Five important data privacy takeaways from 10 months of remote and blended learning


Posted on

John Arthur Berg

John-Arthur Berg, itslearning

For almost a year, educational institutions around the world have had to adapt and improvise due to the global Covid-19 pandemic. Remote and blended learning became critical. Some systems were more ready than others.

School systems with a mature digital infrastructure in place were better prepared. Others had to scramble to procure and implement solutions in a matter of days. Shortcuts were taken, and assessment of privacy concerns were often bypassed.

Remote learning is still a big part of education in 2021 and will be with us for the foreseeable future. It is important then to review the events of the last year from the point of data privacy. Here’re some takeaways.

A global pandemic does not mean we can relax data privacy measures

For a short while, it looked like many believed that the emergency trumped data privacy. There was a rush to get hold of digital tools and content to help students with home schooling (remote learning). Suppliers that, perhaps normally, would not get through the scrutiny of a data privacy review saw a tremendous rise in interest from educational institutions. This was for a greater good, right?

But, it quickly turned out that even services that were essential for dealing with the global pandemic had to follow the basic principles of data privacy. The Norwegian government was quick to launch a contact tracing app to help control the spread of the virus, but the data protection authority was even quicker to shut it down. A global pandemic is not a reason for being relaxed about data privacy measures.

It is actually the opposite.

When the importance of personal data and the systems that process them goes from “nice to have” to “critical”, the importance of data protection increases substantially. A year ago, if a teacher’s account was hacked and deleted, they could figure out another way to run their class. But in the midst of the pandemic, it could mean that two dozen children do not receive any education for days. The need for data protection is assessed against the impact on people when something critical like this happens.

Learning point: You need to strengthen your data protection protocol in times of crisis.

Data privacy is also about availability

During the early stages of the pandemic many suppliers were hit with sudden spikes in usage on their systems. Almost every provider had stability issues, including itslearning which saw bandwidth needs tripling. Unlike us, some vendors were simply not able to support the “new” need from their existing customer base. In some cases, it took days or even weeks for these vendors to regain availability.

Most people would associate a data breach with someone hacking into the software and stealing your data. But in terms of GDPR, a prolonged loss of the availability of data can also be considered a data breach. It depends on the impact it has on your users. If a system went dark for days on end, materially impacting the delivery of education, it should be considered a data breach. What safeguards systems and vendors can offer against availability breaches should be part of any data privacy assessment.

Learning point: When assessing your vendors’ security measures, consider their ability for availability and continuity during unexpected, prolonged peak loads.

Many institutions still struggle with basic security measures

2020 saw a new phenomenon (at least for schools) dubbed “Zoom bombing”. By allowing unauthenticated access to video conferencing tools, malicious attacks were launched by guessing the URL of meeting rooms. At best it disrupted ongoing remote learning, at worst it exposed students to inappropriate content and behaviors. (Zoom has since added additional measures such as the security button to prevent Zoom bombing.)

Even institutions that only allowed authenticated users onto their systems were not immune to hacks and data breaches. Phishing, the concept of luring users to give out usernames and passwords by portraying as a legitimate service, was widespread. This is an example of why having a username/password authentication is not enough, and why data protection agencies advise that staff accounts in digital learning environments must be protected with multi-factor authentication. (You can read more about why passwords are not enough in my earlier blog post.)

Learning point: Review your basic security measures. Make sure you enforce appropriate authentication for your learning services.

Many organizations are still not aware of the rights of their students and teachers

Moving to remote learning introduced a lot of changes in many organizations. New systems were brought in and more personal data got collected. For some organizations, you could even argue that, the purpose of the processing of personal data changed. But in this process, many organizations let slip the fundamentals of adhering to GDPR.

All users of a digital learning environment have data privacy rights. Perhaps the most important is transparency around how their personal data is being processed. If you in the midst of the pandemic changed the way personal data is processed, it should be transparently documented and easily available for all stakeholders including your students (and parents).

Learning point: Do a reassessment of your “GDPR implementation”. Make sure you have the competence in your organization to appropriately protect personal data and respect the data privacy rights of your users.

But don’t let data privacy issues stop remote learning

Data privacy is a fundamental right, but so is education. So, data privacy should not be used as an excuse to discontinue online education when an event like this pandemic makes it impossible for schools to remain fully open. Data privacy should not be seen as an obstacle that puts us back into the pre-digital “dark ages”, but as a quality assurance tool for ensuring that digital services can be delivered in a safe and reliable manner.

Once this pandemic is beaten, it is important to not get complacent. Let’s assume something like this can happen at anytime. Prepare plans, infrastructure and vendor contracts to ensure that if another unforeseen incident shuts down schools in the future, you will already have a data protection friendly infrastructure in place that allows education to continue even when schools are closed.

Learning point: Once the pandemic is behind us, set up a “school continuity plan” that will facilitate a smooth and data privacy friendly move to remote learning.

At itslearning, we are committed to keeping data safe. You can learn more about our GDPR commitment on this page: Your data matters.

Watch our free webinar recorded on Feb 3, 2021 to learn more about how you can better protect data at your educational institution. You will also receive a checklist to ensure GDPR compliance at your school.

Watch On Demand

Remote learning starter kit image

Free Remote Learning Starter Kit


Recent Posts

News

The NEN Interview – Steve Tucker, CEO itslearning

June 28, 2021

Community

The itslearning planner is a great tool to give students structure, sequence and scope

June 21, 2021

Community

Isle of Man endorses hybrid learning as the way forward following 3 lockdowns

June 15, 2021

News

itslearning will exit the US market over time and strengthen its position in Europe

June 9, 2021

Our Product

A brand new, visually appealing planner for Back to School 2021/2022

June 8, 2021

Community

Virus versus the internet — education during and after the pandemic

June 8, 2021

Highlights

Schleswig-Holstein extends contract with itslearning for further three years

May 28, 2021

Community

Personalizing Learning through a Hybrid Model

April 27, 2021

Community

9 reasons why you should be at itsConvention

April 20, 2021

Community

Tips from the online classroom: How to engage students and activate their interest

April 15, 2021

Highlights

The future of education: remote and hybrid learning

April 12, 2021

News

ROC Midden Nederland chooses itslearning

April 12, 2021

Highlights

Podcast – How itslearning empowers students and teachers across the globe

April 8, 2021

Community

Aarhus Tech uses video conferencing to prevent dropouts

March 2, 2021

Highlights

2021 brings some major improvements to the itslearning platform

February 17, 2021

Community

Online Learning Tips & Tricks

February 17, 2021

Higher Ed

Implementing a Digital Learning Environment at Centria University of Applied Sciences

February 11, 2021

Community

Berlin offers the itslearning LMS to 400,000 students and teachers

February 10, 2021

Community

7 easy steps to engage your students during live video online classes in itslearning

February 2, 2021

Community

Five important data privacy takeaways from 10 months of remote and blended learning

January 27, 2021

Community

How the Dutch Police Academy Streamlines & Secures Education

January 18, 2021

Community

itslearning is moving fully to the cloud to scale up faster and better serve you

January 4, 2021

Community

How education disruption prompted this Finnish school to reinvent vocational learning

January 4, 2021

Community

5 free & fun tools to learn a new language

December 15, 2020

Community

Engaging Students with Virtual Reality

December 10, 2020

Higher Ed

What kind of technology can be used to support the learning process at universities?

December 10, 2020

Highlights

Baden-Württemberg selects the itslearning LMS for over 1 million students

December 9, 2020

Highlights

Introducing our brand new Test tool

December 7, 2020

Highlights

10 ideas for creating accessible content for everyone in itslearning

December 3, 2020

Higher Ed

Review: University of Southern Denmark to replace Blackboard with itslearning

December 1, 2020

Higher Ed

University Digitalization – How can an LMS make a difference?

November 18, 2020

Community

5 key strategies to make remote learning fun and engaging for younger learners

November 3, 2020

Community

Overview of itslearning October Updates by Brenny Kummer

October 20, 2020

Community

The SPARK Schools Covid-19 playbook to keep learning going for every child

October 14, 2020

News

itslearning: A Powerful Partner for Online Learning by Aimée Skidmore

October 13, 2020

Higher Ed

An effective implementation of technology (LMS) in Higher Education

October 13, 2020

Highlights

Becki Lee of Hopwood Hall College Awarded “UK Teaching Oscar” for Digital Innovator of the Year

October 12, 2020

Highlights

itslearning October 2020 Release

October 5, 2020

Highlights

Another great literacy tool – itslearning adds Immersive Reader to the platform

October 2, 2020

News

itslearning establishes new partnership with Altitude Learning to manage its US business

October 1, 2020

Highlights

Remote Learning Tips from the “Digital Teacher of the Year”!

September 25, 2020

Higher Ed

Tips for blended learning in higher education – the Stockholm University experience

September 8, 2020

Community

International Schools Embracing Technology for Blended and Remote Learning

August 25, 2020

Highlights

All set for Back to School after summer

August 24, 2020

Community

The Learning Platform That Enables & Enhances Blended Learning

July 7, 2020

Community

Whatever it Takes – Supporting Personalized Learning Remotely

June 17, 2020

Highlights

itslearning June 2020 Release

June 12, 2020

Community

How the Millis School District is tackling Remote Learning

June 11, 2020

Community

Learning Paths Simplify Online Learning

May 22, 2020

Community

itslearning LMS Makes Remote Learning Easier

May 19, 2020

News

itslearning + Google: All That and a Bag of Chips!

May 11, 2020

Our Product

itslearning May 2020 Release

May 8, 2020

News

Digital Solutions at Bremerhaven Schools

May 6, 2020

News

Shifting from eLearning to Remote Learning

May 5, 2020

Higher Ed

University of Southern Denmark chooses itslearning as its learning platform for 45,000 users

May 5, 2020

News

Elizabeth White — Harford’s 2020 Teacher of the Year — keeps caring for students while working remotely

May 4, 2020

News

Lightening the lockdown load

April 27, 2020

News

Tools that teachers love for fostering human connections in remote learning

April 17, 2020

News

The Mooseheart Child City & School Reinvents Teaching & Learning!

April 16, 2020

Highlights

Düsseldorf fast tracks remote learning – connecting 80k users in 24 hrs

April 15, 2020

Highlights

itslearning is ISO 27001 certified

April 14, 2020

News

itslearning Announces UBIT as New Partner in Turkey

April 14, 2020

Highlights

Bahçeşehir University Uses itslearning to Support Remote Learning

April 7, 2020

News

Remote Learning for All

April 2, 2020

News

Helpful teaching tools for virtual learning

March 24, 2020

News

Update: Efforts to boost platform capacity for itslearning users

March 17, 2020

News

Remote learning usage peaks as schools around the world close

March 16, 2020

Higher Ed

Turku University of Applied Sciences Selects itslearning

March 13, 2020

News

The successful implementation of a learning platform at Bartholomew Schools

March 5, 2020

News

How schools can ensure continuous learning during the coronavirus outbreak with remote learning

March 4, 2020

News

Amy Ong, from St Paul’s Catholic School wins UK User of the Year 2019

February 14, 2020

Our Product

itslearning February 2020 Release

February 14, 2020

News

Meet our new CEO – Steve Tucker

February 13, 2020

Higher Ed

What is an LMS… and Do We Need One?

February 12, 2020

Higher Ed

3 Things You Need to Know Before Implementing an LMS in Your University

February 10, 2020

News

Leadership change at itslearning

February 4, 2020

Our Product

itslearning January 2020 Release

January 10, 2020

News

itslearning is now a part of Sanoma Group

December 5, 2019

Higher Ed

itslearning at the OEB Global Conference 2019 in Berlin

November 27, 2019

Higher Ed

University College Copenhagen Selects the itslearning Platform

November 20, 2019

Higher Ed

Stockholm University hosts series of pedagogical course design workshops

November 4, 2019

News

Vi e’ Bergen – itslearning is Bergen

November 4, 2019

News

Virtual Learning Environments: What is their role in contemporary education?

October 18, 2019

News

5 Ways to Use an LMS to Support Blended and Online Learning

October 15, 2019

News

7 of the Best Apps for Teachers

October 9, 2019

News

Developer Festival – Sparking New Ideas

September 25, 2019

News

9 Ways to Help Students Practice STEM Skills

September 23, 2019

Our Product

itslearning August 2019 Release

August 30, 2019

News

5 Ways to Use Edtech for Project-Based Learning

August 29, 2019

News

Returning refreshed and recharged for the new school year

August 28, 2019

News

A very special visit from China for back to school

August 26, 2019

News

A second summer interning at itslearning

August 21, 2019

News

Boost Student Engagement with Technology in the Classroom

August 6, 2019

News

6 Ways to Use an LMS for Blended Learning

July 24, 2019

Our Product

itslearning July 2019 Release

July 19, 2019

News

Externship at itslearning

July 8, 2019

previous arrow
next arrow