Social Media and Third Party Tools in Teaching

Social media and a variety of third party tools can be valuable resources in teaching and learning. Using applications such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Piazza, Trello, Slack, or other cloud services that provide unique capabilities can create highly collaborative active learning experiences for students.

While these products are useful, serve pedagogical benefits, or offer unique capabilities, caution should also be exercised when using these platforms to ensure campus policies around accessibility, student confidentiality, and privacy are maintained.

The following policies are the most directly related to using these external third party technology solutions:

If students are required to pay for or to use "FREE" web services and tools not licensed by GVSU, there can be concerns related to policies that protect student information, privacy, accessibility, and the students' intellectual property rights. Some providers for example, may consolidate personal data of users and sell this information to other vendors or advertisers, or claim ownership of content submitted or authored within the third party system.

Overall, using technologies provided and supported by GVSU are encouraged and recommended to ensure institutional student privacy and accessibility policy compliance, as well as to support accreditation requirements around faculty and student support for technologies used in teaching and learning.

By using officially supported university enterprise applications, a uniform and seamless student learning experience can be provided, helping to ensure student success. For example, students use a single username and password to login to Blackboard to access all of their course information and grades in one unified platform. Further, as students enroll, switch course sections, or drop courses, automation ensures that students have the correct course listings in Blackboard.

Using Twitter as a Backchannel

TECH BYTES - Using Twitter as an Educational Back Channel


The following recommendations were developed in collaboration with Office of the Provost and the Online Education Council.

To support student learning and ensure consistency and clarity across courses, faculty should:

  • Use Blackboard as a course shell.
  • Be thoughtful about tools/technologies used (i.e., accessible, easy-to-use, and manageable in number).
  • Consider standard use of tools/technologies across courses in departments or colleges to prevent cognitive overload (this may require some within-department planning to maximize benefits of tools and technologies).
  • Ensure students know how to use required course tools/technologies (i.e., include tutorials and links; provide opportunities for students to practice ahead of time).
  • If you choose to require students to use Respondus Lockdown Monitor, ask students to complete a practice test or tests to prevent test anxiety and access or technical problems during the exam.
  • Communicate regularly with students (e.g., expectations, course content, updated grades, questions/concerns, support).

For technology/tools NOT supported by GVSU’s IT, faculty should:

  • Communicate to students any costs associated with software or other technology prior to the start of the semester (e.g., course syllabus, Banner, GVSU bookstore, email, Blackboard).
  • Ensure all students can easily access these additional course tools.
  • Consider limiting the use of external application to two or three tools.
  • Review third party application end user license agreements for compliance with ADA requirements (see GVSU Web Accessibility Policy), as well as student intellectual property, FERPA, student information privacy and security (see GVSU Confidentiality, Data & Security Policy).
  • Place links to external third-party applications into Blackboard integrating them as much as possible into your course shell.
  • Be prepared to help students learn to use the technology.

Additional Recommendations and Tips

  1. Use Blackboard and mission critical GVSU Enterprise Campus Technologies
    The use of Blackboard and other integrated campus technologies such as: Panopto for instructional video, Blackboard Ally for automated content accessibility compliance checking (along with auto-generated alternative file formats), Zoom  for videoconferencing and live office hours, and anti-plagiarism and academic integrity applications such as SafeAssign and Respondus LockDown Browser/Monitor, are encouraged and recommended.  By leveraging these tools in teaching, education can be better personalized and "student-centered".

    Accessibility compliance, student privacy and confidentiality, FERPA, and student technical support is provided for all of GVSU's enterprise technology solutions. In addition, from an accreditation standpoint, because the university provides and supports these resources as a central service, accreditation requirements are ensured. 

    Using Blackboard is recommended as referenced in GVSU's 2021 Strategic Plan: "Objective 1.D.2: At least 93% of faculty members regularly use electronic course management tools, such as Blackboard, in their teaching."

    Further, as the institution explores student success and retention applications for early alert of "at risk" students, using GVSU's enterprise solutions will provide rich data insights through integrated campus systems.

    Finally, when using third party applications, we recommend embedding or placing a link and launching these applications from within GVSU's enterprise learning management system, Blackboard
  2. Provide Syllabus Statements 
    Course syllabi should include information for students about what additional technologies may be required for the class. Options for students that decide to not create an account or agree to the web service terms, as well as additional ways for the student to complete the assignment or access the material should be defined.
  3. Review End User License Agreements
    External tools and web services have their own license and usage agreements, and students will need to agree to these terms in order to use the service. Care should be given to these license agreements as data is always collected about users and could be used beyond the scope of your class for advertising or other vendor purposes.
  4. Offer Student Guidance
    To protect from FERPA issues, students should not be required to disclose personally identifiable information, grades, enrollment, assignments, or any other class activity publicly. In addition, information posted publicly by students can become part of the students' online persona which can be available to potential future employers.

    Be able to provide students with how to, and technology support/troubleshooting for the third party tools.
  5. Protect Student Data
    Any confidential student data should not be stored or posted by students on any external web services.
  6. Ensure Accessibility
    Check to be sure the web service planned to be used has VPAT documents and review the support for WCAG 2.0 AA which is a standard used for accessibility compliance. Many social media and external third party web service resources may not have proper accessibility capabilities. Using third party products can violate the GVSU Web Accessibility Policy or be of concern when a student with a documented disability attempts to use these applications.

Sample Syllabus Statements

Social Media, Cloud Accounts, and Privacy

As an emerging professional, your online persona and “personal brand” is important.  To provide an authentic experience with real-world application, social media and cloud service accounts (external to GVSU) will be required throughout the semester. These accounts you create and the work you author will be public, however, you will not be required to disclose any personally identifiable information such as your full legal name.

Students are required to review all external account policies and end user account agreements as well as privacy statements for the associated service. If critical, students may use a pseudonym, alias, or enable privacy settings as long as the instructor is notified.

Under FERPA, as a student, your educational records are considered confidential. If you have any concerns about privacy, please contact the instructor immediately. Also please note that all course communications will fall under the Student Code of Conduct and Academic Integrity policies.

Additional Resources

Page last modified May 6, 2024