor or voices of students that are not personally identifiable, it is not a student record, and FERPA does not limit its use.

If the recording includes identifiable audio or images of students asking questions, making presentations, engaging in discussion, or leading a class (other than TAs) then the portions containing recordings of the student do constitute protected student education records. Such recordings may be used only when one or more of the following apply:

  • By the same class section for review purposes; or
  • If the recording can be edited to remove the personally identifiable audio or images; or
  • In a manner allowed by a written consent from the students whose identifiable information is included.
3. If faculty record students in meetings, what are the guidelines regarding whether they can share the recordings with the same section? With other sections/classes? In future semesters or outside SRJC?

Within the same section: The recording can be shared with students of the class without prior written consent. Faculty should remind students not to share recordings outside of the class. If the instructor plans to share outside of the students enrolled in that particular section, the appropriate written consent must be obtained.

With other sections/classes: No, unless appropriate written consent from students in the recording is obtained.

With students in future semesters or outside of SRJC: Under FERPA, this situation must be treated as if the recordings were being shown to a third-party audience which requires FERPA compliance through use of consents or de-identification of any students depicted.

4. If the instructor wants to allow access to a video that includes student participation to others outside of the class or class section, is this permitted?

It depends. There are several ways to use recordings that include student participation:

  • The instructor may obtain individualized FERPA consents from the students in the recording which allow use of this portion of the recordings. This type of consent can be obtained on a case-by-case basis or from all the students at the outset of a class.
  • The instructor can edit the recording to either omit any student who has not consented to the use of their voice or image or to de-identify the student in the recording (which can include avoiding or removing any mention of the student’s name, blurring the student’s image, altering voice recordings, etc.).
  • The instructor can also plan a recording so that students (such as those asking questions during a class) are not shown in the video or referred to by name (another way to de-identify the student). One option is to first record the lecture, and then afterwards engage in unrecorded student questions and class discussion.
5. If an instructor has cross-listed sections (in Canvas), what are the guidelines regarding whether they can have live Zoom class meetings with multiple sections?

This scenario does not become a FERPA issue unless the class is being recorded for future use in other classes.

6. What if a student declines to sign a FERPA consent?

Consent must be voluntary. Students cannot be compelled or required to give consent to release their student information as a condition of class enrollment or participation. If possible, you may de-identify the student from the recording, but if the student cannot be de-identified, you may not share the recording with other students outside the class section or third parties.

7. What is the easiest way to comply with FERPA if I am video recording my class sessions and students will be asking questions, engaging in discussion, and/or giving presentations?

If you do not have FERPA consents from all students in the class, plan the recordings so that they do not show students who are asking questions, do not refer to the students by name, and avoid repeating the student’s question in the recording (de-identifying the students removes the need for a specific consent from each student depicted). As suggested above, one option is to first record the lecture, and then afterwards engage in unrecorded student questions and class discussion. If a student happens to appear on camera, their identity can be edited out unless you obtain a written consent.

Because student presentations make it more difficult to de-identify the student, the instructor should obtain a written FERPA consent from any student making a presentation before recording it for use by other students or third parties.

8. What are the guidelines regarding requiring students to create a video that includes their image (and therefore creating an educational record) for an Assignment? Two issues – for an individual assignment, for a group assignment.

If the instructor asks the student to upload the video privately and does not share it with the class, it is allowed.

If the instructor asks the student to share the video with the class during a recorded class session, then appropriate written consent would need to be obtained. If the class session is not recorded, then written consent is not needed.

If the instructors asks the student to upload the video to a location that other students in the class have access to (such as a course management system page or cloud streaming application), then appropriate written consent would need to be obtained.

SRJC FERPA (Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act) Consent to Release Student Information in Classroom Recordings

Instructors can use the following electronic form to obtain appropriate written consent from students:

SRJC FERPA (Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act) Consent to Release Student Information in Classroom Recordings

Club advisors can use the following electronic form to obtain appropriate written consent from students:

SRJC FERPA (Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act) Consent to Release Student Information in Clubs and Organization Meetings


Note: After the student submits this form, a copy of the submission will be sent to the instructor and to Admissions and Records.