Remote learning has exploded in popularity in 2020. CNBC reports that half of elementary and high school students in the United States will use remote learning this year. That’s millions of students, and it doesn’t include college students. Designing a remote learning program at this scale means that administrators need to be mindful of security issues.
Remote Learning Security: Why Does It Matter To Students?
Before delving into the security details, you need to consider what is involved in remote learning. From a student perspective, young people need the confidence and trust to ask questions and get feedback on their work. Day-to-day study is just the tip of the iceberg. Many high school students are rightly concerned about their grades and college dreams. Outside of academic accomplishment, remote learning security also matters for socialization. If students cannot trust the platform they are using, they are more likely to disengage from their studies.
Parents, Administrators and Teachers Also Need Excellent Remote Learning Security
Beyond students, administrations, teachers and families all have an interest in strong remote learning security. If sensitive data about students, such as which students have special needs, is disclosed through a hacking incident, their mental health could suffer. Further, the school’s reputation for competent management will suffer, which means more significant difficulties in obtaining funding.
Speaking of funding, many schools rely on support from parents to carry out fundraising, guide field trips, and support homework activities. What if parents feel their children’s grades and other sensitive data will be broadcast all over the internet? That loss of confidence could cost a school the contributions of dedicated volunteers and vital resources needed to run sports and music programs.
Remote Learning Security: Legal Considerations Matter
While we cannot offer legal advice, legal considerations should be taken into account as you design your remote learning security plan.
Building A Successful Remote Learning Business Case
Let’s assume your student leadership supports providing enhanced security measures for students. You then only need to develop a credible plan to ensure that remote learning security measures are correctly well designed.
1. Review Your Remote Learning Strategy
For your remote learning security methodology to succeed, it needs to be part of your overall remote learning plan rather than an afterthought. In reviewing your remote learning plan from a security point of view, use the following self-assessment questions:
- How many users will be engaging in remote learning in the next 12 months?
- What is the organization’s experience with remote learning? (If you are scaling up from zero experience in remote learning, expect to encounter more problems.)
- What resources are dedicated explicitly to remote learning success? (If there are no dedicated software tools and staff, you are more likely to have problems.)
- How long do you have to implement security measures? (If you have less than three months, you are going to have to make choices about which security needs to prioritize.)
- Are there any existing training materials or documents regarding IT security relevant to improving remote learning security?
2. Identify Your Remote Learning Security Stakeholder Needs
Every participant in the remote learning process has security needs. Any remote learning security plan needs to address their needs comprehensively.
Students are your most important priority for remote learning security, especially in the case of minors. They depend on educators, parents and others to protect sufficient protection for their personal data. You might also need to provide security guidance on non-school run technology systems (e.g., Facebook Groups) that students may be using.
Teachers typically require multiple types of systems to fulfill their responsibilities. Start by assessing the technology they use to deliver teaching, such as video conference tools. Also, make sure you include supporting technology tools like VPN security. Finally, remember that teachers also need access to administrative systems to enter grades, interact with administrators, and other activities.
In some remote learning plans, administrators are forgotten. That is a mistake. Principals, deans and other leaders need access to a variety of systems to carry out access. For example, disciplinary actions may be needed in some situations to support effective remote learning.
Finally, some stakeholders may have needs as well on an occasional basis. Governments may want data on the quality of your remote learning security measures. For example, how will you ensure security and honesty regarding exams? You need an answer to maintain government confidence. Last, though certainly not least, provide support for families to receive reports about student learning progress and have secure discussions with teachers.
Note: If you have a minimal timeline to implement remote learning security, we suggest emphasizing student security as a top priority. Discuss the trade-offs involved (i.e., staff and teacher accounts and data may have a lower level of protection) before proceeding.
3. Identify Software Tools To Improve Remote Learning Security
The right software makes an essential difference in maintaining IT security, mainly when many students use remote learning tools. Start by simplifying the number of passwords your students and teachers have to memorize by installing a single sign-on software solution. Next, make it easy for your stakeholders to get new passwords whenever needed, even on the weekends, by installing an IT security chatbot.
4. Design Stakeholder Specific Remote Learning Security Training
Young students and teachers have different needs and abilities. Therefore, you need to develop different security training materials for each of them. For students, consider using videos and games to identify critical security concepts. For teachers, take an adult learning approach by connecting remote learning security to their goals (e.g., maintaining standards as a professional). For the best results, offer various modalities to learn security, such as training seminars and self-study guides.
5. Build A High-Level Project Plan
Your final step in the business is to provide a high-level plan explaining the resources, staff and time required to implement improved security. Regarding budget, carefully state your assumptions since the actual project budget will be different once you get into the details. Once you receive approval, assemble your project team and get down to work.