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FERPA Consent

Estimated time to read: 6 minutes

FERPA (The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) is a federal law protecting the confidentiality of student records. It restricts others from accessing or discussing your educational records without your consent. Here we are going to discuss how it applies to the courses I teach and what are the benefits on sharing your work publicly if you want.

FERPA consent form

Read more about the reasoning and rationale below.


This a modified version from this original.

In a typical class, your homework (and other information delineating your academic performance) would not be visible to the public. Indeed, the FERPA law requires that you have the right to privacy in this regard. This is one of the main reasons for the existence of so many "walled gardens" for courseware, such as Autolab, Blackboard, CanvasLMS and Piazza, which keep all student work hidden behind passwords.

An essential component of the educational experience in new media arts, however, is learning how to participate in the "Grand Conversation" all around us, by becoming more effective culture operators. We cannot do this in the safe space of a Canvas module. Our work is strengthened and sharpened in the forge of public scrutiny: in this case, the agora of the Internet.

Sometimes students are afraid to publish something because it is of poor quality. They think that they will receive embarrassing, negative critiques. In fact, negative critique is quite rare. The most common thing that happens when one creates an artwork of poor quality, is that it is simply ignored. Being ignored - this, not being shunned or derided - this is the fate of mediocre work.

On the other hand, if something is truly great is published - and great projects can happen, and have happened, even in an introductory class like this one - there is the chance that it may be circulated widely on the Internet. Every year that I have taught, a handful of the students' projects get blogged and receive as many as 50000 views in a week. It cannot be emphasized that this can be an absolutely transformative experience for students, that cannot be obtained without taking the risk to work publicly. Students get jobs and build careers on the basis of such success.

That said, there are also plenty of reasons why you may wish to work anonymously, when you work online. Perhaps you are concerned about stalkers or harassment. Perhaps you wish to address themes in your work which might not meet with the approval of your parents or future employers. These are valid considerations, in which case, we advise using an anonymous identity on Github. On our course repository, your work will be indexed by a public-facing name, generally your first name. If you would prefer something else, please inform the professor.

Fill this form if you want to share your work publicly. If you don't fill this form, your work should be private:

FERPA consent form