Written by Regional Educational Laboratory West (REL West). 

How can districts promote a safe and secure digital learning environment? Education leaders are quickly working to provide a safe and secure digital learning environment for students. But educators and families still have questions in three areas: securing the digital classroom, how to ensure students display good digital citizenship, and privacy and permissions.

What can districts and families do to make sure online learning is safe and secure?

With more teachers and students engaging in remote learning, reports of breaches in security are increasing. Educators, students, and families can take actions to protect against “trolling” and other disruptions, ensuring their digital classrooms are secure. Here are some things educators can do:

  1. Know and use the protections built into digital classroom platforms.
  2. Work with teachers to institute best practices around security such as making sure video conference links are not posted publicly, being aware of each child’s media release status, and safely handling students’ personally identifiable information (PII).
  3. Explicitly teach students safe practices, such as never sharing their passwords or room links.

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How can districts and families improve digital citizenship during remote learning?

Threats to student safety may also come from inside the virtual classroom. Helping students and families understand their roles and responsibilities for making the online learning environment a welcoming and safe space is critical. This is especially true for families that have internet access and technology devices for the first time. It is also important to support student social and emotional well-being and ability to cope with stress and anxiety. Here are some things educators can do:

  1. Establish and communicate norms for good behavior in digital learning environments to students and their families. Emphasize how classroom behavior expectations translate to a digital environment.
  2. Explicitly teach grade-level appropriate digital citizenship to students.
  3. Make a special effort to connect with and provide information to families who have technology in the home for the first time.
  4. Support social-emotional learning to maintain relationships, foster resilience, and support emotional well-being.

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How do we protect students’ privacy when shifting to remote learning? Do we need special permissions from parents and guardians?

Schools and districts have always been obliged to protect students’ personally identifiable information (PII) in the physical classroom. There are new considerations in the digital classroom. Also, nearly all districts have asked parents or guardians for permission for their students to engage in certain types of digital learning, usually in the physical classroom with teacher guidance. In moving to remote learning, these permissions may need to be revised. Here are some things educators can do:

  1. Review the privacy policy and terms of service especially for new technologies. Be sure teachers and administrators have information to protect students’ privacy.
  2. Provide families with information about what student PII can and cannot be collected and shared. Give simple, clear guidance on things they should watch for to protect their children.
  3. Review and revise the parent and guardian permissions around technology use and digital learning as needed. Request parent or guardian consent.

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What are you doing to ensure students are safe online? Tell us on Twitter @REL_West or drop us a line: relwest@WestEd.org.

REL West provides research, analytic support, and resources designed to increase the use of quality data and evidence in education decision-making in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah.