External Vendor Digital Tools in Teaching

External Vendor Digital Tools in Teaching

No UO policy de facto prevents UO instructors from using digital tools in their teaching that are not supported by the university. UO appreciates instructors’ creativity in experimenting with their teaching and with tools that may deepen student learning. However, some key considerations—especially around student privacy and accessibility—might make particular tools unacceptable.

Instructors should consider: 


Teaching Pillars:


If there is a cost to students, is should be communicated to students at the point of registration or as part of the required course materials and resources listed on the syllabus.   

Records, consent, and privacy

If students are required to create an account with external vendors, instructors should: convey to students what  information will be captured/stored; allow pseudonyms or controlled access to student contributions; and provide alternatives for students who don’t want to use the service.

Of note when considering privacy there are two distinctive considerations when a student is asked to use an external vendor’s tool.  The first is how public will the posting of student contributions be.  Will the contributions be seen by those outside of the class?  Will student information like their names and emails be accessible to others outside the class?  The Office of the Registrar has this form available for when students are using publicly accessible communication tools:  Consent Form for Courses Using Blogs, Social Media or Other Publicly-accessible Communication Tools

The second consideration is focused on data security and the storage of information on external vendor sites and databases.  This is the information that is stored ‘behind the scenes’ and it is important to consider how the vendor allows other third-parties to access the information.  Does the external vendor have the proper security protocols in place to protect this data?  Does the external vendor share, sell the data to other parties?  Consider asking the vendor for a Higher Education Community Vendor Assessment Toolkit (HECVAT) to determine the level of their information and data security, for more information about HECVAT.  As a point of comparison with officially UO supported collaboration tools, you can also reference on this Information Services support page about Data Security in UO Collaboration Tools.



If work created with the tool will be graded, instructors should have a plan for secure grading. (For example, students could capture a screenshot and upload into a Canvas assignment.) 


The accessibility of digital tools should be confirmed via an assessment of each tool's VPAT, when available, or with the vendor directly. These tools should meet or exceed current WCAG standards.  Instructors are responsible for providing course instruction and materials in an accessible format and need to be prepared to offer accommodations to students who face accessibility-related barriers to any particular digital tool.  In some circumstances a lack of accessibility may make it inappropriate to use the tool.