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Using Third-Party Tools for Instruction

Third-Party Service Providers (TPSP)

The information contained in this portion of the site identifies common issues and risks that may occur when an instructor chooses to use third-party hosted (sometimes called "cloud") tools in instruction, and also provides recommendations on steps for individuals to take to reduce the risks associated with such tools. This information is not intended to be used for evaluating non-instructional purposes of such tools.

Potential Areas of Concern:

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Things to consider...

  • Have you selected a TPSP that is accessible to the hearing/vision impaired? (Closed Captioning for video sites, JAWS compatibility for web-pages)
  • Do you have a back-up plan for students who are unable to use the tool due to accessibility issues?

You should...

  • Do research in advance in order to confirm that the tool you are using is accessible.
  • Have a back-up plan or alternative approach for students who cannot use the tool.
  • Have a transcript available for audio and video resources provided to students as part of your assignment.

Assessment of Student Learning

Consider this...

  • Can you measure the effectiveness of the tool or service in your course?

You should...

  • Use pre and post assessment quizzes, tests, or surveys to collect information on the impact of using the TPSP as a part of your course activities.

Availability/Sustainability of the Service

Things to consider...

  • What assurance do you have that the TPSP will continue to provide an acceptable level of service?
  • How do you get your information back and continue your class or research if the TPSP goes out of business?

You should...

  • Have a back-up plan in case the TPSP is becomes temporarily or permanently unavailable.

Confidential Data

Things to consider …

  • The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) prohibits disclosure of student education records without student consent.
  • FERPA regulations permit sharing of student education records only with TPSPs that: a) accept designation, as “school officials” with “legitimate educational interests” in the records, and b) agree to use the records only as necessary to provide the service and for no other purpose without appropriate authorization.
  • The Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) prohibits unauthorized disclosure of protected personal health information.

You should …

  • Eliminate or minimize the confidential data entrusted to any TPSP
  • Obtain written consent from students prior to sharing their personally identifying and/or confidential data with the TPSP or other students in the class
  • Have a written agreement with the TPSP that advises the TPSP of its obligations under FERPA (or other applicable law), and that includes assurances that the TPSP will not make unauthorized use of the confidential data.
  • Avoid allowing apps to connect to your official (non-personal) media presences.
  • Use an encrypted network, not a public connect to access your official accounts.
  • Take care to log off of public computers, and never save passwords on a public work station.

Contract Obligations

Things to consider...

  • What rights are you giving away when you sign up for a (TPSP) account?
  • Can the TPSP use your information in objectionable or inappropriate ways?
  • Do students need to create accounts with the TPSP in order to complete the course work?
    • If yes; have students had an opportunity to read the TPSP’s Terms of Service and agreed to use the TPSP in advance of the class/assignment? (Preferably in writing.)
  • Do you have a back-up plan for students who are unwilling to comply?
  • Have you informed your students that the Texas State Appropriate Use Policy (UPPS No. 04.01.07) applies to their use of the TPSP for class-related activites?

You should...

  • Read and save a copy of the TPSP’s contract, agreement, Terms of Service, and/or privacy policy before signing up. Don’t just click through the verbiage.
  • Print a copy of the contract/agreement at the time that you sign it.
  • Periodically compare the on-line versions of these documents with your saved versions to learn if they have changed.


Things to consider...

  • Will copyright issues arise in the use of the service or tool?
  • Do you need permission from a copyright owner for materials that will be made available via the TPSP?
  • Who will own the copyright to TPSP content created by students or colleagues?
  • In what ways can the TPSP use your information/content?

You should...

  • Review and inform your students about the copyright guidance available to them.



Consider this...

  • How can you help ensure that your students engage in safe and respectful behavior while using the tool?

You should...

  • Outline your expectations for student involvement by providing a basic set of rules for appropriate online behavior.

Record Retention

Things to consider...

  • Do you have a way to retain the student work at the end of the class or project?
  • Do you have a way to remove student artifacts per the retention schedule?

You should...

  • Make sure to retain copies of the student work outside of the tool itself, preferably on university owned property (e.g. - TRACS or a department file storage share) if student use of the tool is tied to a grade.

Student Buy-In

Things to consider...

  • How can you help ensure that students will actually use the tool?
  • Does the TPSP offer any metrics/reporting on student usage of materials provided?

You should...

  • Attempt to include students in the selection process.

Student Privacy

Things to consider...

  • Is it possible to set student work or class work as private requiring a log in?
    • If no, have you made students aware that they will be sharing their information publicly?
    • If yes, will the TPSP federate with Texas State, allowing Texas State’s Identity Provider service to authenticate identity and assert the user’s eligibility attributes to the TPSP?  
  • Is it necessary for students to see each other’s work on the TPSP? (for review and collaboration)
  • What steps do you need to take to educate your students about the TPSP you will be using?

You should...

  • Give your students as much information as possible about the tools you will be using in advance, and give them an opportunity to research and ask questions before committing to using the tool.
  • Provide information in your course syllabus about all third-party tools or services you will be using in the course.
  • Obtain permission from your students before having them agree to use TPSP tools.
  • Have an alternative available for students who have a reasonable objection to using the tool or service.



Consider this...

  • Does the TPSP offer reference sources of help (such as documentation and training) and/or interactive assistance (such as phone, email and live chat support), and if so how good are they?

You should...

  • Do research in advance in order to confirm that the tool you are using has a reliable support structure, and experiment with using these options prior to committing to use the tool to determine whether they will meet your needs and the needs of your students.



Closed Captioning

Closed captioning is the process of displaying text on a television, video screen, or other visual display to provide additional or interpretive information to individuals who cannot access it audibly. Closed captions typically show a transcription of the audio portion of a program as it occurs (either verbatim or in edited form), sometimes including non-speech elements.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing refers to applications and services offered over the Internet. These services are offered from data centers all over the world, which collectively are referred to as the "cloud."

JAWS (Compatability Reader)

JAWS (Job Access With Speech) is a computer screen reader program in Microsoft Windows that allows blind and visually impaired users to read the screen either with a text-to-speech output or by a Refreshable Braille display.  A refreshable Braille display is an electro-mechanical device for displaying Braille characters, usually by means of raising dots through holes in a flat surface. Blind computer users, who cannot use a normal computer monitor, use it to read text output.

Third-Party Service Provider (TPSP)

Any provider of a product or service that is not a part of the Texas State University System.

Web 2.0

Web 2.0 is a term used to describe the second generation of the World Wide Web in which content is user-generated and dynamic, and software is offered in a virtual format, mimicking desktop applications.  The internet is viewed as a medium in which interactive experience, in the form of blogs, wikis, forums, etc, plays a more important role than simply accessing information .

Additional Resources


If you are interested in learning more about using TPSP tools to build community in your courses please contact the Learning Experience Design (LxD) team at (512) 245-2319 or

Managing Your Online Presence

If you reached this page looking for information on social networking for personal use and/or would like to better understand how to manage your privacy and security while using social networking tools, please visit the IT Security Awareness Site:

IT Security: Social Networking (Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, Hi5, Orkut)

See section 04 of UPPS No. 04.01.01, Security of Texas State Information Resources, for guidance in the handling of confidential information, including student education records protected from disclosure under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Guides for Cloud Computing and Using non-Texas State Information Services

Technical Support

For assistance with general issues, guidance with how to get started, advice on tools, or for technology assistance, contact the Faculty Project Lab at (512) 245-2319 or

Copyright Assistance

For assistance with copyright issues, please contact the University Copyright Office at (512) 245-1090 or visit  

For assistance with general information policy, security, or privacy issues:  Information Security office at (512) 245-4225 or