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Office of the Registrar

FERPA and Merging Sections

When course sections that do not meet together are merged into a single CANVAS course primarily for administrative convenience, instructors should take steps to ensure student privacy and compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (Links to an external site.). Specifically, students in courses with merged sections should not be permitted to see or interact with students in sections other than their own unless the sections share a common meeting place and time.

Steps to Ensure Student Privacy

To prevent students from seeing students in other sections in your course, you’ll need to disable or lock down tools that expose information about students in other sections:


Under Settings > Course Details > more options, make sure the selections are as follows:

  • Check Disable comments on announcements
  • Uncheck Let students create discussion topics
  • Uncheck Let students organize their own groups

Key K-State Defaults that are automatically set:

  • Students can opt-in to receiving scores in email notifications
  • Restrict students from viewing quiz questions after course end date
  • Restrict students from accessing courses before start date
  • Restrict students from accessing courses after end date
  • Disable comments on announcements

Under Settings > Navigation, disable the following tools if not already done so (this is not a default for newer courses), which expose the names of students who use them:

  • Chat
  • Conferences
  • Collaborations
  • People

Disable the “People” menu option that allows students to see the entire course roster for all sections. When adding other People to your course, add only those users in their section only, and add them to only the sections for which they are responsible. 

If adding a student you should first consider that all students must be 'enrolled' in the course in order to participate and if they are enrolled there is no reason for you to add (the only exception are students completing a grade of 'I' and you have agreed to finish the student out in the new 'Incomplete' section or if needed to add them to the course to access content in order to satisfy the remaining requirements).

If students are given an official incomplete in KSIS, then after the term ends a process happens where a new section is created in the relevant courses, titled Incompletes, dates set for access for the duration of the next semester (about 5-6 months depending on spring/fall) and students are enrolled in that section.

Otherwise, if you are adding a student, you should NOT DO THIS as they are not officially registered and this causes larger issues along with risk concerns.


The names of all students are visible when students organize their own groups, regardless of section assignment. When creating groups, require group members to be in the same section.


The names of all students who post are visible, regardless of section assignment. Create separate groups for each section. Students can then chat with group members, all of whom will be in their own section.


If you use Discussions, create separate groups for each section of students and assign each discussion to the separate group. The names of all students who post are visible, regardless of section assignment.

For graded discussions, create differentiated discussion topics restricted to individual sections.

For ungraded discussions, use the “Post to” option to post topics to individual sections instead of the entire class.


When sending a CANVAS message to two or more students in different sections, check Send an individual message to each recipient. This will send a separate copy to each recipient and hide the names of the recipients in the message header.

Whenever you share or cause to be shared student information within a course or section(s) ensure that no student within the course or section has invoked a FERPA hold on all of their directory and non-directory information.