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Important notice about FERPA and course merging in Blackboard

by Michelle Saport  |   

During the spring semester, the Registrar's Office learned that course sections were being inappropriately merged in Blackboard. For example, four sections of COMM A111 were being merged so a faculty member could manage all four sections as if they were one.

This practice cannot continue because it isn't permissible under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Merging sections in this manner discloses a student's registration in one section to students registered in other sections. UA General Counsel has been consulted and confirmed this shift in practice is necessary for compliance.

What does this mean for course merging moving forward? Only sections administratively linked in Banner and taught by the same instructor(s) can be merged in Blackboard. These include a cross-listed or stacked pair of sections or sections of the same course offered synchronously (e.g., one face-to-face and the other online, two video conference sections, etc.). To ensure FERPA compliance, faculty cannot request that multiple sections of the same course be merged (e.g., four sections of COMM A111), nor may multiple pairs of stacked or cross-listed sections be merged.

Questions related to FERPA compliance should be directed to Lindsey Chadwell, University Registrar, at (907) 786-6190 or lnchadwell@alaska.edu. Questions specific to course merging in Blackboard should be directed to Information Technology Services. Course merge requests can be submitted directly to the Call Center: Course Merge Request Form.

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