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Software - Requests, Review, & Purchasing

Software selection in academic settings, particularly instructional settings, can introduce risks to students, instructors, and the university. This resource page is intended to assist faculty, instructors, and those who support and design student experiences to avoid such risks and to help assess potential software solutions.

OIT maintains a portfolio of supported and licensed software and services which have been vetted per University of California policy to meet security requirements and in some case, that fall within UC negotiated business agreements to meet required terms and conditions. Faculty, staff, and students are encouraged to make use of supported software and services and instructional tools to avoid products which could pose substantial risk.

When considering the use of software that is not centrally supported by OIT, there are important consequences to consider. Considerations and guidelines are provided below along with a list of software products and services with known issues identified through product evaluations. Faculty, researchers, and students may have specialized needs, customized needs, and discipline-specific needs that require alternative or additional software tools for use in teaching and research and that are not licensed campus-wide.

The considerations listed below are specifically intended to support software selection for course instruction; other instructional, research, and disciplinary needs and contexts will require informed judgements and nuanced decision-making. There are few one-size-fits-all solutions.


CAMPUS-SUPPORTED SOFTWARE

UC Merced students, faculty and staff can download and use many typical software titles which have been vetted and approved for widespread campus use. Many titles are available for free, and others are available for a small, typically discounted fee to UC Merced users. The available software titles vary depending on your campus role. Please consult the following pages for more information and to dowload the titles you need: 


SOFTWARE PURCHASING

CONSULTATION and EVALUATION PROCESS

If you would like help understanding the risks when using a specific product, please reach out to subject matter experts listed below who can work together to provide an assessment of the software application or tool, as well as suggest alternate solutions if needed.

Reviews will be shared and posted with recommendations described below.

GUIDELINES and CONSIDERATIONS

  • Software tools should be ADA compliant. When evaluating new tools or software, faculty should be familiar with the UC Procurement Guidelines regarding Accessibility and the Section 508 Accessibility Guidelines  and confirm with the vendor that their product meets these requirements.
  • A key consideration should be how the product vendor handles student data and student privacy. For example, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Acts (FERPA) grants specific rights to students regarding their educational records, however, the way in which FERPA protection is provided may involve a combination to the tool and the way it is used.
  • Software products purchased with University of California funds should meet information security and privacy standards in policies promulgated by the University of California Office of the President. A review of the following policies is advised regardless of the funding source. We encourage consultation the UC Merced’s Chief Information Security Officer to advise on policy interpretation and applicability, and to determine is an exception process is available, if needed.
  • Consider the cognitive demand on students who need to use multiple solutions across the campus technology ecosystem by mastering varying interfaces. If your preferred product provides no compelling features or functions beyond those provided by the campus’ standardized solution, consider the cost/benefit trade-off for students. In some cases, students may prefer common social media platforms, however there are benefits for students to also gain exposure to the professional communications technologies that are used in many workplaces. For example, Discord may be a comfortable tool for students, but Teams may be a more professional alternative.
  • Instructional products such as course-specific software should be purchased via the campus bookstore. Using the bookstore for educational software allows for the campus to make contractual arrangements with the vendor which helps ensure appropriate protection for FERPA data, security, ADA compliance, liability, and continuity of service. Going through the bookstore also helps us track demand for educational technologies, so that we can explore campus bulk licenses, in-house development, or coordination amongst different tools with overlapping usages.
  • Faculty should consider the financial burden placed on students when requiring them to by software that delivers functionality already provided by software that is site-licensed campus-wide.

SOFTWARE PRODUCT REVIEWS

Below is a listing of software products including those that have known issues. You should be particularly cautious when using these products. The assessment of these products covers 5 components. Each product posted below includes:

  • A full written review.
  • A listing of typical use cases.
  • A recommendation rating in the following five areas:
  1. Evaluation / Recommendation Status
    • Provides status on where the product evaluation is in the process and the final outcome of the evaluation.
  2. Security Recommendation
    • OIT's security team will review the vendor security documentation and provide a recommendation based on UC Security requirements.
  3. Student Privacy/Records Recommendation
    • If the product requested collects or requires any student data, the registrar will evalute the product use and provide a recommendation based on FERPA compliance.
  4. Accessibility Recommendation
    • OIT's Academic & Emerging Technologies team will review the product for accessibilty and provide a recommendation based on ADA compliance and UC requirements.
  5. Legal Recommendation
    • Before a contract with a vendor can be signed, campus procurement staff will review the vendor's terms and conditions to confirm they comply with UC contract requirements.
  • The current Contract Status. Contract status can be helpful in obtaining campus-wide pricing discounts.

RECOMMENDATION RATINGS

  • Recommended for Use: The committee did not find any major areas of concern in this category given typical use cases defined in the review. Keep in mind that a tool is rated across several categories and a Recommended for Use rating in one category does not necessarily mean the tool is recommended overall. Be sure to review all the ratings.
  • Use with Caution: The tool has been reviewed and issues were identified in this category. Use of this tool involves a level of risk for which you may be accountable, Read the full revie for a description of the issues and our recommended practices if you do decide to use the tool.
  • Not Recommended: Use of this tool us strongly discouraged, This is typically due to significant issues in the terms of use, privacy, or violation of established university policy or procedures. A list of our primary concerns is provided in the full review.
  • Not Reviewed: Based on the product and how it will be used, some areas may not need to be reviewed.

CONTRACT STATUS INDICATORS

  • Contract in Place: A contract has been established between the tool provider and UC Merced or the UC systems. Please be sure to use the took under the official agreement to take advantage of the negotiated terms of use. Details can be found in the full review.
  • Negotiations Underway: We are actively negotiating a contract with this vendor. The process can take anywhere from a couple weeks to several months.
  • Queued: This tool has enough interest that we intended to purse a contract with the vendor to address issues discovered during our review.
  • Not Planned: This tool either does not have issues that can be addressed by a contract, or there is not strong enough interest in the tool.

START THE THIRD-PARTY SOFTWARE REQUEST PROCESS

Once you have thoroughly reviewed the information on this page to understand the third-party software request process, you can make your own third-party software request by fiiling out this form.

PRODUCTS WHICH HAVE BEEN REQUESTED / REVIEWED