Use of Third-Party Applications

Use of Third-Party Applications for your course

Third-Party Applications

When instructors find that tools provided by UW-Madison do not meet their instructional needs, they may consider using non-UW-Madison applications and services. While campus-provided applications and services meet UW-Madison guidelines for privacy, intellectual property, security, and records retention, providers of non-UW-Madison applications and services may not. This resource will review the UW-Madison policy and guide those considering the use of non-UW-Madison applications and services, as well as those who are already using them.


Policy 1 – Use

Communicate plans to use non-UW-Madison applications to students. Instructors should communicate their intent to use non-UW-Madison applications and services and a summary of issues, conditions, and risks to students in the course syllabus and Course Guide. This allows a student to withdraw from the course or request alternate solutions. Withdrawal from the course may not be possible because the course is required, is offered in a sequence, is not offered regularly, or is only offered by one instructor. The decision to use non-UW-Madison applications and services should not create an unnecessary burden for students who do not agree to the conditions of use. Instructors should weigh the needs of the course activity against the student’s privacy rights. Refer students concerned about their privacy to the Dean of Students office.


The use of tools not supported by UW-Madison carries risks. Tell your students about your plans to use these technologies as soon as possible – preferably in the first class session. Each student has the right to review those risks and determine whether they want to assume those risks to participate in your class activity. You should take one of these actions if they do not want to accept those risks.

  • Find a way to accommodate them so that they have an equal opportunity to learn and participate.
  • Allow them to withdraw if there are opportunities for them to take the class from another instructor.
  • If you are the only instructor and cannot find a way to accommodate other ways for the student to participate, you should reconsider using that tool.

Policy 2 – Terms of Service

Understand the risks to you and your students

  • Providers of non-UW-Madison applications and services may require the user to agree to a Terms of Service agreement, a legal contract. Neither instructors nor students are authorized to enter into legal agreements on behalf of the UW. As a result, they become personally responsible for the contract terms and any problems that may arise.
  • Providers of non-UW-Madison applications and services may reserve the right to change their Terms of Service at will. Instructors should check the Terms of Service agreement periodically to ensure the terms are acceptable.
  • UW-Madison has signed agreements for the use of some specific non-UW-Madison applications and services, and instructors or students do not need to sign an agreement directly with the provider. Contact for a list of existing campus agreements.
  • Contact the Office of Administrative Legal Services at 263-7400 for assistance understanding the conditions and risks of using non-UW-Madison applications or services.


Everyone who signs the Terms of Service does so as an individual, not as a UW-Madison member. If legal challenges arise related to using that technology, you may be liable as an individual. Remember that most terms of service have clauses that specify the state in which any legal cases will be heard. Don’t assume it will be the state of Wisconsin. Talk to UW Legal Services if you want further guidance on evaluating the Terms of Service document before using technology. Know that the level of protection you may receive as an instructor may differ from that of students. If you want to know whether a UW-Madison agreement covers technology, email the CIO's office and ask. They will be glad to assist you.

Policy 3 – Intellectual Property

Understand who owns the content and what they can do with it. Review the Terms of Service agreement.

  • Who owns the intellectual property rights when content is created or uploaded to the application or service?
  • Does the service provider claim rights to use the content created or uploaded to the application or service?
  • If there is a right-of-use claim, when and how are these rights terminated?
  • Identify content as “© 20XX The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents” when appropriate.
  • Instruct students to use copyrighted materials appropriately, particularly when content is publicly available.
  • Recognize that placing content on a non-UW-Madison application or service may constitute “publication” of intellectual property and may inhibit the publication of work through other means.


Most Terms of Service will include a statement on whether you retain ownership. Some will also state that while you retain ownership, they reserve some right to use your content for some time. Look at this statement and determine whether you are comfortable with it. It is good to provide a copyright statement on your content to clarify who the copyright owner is. Be aware that most Terms of Service have clauses that spell out what they will do in the case of a copyright infringement. Occasionally, accounts will be frozen or deleted with little or no notice until the issue is resolved. For a student, this can be a significant risk.

Policy 4 – Retention, Accessibility, Support, & Recovery

Comply with regulations and campus policies

  • Ensure that records can be retrieved from the non-UW-Madison application or service provider. All UW-Madison business records are subject to public records law, regardless of where they are stored.
  • Ensure that university records are retained according to the departmentally-defined records retention schedule.
  • Back up materials residing on non-UW-Madison applications and services regularly. Many providers assume no responsibility for archiving content.
  • Consider support needs. Traditional campus support models may not resolve technical issues that arise while using non-UW-Madison applications and services. Users may be required to deal with the service provider.


Sometimes, content created and stored may be considered part of a student’s course record. UW-Madison policies spell out what types of content need to be saved and for how long. In some cases, the Terms of Service will spell out how often their content is backed up and/or how to retrieve content that is lost. If it does not, don’t assume that content retrieval is possible. Back up content yourself and advise students to do the same. Think about where students will go if they have technical problems. If the tool is not supported by UW-Madison, the Help Desk will probably be unable to provide meaningful assistance. Contact the company before using the tool and determine their support.

Moving Forward

In most cases, there are no clear answers to formal recommendations for non-UW-Madison applications and services. That said, here is a recommended workflow you can follow:

  • Ask your IT Support staff for your school/college/institute/division. They may be able to help you make some sense of things and provide some guidance.
  • Contact DoIT Academic Technology ( or 262-5667) for advice.
  • Contact the CIO office ( or 262-8874) and ask if a campus agreement covers an application. This will not only help you, but it will also give them an idea of what technologies are being used on campus and help them determine whether it would be helpful to enter into some formal negotiations.
  • Contact UW Legal Services (263-7400) and ask for assistance.

Keywordsthird-party, unsupported, terms of serviceDoc ID106275
OwnerTimmo D.GroupInstructional Resources
Created2020-09-30 13:21:10Updated2024-04-17 12:27:54
SitesCenter for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
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