Topics covered in this chapter include
  • Risk management
  • Legal and policy considerations
  • Copyright and intellectual property (IP)
  • Institutional copyright and IP ownership
  • Student copyright and IP ownership
  • Third-party copyright and IP
  • What if I am found to be in breach of copyright?
  • Privacy and confidentiality
  • Use of your institution’s name, branding, and logo
  • Jurisdictional issues
  • Accessibility
  • Considerations under the Terms of Service
  • Copyright and the Terms of Service
  • Content distribution, including Creative Commons
  • Data control and security
  • Ability to delete information
  • Providing information about others to the service provider
  • Communication from the service provider
  • Changes to the Terms of Service
  • Changes to pricing
  • Considerations regarding the service itself
  • Business robustness and longevity
  • Reliability
  • Software version control
  • Advertising

For more detail, read Chapter 7 of Using Social Media in the Classroom. A best practice guide.
Risk analysis basics
  • You need to consider how much risk you are exposing you, your students and your institution to if you decide to use social media services for your class.
  • Conduct a risk analysis using a risk log that measures the probability and impact of potential events occuring.
  • Develop some mitigation strategies to counter any legal and reputational risks.


Risk analysis
It is highly advisable that you conduct a risk analysis before you use any social media tool in class. Without a risk analysis, we tend to assume that everything will go according to plan; in other words, we base our assumptions on an ideal situation. A risk analysis deals with ‘real world’ practicalities and can give you an idea of how much risk you are exposing your own and your institution’s reputation to.

Risk analysis log
A risk log is an essential tool in any risk analysis and will help you record the factors relating to each risk. Search online for a risk analysis template or modify one of my own risk analyses to save you some time.

Impact and probability scales
Using a scale to determine the likelihood of an event occurring, and the potential impact it would have on your institution, will help you understand how much risk you are exposing your project to. You can also use a table to predict impact and probability. A numeric value is assigned to each point on the scale, and doubles as it moves further up the scale to give you a sense of the weighting of the risk.

Legal and policy considerationsYou will need to consider issues relating to
  • Copyright and intellectual property (IP)
  • Privacy and confidentiality
  • Use of your institution’s name, branding, and logo
  • Jurisdictional issues
  • Accessibility


Considerations under the Terms of ServiceYou will need to consider issues relating to
  • Copyright and the Terms of Service
  • Content distribution, including Creative Commons
  • Data control and security
  • Ability to delete information
  • Providing information about others to the service provider
  • Communication from the service provider
  • Changes to the Terms of Service
  • Changes to pricing

Considerations regarding the service itselfYou will need to consider issues relating to
  • Business robustness and longevity
  • Reliability
  • Software version control
  • Advertising


Mitigating liabilityYou can mitigate some of the risks and potential liability involved in using an externally hosted social media service by
  • Ensuring that students are clear about the service they are signing up for or using. Do this by providing an in-class briefing, as well as written information in the course guide.
  • Choosing services that give students good control over their own personal information, that give them easy back-up or export options, and that allow you to delete material quickly.
  • Taking sensible precautions when using external tools for assessment purposes.

Handouts, checklists, and planning materials
Risk analysis example
This handout is based on one of my own risk analyses. You should modify and adapt it to suit your own context.

Information for students on the use of externally hosted web service providers
Handout to send home to parents or to give to students about what it means when students sign up for a social media service for class. Presented in Word format so that you can edit and customise it to suit your specific classroom context.
  • Signup information (agreements made with the service provider under the Terms of Service)
  • Notes on posting offensive material
  • Information you provide to a service provider (visibility of personal details, details of others)
  • Copyright, intellectual property and privacy (how this is dealt with by the service)
  • Cookies, monitoring, and emails (how to turn them off)
  • Responsibility for school work
  • Teacher's notes

This could be the most important handout you ever use.

Further reading

  • De Zwart, M., Lindsay, D., Henderson, M., and Phillips, M. (2011) Teenagers, legal risks and social networking sites. Faculty of Education, Monash University, Melbourne. Retrieved from http://newmediaresearch.educ.monash.edu.au/lnmrg/article/teenagers-legal-risks-and-social-networking-sites.
  • Hamblin, D. and Bartlett, M. J. (2013) Navigating social networks. Educational Leadership, 70(6), pp. 44–47
  • Howard, K. (2013) Using Facebook and other SNSs in K-12 classrooms: ethical considerations for safe social networking, Issues in Teacher Education, 22(2), pp. 39–54.
  • Howard, S. K. (2013) Risk-aversion: understanding teachers’ resistance to technology integration, Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 22(3), pp. 357–372.
  • Ribble, M. and Miller, T. N. (2013) Educational leadership in an online world: connecting students to technology responsibly, safely, and ethically, Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 17(1), pp. 137–145.
  • University of Edinburgh. (2007) Guidelines for using external Web 2.0 services. Retrieved from https://www.wiki.ed.ac.uk/display/Web2wiki/Web+2.0+Guidelines.
  • Van Ouytsel, J., Walrave, M., and Ponnet, K. (2014) How schools can help their students to strfengthen their online reputations, Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, 87(4), pp. 180–185.