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Learning Technology Team

NILE Help, Support & Training

Information for Staff

Using unsupported or external tools

While the University provides a wide range of tools to all students to support teaching, learning and assessment (in particular, the various NILE tools and Microsoft Office 365), there are many more freely available tools out there on the web that you may want to use with your students. Such tools are generally referred to as 'unsupported tools' or 'external tools', because they are outside the control of the University and you and your students are not able to access help, support or training from any professional services departments (e.g., the Learning Technology Team, IT Services, Staff Development, etc.) at the University when using these tools. However, if you are digitally confident, capable, and familiar with the external tool that you want your students to use, you may be happy to use these tools anyway, and you can often find training on how to use the tool for your students on LinkedIn Learning for UON Students. Nevertheless, before using an external/unsupported tool with your students we recommend that you read the information on our 'What is NILE, and why use it?' page.

The University does not prohibit the use of external tools to support teaching and learning activities (although such tools should not normally be used for summative assessment unless the end product or an appropriate record for retention can be downloaded and submitted for assessment via NILE - see item #5 below), but it does require you to take the following into account before using them:

Main risks of using external/unsupported tools:

  • The tool provider may decide to withdraw the tool completely and with little notice;
  • If tool is free to use, the provider may decide to restrict which parts of the tool are free, and which require a payment, or may decide to move the entire tool to a paid-for subscription only model.

Assuming that you accept the above risks and have a backup plan in place in case they happen, you will then need to assure yourself that the external tool that you are planning to use is compliant with:

Finally, the following guidelines should be followed in order to use the external/unsupported tool safely:

1. If the external tool requires students to sign-up and create an account and if students are required to use the tool as part of their course, this is made clear on the course page of the University website (and, ideally, in the printed prospectus too) for a full year prior to entry. Where this is not or has not been the case, sign-up to the external tool must be entirely voluntary and this must be made clear to students. In such cases students must not be pressured to sign up to external tools or discriminated against for not signing up to use the tool. Where participation is voluntary and some students choose not to sign-up to the external tool, either the activity must be cancelled, or redesigned so that the whole class uses supported tools, or an alternative non-discriminatory activity using supported tools must be made available to students who have opted out.

2. If the tool requires students to sign-up and create an account, the students must do this themselves (i.e., a member of staff cannot do this for them using their personal information contained in NILE or OASIS) thereby knowingly entering into a legal data usage agreement with the provider of the external tool.

3. If the tool requires students to sign-up and create an account, students should be able to easily access guidance about how to fully delete their account and remove their personal data from the external tool provider's database.

4. Regardless of whether or not the external tool requires students to sign-up and create an account, students using external tools:

  • Should be informed that the tool is external to and outside the control of the University of Northampton. (This should be clear on any documentation and on any links to the tool from within NILE);
  • Should be informed about what personal information will be accessible to the external tool provider;
  • Should be informed that the University of Northampton does not have any control over how their data will be used (other than it will be used lawfully under the terms any contract they entered into with the external tool provider and with the Data Protection Act 2018, assuming that you have checked that the external tool is DPA compliant).

5. In order to comply with Office for Students (OfS) regulations, external/unsupported tools should not normally be used for summative assessment unless the end product can be downloaded and submitted for assessment via NILE. This is because the OfS require student assessments to be available for scrutiny by them for up to five years after the end of a student's programme of studies. By submitting work for assessment in NILE, this OfS regulation will be automatically adhered to. However, if the actual item of assessment cannot be submitted to NILE, it may be sufficient to submit a record of the assessed item in a different format (this is referred to by the OfS as 'an appropriate record for retention'). Examples of appropriate records for retention could include: video recordings of performances or presentations; screencapture recordings of websites or other online/digital artefacts; photographs of artworks, sculptures, and other 2D and 3D physical artefacts.

Further information about using external/unsupported tools is available on the next page: University guidelines on use of external web (cloud) services

If you require assistance with NILE, please contact LearnTech Support using the NILE Enquiry Form

If you require assistance with PebblePad, please contact PebblePad Support using the PebblePad Contact Form