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Privacy considerations for online teaching


Email is perhaps one of the most effective ways for an instructor to communicate and engage with students.   Email is typically used for one-to-one communication between an instructor and student.   Email is official record of college business and can be subject to a Freedom of Information request. 

 Best practices: 

  • Advise students at the start of the course what email practices you will follow
  • Always use your address for communication with students 
  • Use tools with D2L to send messages to the entire class rather than group emails
  • Avoid “reply all” responses where practical—use “bcc” to avoid disclosing recipient identities to the whole group
  • Be thoughtful of what devices you use to communicate with students, it's always best to use a Camosun provided device 
  • Never share  student emails (addresses and content) with others unless needed 
  • Don’t forward student emails to persons not involved in administering the course 
  • Consider creating email folders for each course section; emails must be retained for at least one year and then should be deleted
  • Avoid use of e-mail to transmit sensitive personal or confidential information.

Virtual office hours

With the move to remote learning, office hours need to move online as well. Holding online office hours can help extend the online learning environment, contribute to instructor presence, and make you more accessible to your students ensuring you can respond to any questions or concerns. 

Best practices: 

  • Communicate what students can expect from online office hours.
  • Tell students when you are holding office hours, how you will facilitate the meetings, what platform you will use, and why students should attend them
  • To meet one-on-one with students in Collaborate use a  private group.
  • Consider using Teams for individual meetings with students. 
  • You can host a several students for drop-in office hours using a Collaborate open room.  Let students know there may be others in these group sessions. 
  • Office hour communication and engagements should typically not be recorded

Discussion forums

The use of discussion forums within D2L is effective way to engage and communicate with students.  Set the ground rules, remind students about sharing personal information about themselves or others. 

At the beginning of the course set up discussion forum for general questions related to the course, let students know about it.

Some instructors set up a discussion forum for students to engage more casually on topics unrelated to the course ("coffee chat").   It's important set the ground rules. Remind students all comments can be seen by everyone, including the instructor. 

Use of telephone

Telephone can be an effective tool to communicate with students.   While working remotely, it's important that you protect your privacy, especially with using your personal phones (land line or cell). 

Best practices: 

  •  Blocking your number when you use a personal device (cell phone or land line)
  •  Request a "soft-phone" from ITS to have your college extension forwarded to your computer 
  • Always call out to a student, and never post your personal telephone number 
  • Use Teams as an alternative to a telephone
  • Avoid texting with students, texting does not provide adequate privacy protections for you or your students