There is an abundance of software and services already available to facilitate teaching and learning activities or create learning materials. There are several factors to consider when selecting software for use in teaching and learning. For example, the licencing of these services differ and an increasing number of companies offer ‘freemium’ licences, that enable use in education for free.
Freemium licences are often limited to a number of users, responses or ‘items’, for example, Padlet.com limits users to 3 padlets whereas our warwick.padlet.org licence is unlimited. These services also require you to agree to terms of service that include the way in which your data is collected and used. Without careful review, use of unapproved software or services could put your intellectual property and the University’s data at risk.
To limit the risks, the University does not permit the use of unapproved software and services:
“When dealing with university-related information, whether that be business information, research data, personal data, commercial information or any other form of information, you must only use services provided or otherwise approved by the University”. Working Practices for protecting information. Information and Data Compliance.
The use of any software, regardless of how it’s acquired or implemented (e.g. paid-for licences, free to use, accessed via browser etc.), is subject to the approval of IT Services and information security. Only software provided by the University or listed as approved for use by IT Services, Information Security or Procurement may be used. Requests for the use of any other software will need to be approved by IT Services and may be referred to the information security approval process.
There are several reasons for this:
The University is legally obliged to ensure that personal data is held securely. This includes any personally identifiable data such as names, email, or IP addresses. These services often require the personal data of the tutor or students, email address being most common, to use the service. This is especially the case when the service is offering a free-to-education licence that requires the use of University email addresses for authentication.
Unapproved software has not been subject to checks against the University data protection and information security standards and therefore, pose a risk to the University.
The University is legally obliged to hold data securely and process it according to GDPR legislation. The University has no access to the data held by third parties so cannot guarantee its security, the legality of its processing or ensure it is held only for as long as required.
Software and services often have different terms and conditions for ‘free’ accounts. The terms and conditions explain how the data collected by the tool will be used and any ‘rights’ you grant the provider by using their tool. This can, in some cases, extend to rights and ownership of intellectual property. This poses a risk to you and your students.
The University has a regulatory obligation to ensure all online or web-based software and services are accessible so that all members of its community can participate fully in the learning and teaching experience. Therefore, any tool used by the University must be checked for compliance against the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018. The University is not able to change third party software therefore, the supplier is required but not legally obliged to ensure that their software or service meets the regulatory standard.
Before exploring and selecting software for teaching and learning, you should start by answering these questions:
- Do I have budget or funds available for a purchase/licence?
- Have you explored the approved software and services already available?
- Is there a similar product already available at the University?
- What is the standard tool set and configuration in your department?
- Does the standard tool set do what you need, if not, what do you need?
- Am I confident to manage and support a tool with no support?
Approved software and services for learning and teaching
The University provides a variety of software for use in teaching and learning. Information Digital Group maintains a list of software that has been assessed and approved for use.
Academic Technology provide tools and technologies that are supported and have been subject to security and data compliance due-diligence checks. You can be assured that using these tools is supported, and sustainable.
*Your department may have access to approved software and services that are not listed here.
“The approved software/service does what I need”
Contact the relevant team to get support on using that software effectively.
“I need more”
If the standard University tool set does not meet your needs, you should make a note of:
- What you need to be able to do but cannot?
- What needs to be improved?
- What the standard tool set is missing?
Once you have the answers to those questions, you should share them with the relevant teams. Feedback on the tool set will help the teams who deliver them understand the changing needs of the University.
To feedback on technologies for teaching and learning, contact academictech at warwick dot ac dot uk.
Next, evaluate the risk associated with the software or service.
When seeking out new software/services to use in teaching and learning, especially those with 'free' licences, you should consider the following:
Depth of dependency
First, assess your dependency. What are the consequences if the software/service is changed or removed?
No dependency: the software/functionality/resource could be changed/removed and it would have no impact on the students’ ability to successfully complete the module;
Mild dependency: change/removal would have an impact on the ability of students to complete the module, requiring some reasonable effort by the teaching team and/or students to make up for the loss, but could be done without too much disruption and cost;
Serious dependency: change/removal would have an impact on the ability of students to complete the module, and would require assistance from outside of the teaching team to make up for the loss;
Critical dependency: change/removal would prevent students completing the module and cannot easily be solved with the available resources within the university.
Solid guarantee: the University is fully in control of and guarantees the availability of the tools and services, provides support and fixes issues;
Good guarantee: you have a contractual arrangement that guarantees availability for a specified length of time – this still does not absolutely assure availability, but is enough to work with. There is some support provided by the vendor;
Weak guarantee: the software/services are widely used, with a global user community, and backing from a major company or organisation. There is little support provided by the vendor;
No guarantee: there is no contractual agreement, the software/service is not widely used and is not backed by a major company or organisation. There is no support provided by the vendor.
You may be keen to request or are able to fund the purchase of software and services that are not on the approved software list. Please note, assessments are an intensive process therefore, it cannot be guaranteed that an assessment will be completed to your timescale. Teaching and learning activities should not be planned or scheduled that rely on the outcome of an assessment.
For the most up-to-date guidance on the software request, purchase and renewal process, see: Using new software, or renewing existing software.
Table of contents
- The University's approach to software and licences
- Selecting software/services for teaching and learning
For further support with software, services and licencing contact:
helpdesk at warwick dot ac dot uk