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Social Media: An Integration Guideline for Teaching and Learning: Strategic considerations

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Assistant Professor

Wei Zakharov's picture
Wei Zakharov
3053P WALC

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There are issues faculty need to be aware of during implementation of social media for teaching and learning. Issues to be examined are related to syllabus, copyright, intellectual property, academic integrity, FERPA, HIPAA, anti-harassment, and inappropriate content.  


If you use social media in your class, please use the following guidelines when adding information to your syllabus. Please be aware that your department or college may have additional guidelines that may need to be included.


The use of copyrighted materials in social media postings that are made as part of a class assignment or the further use or distribution of such postings containing copyrighted material by students, faculty and staff at Purdue are governed by Purdue’s policy on the use of copyrighted materials for educational and research purposes, found at

A faculty member must know the copyright status of the material being used for teaching and learning in their course. Put simply, students and faculty should not post materials for which they do not own the copyright. Social media postings, including those required for class purposes, are covered by the same copyright considerations as any other form of publication. Posting links to those copyrighted online resources is usually acceptable, as is providing the same contribution information as students would use in a written paper. Faculty may wish to inform students that copyright restrictions apply to postings to social media sites. 

An alternative to using copyrighted work would be using Open Educational Resources as well as Creative Commons work. The Educause Learning Initiative (ELI) defines Creative Commons as an alternative to traditional copyright, devel­oped by a nonprofit organization of the same name. Creative Commons allows copyright owners to release some of those rights while retaining others, with the goal of increasing access to and sharing of intellectual property.  Creative Commons can be described as a legal development that is meant to be a social movement, as it offers an alternative to traditional copyright laws.   ELI explains that supporters of Creative Commons believe that social media technologies have superseded current copyright law, and that creative commons offers more flexibility to content producers working with these tools.  Specifically:

According to the Creative Common’s website ( ),

Creative Commons licenses give you the ability to give express permission for others to use your copyrighted works—such as the right of others to copy your work, make derivative works or adaptations of your work, to distribute your work and/or make money from your work. They do not give you the ability to restrict anything that is otherwise permitted by exceptions or limitations to copyright—including, importantly, fair use or fair dealing—nor do they give you the ability to control anything that is not protected by copyright law, such as facts and ideas (online).

At the heart of Creative Commons is the idea of Share Alike – which, as Creative Commons states, “If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one”(online).  It also enforces attribution rights.  This means that if any percentage of a work under a Creative Commons license is used, one must provide attribution to the original creator of the work through Copyright management information, which identifies the work to the author, as well as the terms and conditions for use.

For more information about copyright, contact the Purdue University Libraries Copyright Office at 

Intellectual Property

Postings to social media sites for class purposes are governed by the same intellectual property considerations as any other form of publication.  Please see Purdue’s official policy on intellectual property at for more information.

For answers to specific questions, contact the Purdue University Libraries Copyright Office

Academic Integrity

Students posting on social media sites as part of a class assignment are bound by the same rules of integrity as students submitting work in any other medium.  It is suggested that the following links be placed in your syllabus along with a clear statement that the both the spirit and the letter of these guidelines apply to social media postings made to class sites:

Purdue University Statement of Integrity and Code of Conduct:


The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. Most faculty and instructors at Purdue are well versed in FERPA requirements, but may be confused as to how they apply to social media use. Orlando (2011) offers the following suggestions related to FERPA and the use of social media:

  • When students are assigned to post information to public social media platforms outside of the university LMS, they should be informed that their material may be viewed by others.
  • Students should not be required to release personal information on a public site.
  • Instructor comments or grades on student material should not be made public. (Interestingly, grades given by other students on “peer-graded” work can be made public under FERPA). (ACE, 2008)
  • While not clearly required by law, students under the age of 18 should get their parent’s consent to post public work.

FERPA does not forbid instructors from using social media in the classroom, but common sense guidelines should be used to ensure the protection of students.  

Please see the Office of the Registrar site on FERPA at for more information. 


The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) rules create a framework to protect the privacy and security of patient’s and health plan member’s health information. Any faculty member or student with legal access to protected health information should receive training on handling HIPPA sensitive data. If you use social media in your class, and if you have reason to believe that you might have individuals in your class that could have access to protected medical information, it is important to be aware of as well as inform students about protocols related to HIPPA.

Purdue’s official HIPAA policy is found at  


According to Purdue’s official policy on Anti-Harassment found at, harassment is:

“Conduct towards another person or identifiable group of persons that has the purpose or effect of:

  1. Creating an intimidating or hostile educational environment, work environment or environment for participation in a University activity;
  2. Unreasonably interfering with a person's educational environment, work environment or environment for participation in a University activity; or
  3. Unreasonably affecting a person's educational or work opportunities or participation in a University activity.

Use of the term Harassment includes all forms of harassment, including Racial Harassment and Sexual Harassment. Instructors using social media in their class should post this definition of harassment in the syllabus and include language that this definition covers social media activity as well. 

Inappropriate Content

Procedures should be in place to monitor the class-related social media site(s) for improper or inappropriate activity.  The account administrator would typically be the one to conduct such monitoring, but students may share in this task. 

For additional information or to report incidents, visit the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities web site at .  

Adapted from
Zakharov, W., Horton, A., Reid, P., Willis, J., & Attardo, D. (2017). Social Media: An Integration Guideline for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. In Learning and Knowledge Analytics in Open Education (pp. 149-169). Springer International Publishing.