Cloud Applications: Advice for Instructors

 Guideline: University of Minnesota Duluth

Adapted from the University of Wisconsin Madison guidelines with permission

When instructors find that tools provided by the University of Minnesota (UMN), including those provided by the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD), do not meet their instructional needs, they may consider using non-UMN applications and services. While university-provided and campus-provided applications and services meet UMN guidelines for privacy, intellectual property, security and records retention, providers of non-UMN applications and services may not. This document provides guidance to those instructors considering the use of non-UMN applications and services, as well as to those who are already using them.

Use:  Communicate plans to use non-UMN applications and services to students.

  • Instructors should communicate their intent to use non-UMN applications and services, along with a summary of issues, conditions and risks to students in the course syllabus.  This allows a student to decide whether to withdraw from the course or request alternate solutions. Consider that withdrawal from the course may not be possible because the course is required, the course is offered in a sequence, the course is not offered regularly or the course is only offered by one instructor.  The decision to use non-UMN applications and services should not create excessive privacy concerns for students who do not agree to the conditions of use.  Instructors should weigh the needs of the course activity against the student’s privacy rights.
  • Refer students concerned about their privacy to the Office of the Registrar.

Terms of Service:  Understand the risks to you and your students.

  • Providers of non-UMN applications and services may require the user to agree to a Terms of Service agreement, which is a legal contract. Neither instructors nor students are authorized to enter into legal contracts on behalf of the University. As a result, instructors or students may become personally responsible for the terms of the agreement and problems that may arise.
  • Providers of non-UMN applications and services may reserve the right to change their Terms of Service at will.  Instructors should check the Terms of Service agreement periodically to ensure that the agreement is acceptable.
  • UMN has signed agreements for use of some specific non-UMN applications and services and there is no need for instructors or students to sign an agreement directly with the provider.  Check the UM Educational Technology web site for existing campus agreements.
  • Contact Information Technology Systems and Services for assistance understanding the conditions and risks associated with using non-UMN applications or services.

Privacy:  Protect student privacy and identity.

  • Restrict access to student content when using non-UMN applications or services, whenever possible.  
  • Comply with FERPA requirements to protect student privacy.
  • Give special care to protecting student grades, which are private data.
  • Suggest students use aliases when creating accounts, particularly if access to student work is public.
  • Avoid referring to students by full name.
  • Do not place any personally identifiable information in content.
  • Limit students’ postings to course-related content.
  • Delete student content when no longer needed.
  • Safeguard data properly.  Instructors failing to do so may expose the University and themselves to sanctions and fines.

Intellectual Property:  Understand who owns content and what they can do with it.

  • Review Terms of Service agreement and ask the following questions:
    1. Who owns the intellectual property rights when content is created or uploaded to the application or service?
    2. Does the service provider claim any rights to use the content created or uploaded to the application or service?
    3. If there is a right of use claim, when and how are these rights terminated?
  • Identify content as “© 20XX Instructor Name” when appropriate.
  • Instruct students to follow appropriate use of copyrighted materials, particularly when content is publicly available.
  • Recognize that placing content on a non-UMN application or service may constitute “publication” of intellectual property and may cause some publishers to be reluctant to accept for other publications.

Retention, Accessibility, Support and Recovery:  Comply with regulations and campus policies.

  • Ensure that records can be retrieved from the non-UMN application or service provider, if necessary. UMN records are subject to public records law, regardless of where they are stored.
  • Ensure that university records are retained according to records retention schedule.
  • Back up materials residing on non-UMN applications and services regularly.  Many providers assume no responsibility for archiving content.
  • Consider support needs. Traditional campus support models may not resolve technical issues that arise while using non-UMN applications and services.  Users may be required to deal with the service provider directly.  
  • Ensure non-UMN applications or services meet university accessibility requirements..

Related University Policies

Revision History:

  • Adopted by the EPC Subcommittee on Information Technology and Library on February 6, 2012
  • Accepted by the Educational Policy Committee on April 11, 2012