A Guide for Students: How to Protect Your Personal Data and Privacy in Online Learning

The 2020 pandemic has brought about unprecedented changes to the health, safety, and education sectors. In education, online learning and distance education has become the new norm. However, this transition means that a large amount of student’s personal data is shared online, which increases the risk of their data and privacy getting exposed.

A Guide for Students: How to Protect Your Personal Data and Privacy in Online Learning
A Guide for Students: How to Protect Your Personal Data and Privacy in Online Learning. Photo by Glen Carrie

Therefore, students need to learn how to protect their personal data and privacy online. In order for them to achieve complete online data protection, they must understand how personal data are produced when they’re learning online and how to preserve their student data privacy.

This short guide contains several tips that address the issue of personal data and privacy protection during online classes.

Table of contents

What’s online learning?
Importance of privacy and data protection
Avoid oversharing personal information
Use encrypted EdTech tools
Check each tool’s privacy policy
Check if video conferencing tools/ website/ platform protect students’ privacy
Use different secure passwords and change them often
Conclusion

What’s online learning?

Online learning is a learning experience in synchronous or asynchronous environments made possible by various devices, including mobile phones, laptops, and others with internet access. In these environments, students can remotely learn and interact with other students and instructors.

Importance of privacy and data protection

If hackers or attackers get their hand on students’ personal information, they can use it for effective, legitimate, seemingly phishing attempts against the parents. And that’s not all: intruders can capture information being sent online by a student and use it to generate valid class registration codes, which they can use to access the user profile and activity of different students with no verification.

Importance of privacy and data protection
Importance of privacy and data protection. Photo by Dan Nelson

All this information can provide intruders with an upper hand at accessing students, teachers, or parents’ personal information and using it for personal or financial benefit.

It’s important to adopt different strategies and healthy tips to prevent student’s data from falling into the hands of the wrong people. Here are 5 tips to ensure students’ personal information is safe:

Avoid oversharing personal information

It’s hard for students to resist the urge to share everything online, especially on social media. That’s why it is so easy for cybercriminals to access their personal data and use it against them. To protect your data from falling into the wrong hands, avoid oversharing, and review the website privacy rights and settings so that the people you trust can only see your status updates.

In case you are struggling with assignments, do not rush to post on Twitter or Instagram how disappointed or angry you are with your school tasks. Teachers or school administrators may be following your accounts, so it is wise to avoid any posts like that. In such cases, professional writing services can do any school assignments for you and ensure your privacy stays intact. Homework is an essential part of your education and determines your final academic grade. Professional services always ensure all your data stays private, but at the same time you should not share your passwords to your school or Google classroom accounts with anyone.

In summary, if you want to share information with your friends or family, make sure they’re comfortable with you doing so. This will prevent you from sharing sensitive personal information. Personal data like your home or school address could easily make your home a target for robbery and you a target for kidnapping.

Use encrypted EdTech tools

When visiting an education website, ensure your data is stored and transmitted safely. For instance, check that the URL has an “S” after the HTTP or search for the secure link icon in your browser URL bar. Even if your data gets leaked or acquired by any unauthorized third party, it would be useless. This way, you’ll know any data you input to the website will be safe.

However, it’s difficult to know if phone apps are encrypted. While Apple (iOS) requires all apps to communicate via HTTPS, this isn’t necessarily guaranteed for Android apps.

Check each tool’s privacy policy

For every app, you use or site you visit, check if there’s a privacy policy in place. Go through the entire privacy policy and check if they cover the issue of student privacy. Also, confirm if they work with tools that comply with a school’s student data privacy regulations.

Furthermore, a tutor or parent should consider the type of learning resource being used in online classes. Although there are many free to access platforms for education institutions, nothing is ever free. Free access also means free access to the collection and dissemination of student data or information.

Check if video conferencing tools/ website/ platform protect students’ privacy

A student, teacher, or parent should stick to education technology tools that states have vetted for privacy already. If that’s impossible, companies collecting personally identifiable information, including education records, Social Security numbers, and email address, must have a privacy policy that the public can view and read.

In the case of video conferencing platforms like Zoom, educators must avoid creating consumer accounts; rather, they should focus on opening education accounts, which has a different student data privacy policy. Zoom’s K-12 school account handles personal data differently from basic accounts.

In online learning, students log into various tools or platforms remotely, with the possibility of having little to no security supervision. Besides the complexity, they use personal devices, therefore making any group security nearly impossible.

Use different secure passwords and change them often

Using weak passwords to protect your private information is like giving hackers and attackers a green card. The same goes for using the same passwords for all of your accounts. Once somebody figures out your password for one account, he can use it to gain unauthorized access to your other accounts.

Also, avoid using the same email address for education and personal staff because it’s unsafe. Once hackers get their hands on such information, they can cause huge damage. Although it’s hard to memorize long and unique passwords, a password manager can help you memorize one master password.

Conclusion

When it comes to student’s education, at a time when everyone is rushing to adopt online or virtual learning, it’s crucial to step back and question the security and privacy levels of the educational tools they’re using. Is their data anonymous? Are they safe from cybercriminals?

Education is changing for the better via technology, at one point, a book won’t be essential anymore, and an online course will be the way to go. But as we adopt these technologies, whether at home or school, we need to pause a little and see how technology affects the safety and privacy of anyone involved, particularly students.

Published by Julie Robert

, passionate about technology, Windows, and everything that has a power button, I spent most of the time to develop new skills and learning more about the tech world because I derive great satisfaction from helping readers eliminate technological headaches that plague their day-to-day lives.