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File Type and Change Considerations

Preventing Changes to Your Digital Content

Keeping your digital content from being changed is important in many situations. PDF's are a commonly used choice, but they are not foolproof and often cause more issues with access and equity than they solve.

Below are two recommendations that you can use to safeguard yourself, and your digital content to prevent future changes by your students.

Mark as Final

The "Mark as Final" feature in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel makes your document read-only once it is enabled. Microsoft makes clear that this is not a security feature, and notes that users can turn editing back on by disabling "Mark as Final." Step-by-step instructions for making your documents read-only are on the Microsoft Office support website. With this in mind, we recommend taking one additional step to safeguard yourself.

Include Course Policy on Editing Digital Content

Since most digital content can be edited by students, we recommend that you include a brief policy on editing digital content in your course that clearly states your expectations on:

  • Whether editing your course content is acceptable.
  • What your students should consider "final" or "master" course documents.
  • How digital content will be perceived by faculty and administration if it is found outside of the learning management system.

For example:

"Course Syllabi, Assignments, Assessments and other digital content provided in the course by the faculty are to be considered master, final course documents by students. Edits to digital content of any kind are prohibited unless otherwise noted. Any digital content outside of the learning management system will not be considered master, final course documents provided by the course faculty."

Note: If you update master, final course documents we recommend that you provide an announcement to your students to clearly notify them of any changes to your content. Changes can happen, and this will ensure that you are providing clear guidance to all of your students in an inclusive way.


Native vs PDF at MSU (.pptx)