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Merged Courses & FERPA Considerations

What is a merged course?

If an instructor is teaching two (or more) sections of the same class (with the same modality and length), they can request to have the course shells merged in Canvas. This can save them time in content creation and course facilitation. Shells for similar sections can be merged prior to the course being published. Once the course is published and students have engaged with content, the course cannot be merged (or unmerged).

NOTE: Crosslisted courses are different sections of course that all share the same instructional time, such as Beginning, Intermediate, and Advance Painting. Crosslisted courses automatically have one course shell. FERPA considerations do not apply to crosslisted courses.


What is FERPA?

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of students' information and education records. As instructors, we are responsible for safegaurding the personal information of our students. This protection is most important for any personal information we might have about students. This can include their contact information as well as their grades and course information. 


FERPA Considerations in Canvas Merged Courses

Students who are not in the same sections cannot interaction. Instructors with merged course shells (this does not apply to crosslisted courses) need to be aware of and adhere to the following information when building content for merged courses. 

FERPA Guidelines explained by General Counsel

General Counsel Keith Dobyns explains FERPA guidelines for merged courses in Canvas in this video clip from the DEC Chair meeting on March 1, 2024.

FERPA Guidelines in Canvas

While a student’s name constitutes directory information that FERPA allows for disclosure, the name of the student together with the course name, schedule, content, etc. would be protected FERPA information not subject to disclosure to students who are not in the enrolled class (i.e. the merged course). Given that colleges throughout the CCC system handle this situation in various ways, in consultation with legal counsel, RCCD chose to model our guidelines for FERPA compliance with merged courses after those published on San Diego Community College District's website:

These guidelines set forth a good practice for ensuring FERPA compliance with merged courses.  While the Dept. of Education has not addressed it, there appears to be a consensus that FERPA compliance is an issue with merged courses.  We should encourage all faculty to implement these guidelines to ensure FERPA compliance.


FERPA Training

To access student information in WebAdvisor, such as phone numbers and personal emails, FERPA training is required. Previously, this training was accessed through 4faculty.org, which is no longer available. To access student information, FERPA training is required. Previously, this training was accessed through 4faculty.org, which is no longer available. ​

​While new District FERPA training is being identified, faculty who want to access student information via WebAdvisor & Canvas, can register for & complete the FERPA 101: For Colleges & Universities (Accessible)​ course, created and run by the US Department of Education. This free training is estimated to take 35-45 minutes and requires faculty to watch videos, read some text, and answer quiz questions. To be FERPA Certified, please do the following: 
  • Create a free account using your district email. 
  • From the multiple courses shown, select "FERPA 101: Colleges and Universities (Accessible).” 
  • ​After completing this FERPA training, download and save the certificate provided. 
  • Upload your certificate to the FERPA Certification Submission Form.
It can take up to 48 business hours for a reply once the form is submitted. Please email District DE​ for assistance. Additional information about FERPA concerns for merged courses is available in the RCCD DE Instructor Resources shell.