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 technology such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Piazza, Trello, Slack, or other cloud services that provide sharing can create highly collaborative active learning.

While these products are useful and can serve pedagogical benefits and offer unique capabilities, caution should also be exercised when using these platforms to ensure campus policies as well as student confidentiality and privacy is maintained. Policies that include FERPA and web accessibility are the most directly related to using these external technology solutions.

In short, if students are required to use web services and tools not licensed by GVSU, there can be concerns related to policies that protect student information, privacy, and accessibility.

Overall, enterprise campus technologies such as Blackboard and Panopto are encouraged and recommended to be used to ensure institutional student privacy and accessibility policy compliance, as well as to support accreditation requirements around student support for technologies used in teaching and learning. In addition, Blackboard is recommended as a GVSU 2021 Strategic Plan connection: "Objective 1.D.2: At least 93% of faculty members regularly use electronic course management tools, such as Blackboard, in their teaching."

TECH BYTES - Using Twitter as an Educational Back Channel


  1. Use Enterprise Campus Technologies
    The university’s enterprise learning management system, Blackboard, and other campus technologies are encouraged and recommended. Accessibility compliance has been reviewed, student privacy and confidentiality is maintained, and student technical support is provided for all of GVSU's campus wide technology solutions. In addition, from an accreditation standpoint, because the university provides these resources as a central service, accreditation requirements are ensured.
  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.
  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. Many social media and external third party web service resources may not have proper accessibility compliance. Using these products can violate the GVSU Web Accessibility policy or be of concern with a student with a documented disability.

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 March 29, 2018