FERPA & Canvas

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FERPA and Canvas - Protect student privacy

Canvas allows instructors of record to elevate outside users to roles that afford access to confidential student data. This presents a challenge for compliance with FERPA and related laws, regulations, and policies.

When adding people to your Canvas course, and any time you engage in any course-related activity that may expose student information, it is critical to be aware of FERPA guidelines. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974 protect the privacy of students' education records. Generally, the guidelines mean that the University and its employees may not release or share a student's educational records, or information from a student's education records unless it has the student's written consent to do so. Some exceptions to this general rule can be found at FERPA for Faculty and Staff. It is important that you understand when it is appropriate and allowable to release information from students' education records to third parties, such as faculty, staff, guest teachers, TA’s, and other students.

Users who have not received FERPA instruction as part of training as new faculty or for graduate teaching assistantships (and those who would like refresher training) are encouraged to complete FERPA Training.

Assigning User Roles in Canvas

In Canvas at UW, permissions allow users to access certain features and perform certain functions. Roles are essentially collections of permissions set at the system, campus, school, and department levels (i.e., roles cannot be modified by instructors). A user's permissions are determined by the role(s) the user is assigned.


Users in the Teacher and TA roles can view and edit student grade information. Any user who will hold one of these roles must complete the Faculty FERPA Training before being assigned to that role.


Selecting appropriate access level

When giving access to your course, it is important to select the appropriate level of access in order to protect students’ privacy rights. For course guests who do not need access to student grades, choose from the more restricted roles of guest teacher, librarian or observer.  If you only want to share course content with another instructor, choose the course designer role. Note: Designers and guest teachers are not listed in the course People page. Red "X" Mark indicates "NO".

table of canvas roles

*Note: Teaching Assistants cannot

  • add/remove other teachers, TAs, designers or students
  • publish or unpublish the course
  • manage sections
  • moderate grades