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Data Literacy for Students

Oklahoma State University (OSU) facilitates students' academic and personal success through the gathering of relevant data. As part of our normal operations, we safely collect and store public, private and/or personally identifiable data, which allows us to accomplish a variety of tasks, such as enabling online course registration, restricting access to residence halls, and managing Meal Plans. At OSU, we want to be transparent about our practices so that students can understand how their data is collected and used. We also make recommendations on how students can protect their privacy.

The University's Data-Informed Approach to Enhancing Your Success

Individual offices and departments oversee initial data collection and storage, following applicable laws and policies. Some of that information is shared with other OSU departments, which may include Institutional Research and Analytics (IRA). 


OSU follows state and federal regulations to ensure that data is maintained for the legal minimum length of time. University departments determine how long to preserve data after that; this is usually based on operational needs. 


The information below is not exhaustive but is meant to illustrate typical practices on campus. This section may be updated as needed without notification. If there is a term that you do not know, check our Data Dictionary. We also refer to “FERPA-trained university staff” several times. This indicates that only school officials (OSU employees) who have a legitimate educational interest and have undergone appropriate FERPA training have access to restricted data. These staff may view individual and aggregate student data.


Student Data Categories

We have identified several categories of data below. Each section indicates a general explanation of the personally identifiable data collected, why it is used, the data collection method, and where it is shared.


For detailed information, click the data category name.
Data Category Examples
Student Record Data Identity, demographic, contact, communication information
Academic Data Grades, class schedule, transfer information, proxy designations
Student Financial Data FAFSA, scholarships, Bursar charges and payments
Health Data Medical, prescription, insurance, vaccine records
Engagement Data Event and meeting attendance, volunteer service, co-curricular interests
On-Campus Housing Data Room preferences, demographic information, engagement activities
Location Data Building access, dining transactions, event and meeting check-ins, Wi-Fi use
Career & Employment Data Career Services event attendance, OSU job applications, new hire paperwork
Testing & Assessment Data Survey responses, course placement scores, proctored testing appointment information
Library Data Library resources & instruction, check-outs, room reservations, fines, print jobs
Research Data IRB-approved participant information, Graduate Research Assistant employment information
Online Activity Data Course assignment scores, Zoom usage, Microsoft activity
International Person Data Immigration information, SEVIS number, program start and end dates

How To Protect Your Privacy

At Oklahoma State University, we proactively work to protect your privacy, with special oversight by the Departments of Information Technology (IT) and Institutional Research and Analytics (IRA), through administrative units to end-users who must complete periodic trainings to be granted access to data. Management of student records is regulated by federal laws such as FERPA and HIPAA, state guidance such as the Consolidated Records Disposition Schedule for State Universities and Colleges, and IT’s Batch Retention Policy.

Cybercriminals or “bad actors” may try to gain access to university systems and personally identifiable information through social engineering, or tricking users into compromising network security by sharing passwords or other information. Students and employees can further protect their own privacy as well as that of other members of the campus community through their individual actions. This section includes several resources to help students protect themselves and each other.

If you have questions or you're not sure if your data is safe, please contact us at


  1. Set up Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) to verify your identity when logging into university systems.

  2. Reset your OSU password at least every 120 days and any time you think your password may be known by someone other than yourself. Keep your password private. Change your password for other apps and websites periodically.

  3. Complete IT Security Awareness Training to learn more about how folks with bad intentions might try to gain access to your accounts or information. This training is required for some campus users.

  4. Download OSU’s Virtual Private Network (VPN) on your computer or phone. Using this tool can protect your information while browsing on the web, but it is also required to access some OSU websites and resources when off-campus.

  5. OSU ID cards can be used to access restricted areas of campus and to charge goods and services against your Bursar account or meal plan. Keep your OSU ID card safe and do not lend it to others. Report lost cards immediately. Other guidelines are available on the ID Services website.

  6. Review your privacy settings on apps and websites periodically, including apps that are linked to your OSU account, to restrict how they share data (ex. Canvas, Microsoft OneDrive, etc.).

  7. Consider how you protect the privacy of friends and family. Be careful when sharing contact information, tagging content, identifying a location, etc. Learn more about protecting the privacy of friends and family at this blog on Digital Citizenship.

  8. IT provides many tips on their Cyber Security Education web page with information on how to protect yourself in several different circumstances, including on social media, while working from home, or during the holidays.

  9. Career Services provides information on how to Recognize & Avoid Job Scams.

  10. By accessing OSU’s website, you generate some data which can be used by OSU or third parties. Review OSU's Website Privacy Notice.

  11. Learn about the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and how OSU follows the federal law to protect your privacy. You may also designate certain individuals as "proxies" to view or discuss your academic records. Proxies may not act on your behalf.
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