How to Make Your Merged Course FERPA-Compliant

If ONE OR MORE sections you’re merging in Canvas does NOT meet one of the following criteria:

  • If your class uses I-TV, you are OK
  • If your class meets together in the same room at the same time, and students already interact IN-PERSON with students in other sections, you are OK

…You need to take a few quick steps to make sure your merged course is FERPA-compliant.

You will need to remove “People” from the course navigation, and if you use collaborative features like discussions, groups, collaboration, or peer reviews, you will need to restrict them by section or make them anonymous. Find out how below!

Removing “People” from the course navigation

You need to remove “People” from the course navigation so students can’t see a list of students in other sections.

Just go to Settings, Navigation, then drag “People” down to the Hidden area to hide them from students.



Discussions – Restricting by Section

If you use Discussions, you need to restrict them by section so students can’t see the names of students in other sections.

You just need to create one version of the discussion for each section, and then assign it ONLY to that section.

Start with one discussion, and open up its settings. Find where you set who it is assigned to, the due date, etc. Discussions are automatically assigned to everyone, but you can assign it by section. Delete “everyone” and click on the box to see a drop down list of all your sections and students. Just click on the first section and then save it. You know you’ve done it right when you get a warning! Then just create another copy of the discussion (easy tip: “duplicate” it from the options on the module), assign that one to the next section, and repeat, until each section has its own copy.


This is what an assignment looks like when assigned to only one section.


You’ll get this warning if you’ve done it correctly!


Click on the “options” gear to easily duplicate the discussion or other module item.

Students will NOT see discussions and other assignments that are not assigned to them. You can see this below in student and instructor view.


As an instructor, you can see every assignment.


As a student, you will only see published assignments that are assigned to you.

*This only applies to graded discussions, so if you have ungraded discussions in your class, you will need to use a graded discussion worth 0 points.

Collaborations – Restricting by Section

Collaborations must also be restricted by section so that students in one section cannot see the names of students in other sections.

To do this, you will need to create one copy of the collaboration for each section, just like with discussions (Tip: Use the “duplicate” option from the module!). Then, you will need to assign each copy to one section only:


Only Section 1234 has been assigned to this Google Doc Collaboration

Since you assign Collaborations based on groups, not sections, you will also need to create a group for each section in your class. This is easier than it sounds!


To start, go to “People” and click “+ Group Set”

Canvas makes it easy to set up a group for each section. First, give your group a name that helps you keep track of which section it contains (e.g. Group 1234). Then:

  1. Select “split students into __ groups”
  2. Enter the number of sections in your class. If you have 4 sections, you want 4 groups.
  3. Check the box under it that says “require group members to be in the same section”

That’s it! You will now have a group for each of your class sections. Now you can go back and create your Collaborations, and assign each copy to one group/section.


Like other assignments, students will only see Collaborations that are assigned to them.

Peer Reviews – Making Them Anonymous

If you have students peer review other student’s work in your merged course, you will need to make them anonymous so that students in one section cannot see the names of students in other sections.

Whether your peer reviews are assigned manually or automatically, make sure to check the box “Peer Reviews Appear Anonymously.” 


You will still be able to see who is peer-reviewing who, but students will not be able to see who they are reviewing OR who is reviewing them!


If you have an unusual case, and these solutions don’t work for you or make sense, contact us! We want to make it as easy as possible for you to keep merging while still complying with FERPA requirements.


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