Teaching Continuity at Caltech  /  FERPA, Security, Copyright

FERPA, Security, and Copyright for Online Teaching

FERPA Compliance, Security, and Copyright

Approved Applications

Online applications and tools with Caltech licenses and single sign-on have been reviewed and approved by the Institute for security, privacy, and FERPA-compliance. Faculty and TAs should review Caltech's information about student privacy and use the most up-to-date recommended applications listed under /tech-tools.

Use of Other Applications

Caltech requests that faculty use the applications discussed on this site. Instructors interested in using other digital tools for online teaching are expected to exercise caution about FERPA compliance when dealing with student work and grades, and with respect to privacy and security, on any external platforms. If a needed application is not listed:

  • First contact IMSS or look in the /tech-tools section of this website to see if Caltech has an active license for it.
  • If an application required for Institute purposes is not offered, a license agreement would be required to ensure its security and FERPA compliance.
  • Due to current resources being directed towards implementing and supporting our existing applications, requests to establish new licensing agreements may be delayed at this time. To request that an application be reviewed and considered, please contact ctlo@caltech.edu.


In alignment with FERPA and under certain limited circumstances, auditing of courses may be allowed for those of the Caltech community who have a "legitimate educational interest" in the course material. Faculty and instructors are under no obligation to permit auditors. In certain instances, auditors may be charged a fee.

Please consult information from the Registrar's Office about auditing for Fall 2020 for more details, including the categories of potential auditors. Briefly, to add auditors:

  • Faculty send to their Division Chairs information about auditors (see link above for details depending on the type of auditor).
  • Once approved by the Division, that information will be shared with the Provost's Office, and with the Registrar's office to provide auditors with access to courses.
  • Note that giving auditors access to course materials may take several business days.

The following cases are not considered auditing:

  • Seminar series that function both as research seminars (open to investigators and the Caltech community) and seminar courses (with enrolled students), for which non-enrolled participants join live streaming Zoom sessions only and otherwise do not interact with enrolled students.
  • Faculty/instructors sharing course materials that contain no information about currently enrolled students (e.g., pre-recorded course videos made by instructors only; course notes or written materials).
  • Guest speakers/presenters contributing to course instruction.

FERPA Compliance Guidelines for Class Recordings and Content

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act ("FERPA") restricts the sharing of student educational records without permission, except as allowed under certain exemptions. This web page provides guidelines on how instructors can remain FERPA-compliant as they create video and audio recordings of their virtual instruction environments.

  • Limit access to the recordings to class participants. Instructors can make recordings available to currently-enrolled students, TAs, and instructors in the class (for instance, to assist students who missed the class or want to re-watch past class sessions).
  • If recordings will be made available to others, implement additional safeguards. Making recordings available to others—for example, incorporating the recording into a MOOC or posting publicly on platforms open to the public, showing recordings from last semester to students this semester, or sharing recordings from one section of a course with students enrolled in another section of a course—may implicate FERPA. If planning to share recordings beyond the group of students, TAs, and instructors in the class, you should implement one of the following controls:
    • Record only the instructor. Generally speaking, if a recording includes only the instructor, it is not a "student record" and FERPA does not limit its use. Configure the settings of the recording to avoid capturing individual students (for example, video, audio, and chat) and do not otherwise include materials that could represent a "student record" (such as a student's transcript) in the recording.
    • Obtain student consent or de-identify recordings that identify particular students. If the recording includes students making presentations, asking questions, or leading a class, or it is otherwise possible to identify the student in the recording (whether video, audio, text, or existing "student record"), then the portions containing recordings of the student or "student records" may constitute protected educational records, which can only be used as permitted by FERPA or in a manner allowed by a written consent from the student. If the recording includes identifiable student information, the instructor should:
      • Obtain individualized FERPA consents from the students in the recording prior to sharing it (contact regis@caltech.edu for consent process); or
      • Prior to sharing them, edit the recordings to omit or de-identify students who have not provided consent.

If you have any questions or would like further guidance, please contact ctlo@caltech.edu and/or regis@caltech.edu.

Copyright and Intellectual Property

Caltech has taken care to review, and modify where necessary, agreements with online teaching platforms to ensure that content uploaded by Caltech faculty remains the intellectual property of the faculty members and that these platforms have limited rights to distribute the content in approved ways to carry out their functions for teaching, and not for other purposes that you do not approve.

In the vast majority of cases, Caltech classes are private, with material shared only between instructors, TAs, enrolled students, and approved auditors. When making use of material copyrighted or owned by others, Caltech faculty should be aware that any public sharing of such material poses risks. Here are several resources and recommendations to assist faculty with what can be complex and individual case-based questions regarding copyright:

  • The Caltech Library offers information about copyright and the support that is available through the library, including copyright basics, library support for obtaining permissions and use of materials in teaching, and related information: https://libguides.caltech.edu/copyright
  • Students are informed that they may not make any class materials available to others, including copyrighted material, videos, and other course content, and that violations of these expectations fall under the Honor Code and Caltech Code of Conduct: http://learn.caltech.edu/personal-privacy. It can be helpful to remind students of this information in your own courses (e.g., via the syllabus, announcement during class, etc.).
  • If an instructor plans to make any portions of their course available publicly and the course materials to be shared contain copyrighted content, they should consult with the Caltech Office of General Counsel to evaluate the particular case. Please contact Ryan Eskin, Associate General Counsel.