Ask the FERPA Professor

January 24, 2022
  • FERPA
  • FERPA Professor
cartoon figure reminiscent of Einstein stands in front of a chalkboard with the board "FERPA" written on it

By Michelle Mott, Associate Director of Government Relations and Communications at AACRAO.

The rise of the Omicron variant complicated plans for the beginning of the spring 2022 term at colleges and universities across the country. Campuses reevaluated mitigation strategies in an effort to safely resume in-person instruction. However, some institutions have once again had to pivot online as infection rates surge in their communities. 

Even outside of the pandemic, distance education and online educational services have grown increasingly commonplace in recent years. Lecture capture videos are one popular instructional modality that instructors frequently use to support fully online and hybrid courses, as well as to supplement in-person learning. 

But what happens when those recordings include students in a class or lecture? When does that recording become a student education record and therefore subject to FERPA?

What about FERPA?

FERPA does not prohibit instructors from making a recording of virtual lectures or class sessions available to students enrolled in the course. If the video is only of the lecturer and does not involve students, then that video may be used or shared with any class. However, recorded lectures or class sessions that include students are considered student education records. Therefore, sharing such recordings beyond students enrolled in the course would generally require prior written consent.

So, it is important for school officials to note those distinctions as institutions experiment with evolving instructional methods throughout the pandemic and beyond. 

For additional information on best practices and other resources on FERPA compliance for remote work and virtual learning, reference Chapter 7 of the 2020 AACRAO FERPA Quick Guide.