Personal information about an identifiable individual is protected under the Act and will not be used or disclosed except for the specific purpose for which it is collected or in accordance with one of the exceptions in the Act or the Regulations.
To unpack that statement, that really means that you cannot release or require that a student release any of the following information publicly:
- telephone number
- marital status
- Social Insurance Number
- employment history
- financial data
Obviously, some of these are going to be present in UR Courses site. A student’s name is visible to other students within the course. You cannot, however, release or require that students release any other information on that list to their classmates or in a space outside the course without student permission. Equally, it is not required that an instructor release any information about themselves beyond their name and how they choose to be contacted. It is entirely up to you, the instructor, to choose how much information you reveal about yourself. While it is great for student engagement to share your personality, choose wisely whether you provide students with contact information other than that provided by the university (a U of R email, an office phone number if applicable), and what personal information you give.
UR Courses is hosted on U of R servers, maintained by U of R staff, and is considered a closed and private system. Instructors and staff involved in online courses are able to see additional information about students (student numbers, U of R email addresses, courses a student is taking with a UR Courses site) with the expectation of that information being used to perform their work.
Sometimes you may want to collect personal information or ask questions about it. Here are some ways of doing this:
- Collect the information privately, using Course Email, a Choice tool not visible to students, an Assignment or Quiz, or a private Feedback form
- Use an anonymous Choice tool or Feedback form to share only the information like a poll, not associated with a student name
- Use a public Google Doc that allows anonymous users to edit it and share information without it being attached to their name
Even with using these strategies, such sharing should be optional in case a student feels they cannot share the information without being identified.
You should never post a grade spreadsheet that includes both student name and student number with the grade. If possible, use the Gradebook function which allows students to see only their own grade information, or email students directly. If you have to post a spreadsheet, use student numbers only.
The best practice with assignments is to avoid having both student names and student numbers present, even if they are submitted solely to the instructor. If students will be sharing their assignments with their peers, make doubly sure that they know not to include their student number. If the purpose is blind peer assessment, be sure to remind students not to include their name.
Third Party Software
- If students need to register to complete class assignments, consider allowing them to use a more anonymous username and a non-U of R email. They would need to provide you with sufficient information to identify them (i.e. their username on the site).
- Allow students to participate anonymously. This works with Google Docs, as mentioned above.
- Students have the right to refuse to use third party sites or software so be prepared with an alternative method of participation or assessment, just in case.