The Department of Education US has issued guidelines that aim to give colleges and universities, as near campus and online classes move amid concerns of coronavirus more regulatory flexibility.

A March 5 document guide includes temporary exemptions from federal and accreditors of new or expanded programs of distance education.

"The Department is providing broad approval to allow institutions to use online technologies to accommodate students on a temporary basis, without going through the process of regular approval of the department if a institution another way to seek approval from the department for use or expansion of distance education programs is required, "says the document. "We are also allowing accreditors to give up their review requirements for distance education institutions working to accommodate students whose enrollment is interrupted otherwise, as a result of COVID-19."

The department also on March 12 issued guidelines on privacy requirements for students.

Typically, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) does not allow universities to disclose information about students without their consent, including details about your health.

However, in the case of a health emergency or safety, the department said FERPA allows universities to share personally identifiable information about students without their consent. Coronavirus pandemic qualifies as an emergency.

"The agencies and educational institutions such as school districts, schools, colleges and universities can play an important role in slowing the spread of COVID-19 in the communities of America," he said guidelines on 12 March. "Through the exchange of information and coordination with public health departments, agencies and institutions can help protect their schools and educational communities."

Amelia Vance, director of youth and privacy education in the future of Privacy Forum, said that much of the new approach described in freeing the department during extension 2009 H1N1 .

For example, if a student were to test positive for coronavirus or had symptoms, the university could release a statement saying that a student tested positive, without identifying the student.

universities could also send emails to students who shared specific classes with the sick student. While the guidance published today says that these situations are often rare, Vance said he probably will not be the case with the coronavirus.

For those concerned about violating the regulations, Vance pointed to a FERPA regulation 2009 that said the won department 't second-guess the determination of a school emergency unless most people would consider that it is unreasonable.

The second exception allows universities to identify students at public health departments. If the school an emergency is declared, it can provide such information without the consent of the students. If a university said it is not an emergency, the department could hypothetically issue a subpoena to get the information, said Vance.

The university officials should consider is asked to record cases when sharing student information without consent, said Vance. It is recommended that track in real time so you do not have to retrace their steps after the situation calms down.

Q & A in Distance Counseling Education

For more information about what the March 5 Release Media department for schools, Inside Higher Ed exchanged e-mails with Phil Hill , Mindwires Consulting analyst who blogs at, and Daniel Madzelan, assistant vice president of government relations for the American Council on Education. <. / P>

versions slightly edited their responses are then

Q: How long resignations of the department on the approval of education programs distance effect < p> Madzelan :? Education Department grants Title IV eligibility for educational programs of the institution. One aspect of eligibility is the mode of delivery. A program that is approved only for instruction in place is not eligible for online delivery unless / until ED approves the request for the institution to deliver that program online.

The department is saying that a site-only program eligibility may change online without going through the approval process ED ordinary if that program in place was eligible for the current pay period. I said a little different, if the current semester (ie payment period) includes March 5, then the institution can now offer the online program for the rest of the semester without obtaining prior approval ED.

After this semester (ie payment period), the institutions would have the insurance eligibility for implementing programs online through the normal process (unless ED provides guidance to the contrary in a later date)

Q :. in courses that have moved to the online environment, will be the department or accreditors meet the requirement of trainers in education programs remotely to initiate regular communication background with students

Madzelan:. Presumably standard protocols for examining the Ed and audit procedures will remain in place

Q: From a regulatory standpoint, the specifics of quality problems with online programs of universities need to monitor closer

hill :? One concern of quality that is very important for the monitor is equal access to courses and tools necessary for its implementation - essentially trying to make sure we do not increase the opportunity gaps. Yes, we are in an emergency mode that overcomes some other concerns, but institutions should not ignore the effect of remote unplanned delivery of face-to-face courses can have on a wide range of students.

On the front accessibility, institutions should provide guidance to teachers on how to include reasonable transcription of virtual discussions (eg through the zoom) and how to leverage existing tools to do so. For example, Flipgrid automatically adds captions to videos created through its platform and can be used for asynchronous discussions based on video.

The same principle applies to address the needs of deaf or hearing impaired, etc. . schools have access to ally checking tool accessibility should be proactive in controlling materials of instruction classes in which students who use screen readers are enrolled. We have a good knowledge of what works and how to implement within the courses people who have been immersed in the delivery of online and hybrid courses, and institutions should share this information and monitor and provide ongoing guidance.

in front of equity, institutions should provide guidance on the potential needs of the student groups disproportionately affected. Students may not have reliable broadband at home - can help the institution with a list of where to find off-campus Internet access or maintenance facilities available to all students? Some groups of students need additional support structures over the distance, including online tutoring, technology support to navigate the online environment and management guidance time. Institutions should share training resources online for students (and teachers), and should consider increasing investment and availability of online tutors and advisers

- .. Madeline St. Amour contributed to this article

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