Use of Third-Party Applications

Use of Third-Party Applications for your course

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 provide guidance to those considering the use of non-UW-Madison applications and services, as well to those who are already using them.



Communicate plans to use non-UW-Madison applications to students Instructors should communicate their intent to use non-UW-Madison applications and services, along with 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, the course is offered in a sequence, the course is not offered regularly, or the course 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. You should tell your students about your plans to use these types of 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 in order to participate in your class activity. If they do not want to assume those risks, you should take one of these actions.

  • Find a way to accommodate them such that they can 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 you cannot find a way to accommodate other ways for the student to participate, you should reconsider your use of that tool.


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, which is a legal contract. Neither instructors nor students are authorized to enter into legal contracts on behalf of the UW. As a result, they become personally responsible for the terms of the agreement 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 that the agreement is acceptable.
  • UW-Madison has signed agreements for use of some specific non-UW-Madison applications and services and there is no need for instructors or students 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 associated with using non-UW-Madison applications or services.


Each person who signs the Terms of Service does so as an individual and not as a member of UW-Madison. If legal challenges arise related to using that technology, you may be liable as an individual. Keep in mind that most terms of services 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 you decide to use technology. Know that the level of protection you may receive as an instructor may be different than the protection students may receive. If you want to know whether technology is covered by a UW-Madison agreement, email the CIO office and ask. They will be glad to assist you.


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 any 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 follow appropriate use of copyrighted materials, 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 that tells you whether you retain ownership. Some will also state that while you retain ownership, they reserve some right to use your content in some way for some period of time. Look at this statement and determine whether you are comfortable with it. It is a good idea to provide a copyright statement on your content to be explicit as to whom 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. In some cases, 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.


Comply with regulations and campus policies

  • Ensure that records can be retrieved from the non-UW-Madison application or service provider, if necessary. 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.


In some cases, content created and stored may be considered part of a student’s course record. There are UW-Madison policies that 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 retrieval of content 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 not be able to assist in any meaningful way. Contact the company prior to using the tool and determine their support.


In most cases, there are no clear answers that can be given with regard 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) and ask for some advice.
  • Contact the CIO office ( or 262-8874) and ask if an application is covered by a campus agreement. Not only will this help you, but it will also provide 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.

Keywords:third-party, unsupported, terms of service   Doc ID:106275
Owner:Timmo D.Group:Center for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
Created:2020-09-30 13:21 CDTUpdated:2023-06-19 14:26 CDT
Sites:Center for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
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