Schools Tasked With the Privacy and Security of Students During Remote Learning

The post-pandemic era has witnessed the majority of Canada gradually returning to life. Certain provinces such as Manitoba, Ontario, Alberta, and New Brunswick have decided how they will permit students to return to school.

Schools will continue with partial or complete remote learning for their students, which will involve video sessions with webcams and computer microphones. Hence, schools need to guarantee the security and privacy of the video-conferencing applications that will be used.

Rebecca Herold is an expert in cyber-security and privacy. He said that it is reasonable that people want to set up classes during the pandemic. However, they need to think first and establish the parameters surrounding how they convey these virtual classes.

The Variety of Video-Conferencing Software Used for Virtual Learning

Various school boards all over the country have conducted online or virtual classes during the Covid-19 pandemic by using different video-conferencing software programs. Schools in a particular territory or region in Canada use the same software, which may be different from what schools in other regions use.

For instance, schools in British Columbia, Alberta, and Surrey use Microsoft Teams. Schools in Toronto use Brightspace, and Google Classroom provided through an agreement with the Ministry of Education in Ontario.

Luke Mahoney, a leading authority on the board, said that the school board in Northwest Toronto, precisely Peel Region, use Google Meet and Microsoft Teams.

The Ministry of British Columbia provides Zoom licensing for school boards across the province.

Some of these software programs were already set up in a majority of the school boards before the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic only served to enhance their usage when schools had to shut down. Remote classes or virtual learning became the norm with the social distancing policy that all countries were enforcing.

Rebecca Herold said that irrespective of the choice of software program of a particular board, schools should put time and effort into making sure that their students are set up with the software program or application being used in that region for virtual learning.

Alternative or Auxiliary Virtual Learning Tools

Educational institutions located in the Winnipeg school division use a software program called GoGuardian because it enables schools to manage the devices of their students conveniently.

Radean Carter speaking on behalf of the Winnipeg school division, said that the software program aids in the monitoring and filtering of the online activities of students. In addition, GoGuardian is equipped with HTTPS, a security technology that enables school managements to restrict access to specific sites.

She also said that schools in the division also make use of the G Suite for learning. This includes Google applications such as Google Meet, Google Classroom, Google Docs, and Gmail for the majority of the school tasks. They also use Microsoft Teams to set up some of their meetings.

She further announced that the school board had ensured the provision of over 3,000 iPads and Chromebooks to students. The software program is configured to automatically install for those who already have their PC as they gain access to the school division’s program.

Carter admitted that the Winnipeg school division was behind other school divisions providing these devices to their students. According to her, this was because the division wanted to ensure that the software was installed into all devices before distribution to students.

Virtual is the New Reality

The inclusion of extra security features or programs on students’ devices and configuration of privacy settings are not enough to ensure the security and privacy of students during online classes. Teachers need to take extra measures to ensure the safety of their students during remote or virtual learning.

Janette Hughes, a research chair at Ontario Tech University, suggested that teachers give explicit instructions to their students to turn off their cameras and mute their microphones as they log in to the virtual sphere. They should only be enabled during a group discussion.

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