Learning providers in post-16 education need to be clear about the responsibilities and risks involved in using technology.
Much has been published for schools; however learning providers, the learners they serve, the technology they use to engage students and the roles played by staff are much more diverse in the further education and skills sector. Therefore so are their responsibilities, their online activities and the threats they may pose.
Today is Safer Internet Day and since last November, we have been preparing with a whole host of internet safety-related events, initiatives and activities. We’ve worked regionally, nationally and with disabled students to ensure to support learning providers with ways to enhance internet safety on campus.
Teaching and learning can take place via mobile devices (Bring Your Own Device [BYOD], for example), in class or off-campus, and is more and more likely to involve the use of social media. Within this context, there are both legal and statutory duties that institutions should be aware of and manage effectively in every day practice.
Legislation places specific obligations and determines liability in areas relevant to the use of new technologies and the internet, such as harassment, discrimination, inclusion, copyright, defamation and data protection. It is also generally accepted that institutions have a legal duty of care to their students and staff to prevent reasonably foreseeable harm. This duty will apply equally to online environments and will be higher where younger or more vulnerable learners are involved.
Social media use, in particular, is a bit of a hot topic at the moment in education.
Many colleges and universities use the popularity and flexibility of these accounts to engage with learners for educational purposes. However, the informal and discursive nature of social media, ease of sharing, instant publication and public default privacy settings, can all increase the risks for institutions and their staff.
In short, appropriate risk assessment (relating to context), adequate safeguards, effective procedures for unacceptable use and suitable support mechanisms are essential. They should be clearly detailed within a relevant social media policy, and that is where colleagues at Jisc Legal can assist you.
Jisc Legal have just published a new social media for staff policy template (Word docx) which learning providers can adapt for their own requirements and setting. This template will help providers think about relevant considerations, make decisions (according to their own risk appetite) on how social media will be implemented and regulated, and write a social media policy that is fit for purpose.
Their top tips for social media use are:
- Have a clear strategy in place
Decisions will need to be made on how social media is to be used, depending on risk appetite and what you are trying to achieve
- Make someone responsible for social media
Ideally this should be someone who not only has expertise in this area, but is also able to provide support and implement the strategy across the learning provider
- Write a policy that is fit for purpose
The policy should reflect agreed strategy and provide details of how social media are to be used in practice
- Share good practice
Opportunities for feedback and a planned programme of appropriate training and should be in place prior to adoption
For further guidance on how to meet your internet safety duties, please refer to the Jisc Legal website.
A regional approach
After attracting more than 200 delegates to the Safer Internet Day and beyond online event on the 28 November 2013, our Regional Support Centres (RSCs) have been striving to enthuse and inspire further education and skills providers around the UK to produce their own internet safety projects.
As a result of this culture of internet safety good practice, different members of the RSCs have been busy composing various blog posts for the Jisc RSC UK blog to celebrate the amazing work that providers have been doing over the past few months.
Learners with disabilities
Jisc TechDis are today holding a Safer Internet Day online workshop in order to look at some of the issues with a specific focus on risk assessment for staff, parents and carers. They will be running a quiz to find out how knowledgeable staff within providers really are. More details can be found on the Jisc TechDis blog.
For more advice and guidance on how to keep your learners safe online, visit Jisc's internet safety page.