FERPA & Merged Blackboard Courses
In general, disparate courses cannot be merged in Blackboard (Bb). However, there are numerous times when Bb course merges are permissible and/or desirable. This page provides further information about when and how disparate courses could be merged and suggests alternative actions when they cannot.
For students who have exercised their rights under FERPA to place a block on release of any directory information, we are legally not allowed to show even the names of students to students in other sections. The US Department of Education (USDOE) does allow students within a course to see the names (but not contact information) for other students in the course - just as they would see them in the classroom - but does not allow this across courses.
Additionally, when the courses have different faculty, merging them into a single Bb course would give faculty members access to academic record information for which they do not have a legitimate educational interest under FERPA.
Bb Merge Review Process
The Office of the University Registrar will review requests for Blackboard course merges, weighing all information available at the time of the review. The review takes into account information such as course levels, student use of certain Bb tools, student confidentiality holds, and pedagogical need. After add/drop, a final review of all merged Bb courses will take place to reconfirm that FERPA concerns do not exist.
What merges need an additional layer of review?
Merges of courses that are not cross-listed in Banner require review prior to the Bb course merge to ensure there are no FERPA concerns. This includes one instructor choosing to merge multiple sections of their own courses into one Bb course, and multiple instructors choosing to merge each of their sections into one Bb course. If the courses are taught by different primary instructors, but each instructor is listed in Banner as a secondary instructor on the other's course, concerns regarding faculty access to academic record information may be mitigated.
If certain Bb tools will not be available for student use (student send email, class roster, discussions, groups, wikis, and blogs), the request to merge will have a simpler review process. If one or more of those Bb tools will be available for student use, the review to confirm FERPA concerns do not exist may be more complex.
Special note about lab sections of shared co-requisite lectures: Students are co-mingled in the lecture (and/or discussion) sections in different combinations. Therefore, we view the array of lecture, lab, and discussion sections as multiple parts of one single course. A request is still required, but approval will be granted for these course combinations. One instructor should submit the request to merge these sections on behalf of all the other instructors.
What merges do not need an additional layer of review?
Sections that are cross-listed in Banner are considered by W&M to be one single course. Instructors do not need to submit a request to merge the courses if all courses included in the merge are officially cross-listed with each other in Banner. These sections can be merged in Bb by the primary instructor without additional assistance or review.
If instructors wish to merge courses in Bb that are not cross-listed in Banner, they will submit the Request to Merge Blackboard Courses to the Office of the University Registrar. In the case of multiple instructors requesting to merge their courses in Bb together, only one instructor needs to submit a request form. We will review the request as quickly as possible and follow-up if any clarification is needed. Please note that we anticipate increased volume of requests at the beginning of each term.
Instructors with questions about the process should contact the Office of the University Registrar at [[w|ferpa]]. General Bb help provided by Information Technology can be found on the Blackboard Help for Faculty page.