6 Considerations Before Using a New Tool in Your Course

So you want to try a new educational tool in your course. 

There are lots of educational tools out there that can add functionality or support pedagogical choices in your class. What should you consider before using a tool that is not University approved in your course?


  1. FERPA and Student Data Privacy:  What kinds of data does this tool collect, if any? Tools that do not store any student data are far safer than tools that do. If the tool is collecting and storing student names and grades, it is storing FERPA restricted data, which is a FERPA violation. 
  2. Data Security: As an instructor, you do not have the authority to accept a legal agreement on behalf of the University. For example: clicking through an End User License Agreement (or EULA) and accepting that agreement, you are agreeing to that statement as yourself and could be held personally responsible for any liability. You may not require students to agree to use a tool where they must sign an EULA. Students must be able to opt out and you should plan accordingly in your pedagogical design. 
  3. Access: Is the tool accessible to all students?  Will screen readers be operable with this tool? Many newly developed tools are not accessible. 
  4. Funding: How will funding be provided to pay for the tool? It is not permitted to pass the cost of using a tool onto students in most cases. 
  5. Where is the data stored?: If student data is stored on servers outside the United States, Wisconsin State law prevents UW Madison from being able to use that tool. 
  6. How it affects the student experience: Students benefit from a consistent learning environment. Using a tool they are familiar with means they don’t need to spend additional cognitive load learning the system. Many newly developed tools can also be unstable. Encountering bugs or unexpected situations can add to student stress, especially if it occurs around assessments. 


Those are a lot of considerations, it is true. You may find a tool with functionality similar to what you need in What learning technologies are available at UW-Madison? If you have any questions, or just want a guide on this exploration, please contact CEETE ceete@engr.wisc.edu to partner with you.