Much has changed in the educational landscape five years on but some of the key drivers to address online safety remain the same; namely, ensuring learners take advantage of the affordances of digital technologies to prepare them for the digital workplace and can thrive in a digital world. Fresh challenges also present themselves, such as developments with the Prevent agenda and new legal guidelines to deal with internet trolling.
A brand new top five
Here's our five top tips for improving your online safety:
1. Engage with your learners
As a start it is important to look at what students’ experiences and expectations of technology look like in education. In the summer of 2017 we published the results of the student digital experience tracker (pdf), which paints a national picture of the student digital experience.
Key questions, such as the following, are instrumental in identifying how your students feel supported when making the most of digital technologies and ensuring aspects of their digital safety and wellbeing are met:
- Do learners know where to get help if they are bullied or harassed online?
- Can they access health and wellbeing services online?
- How does their learning provider help them to stay safe online?
Many universities and colleges that took part in the tracker used the information their students shared to improve the services they offer. You too can do the same. The tracker serves as an excellent starting point to create an open dialogue with your learners and there are a variety of resources from the digital student project available to facilitate conversations with learners about their digital safety and wellbeing.
If you're interested in taking part in the 2018 tracker, register your interest before 30 November 2017.
2. Implement robust web filtering processes
Having proper web filtering processes in place enables organisations to safeguard potentially vulnerable learners from inappropriate or illegal content on the web, while helping to comply with the Prevent agenda.
You can access guidance on the Prevent for Further Education and Training site, which also includes our detailed guidance on web filtering and monitoring (pdf). Find out how our web filtering and monitoring service could help you.
3. Understand what is criminal behaviour online
Understanding what is recognised as criminal by law is important for anyone who supports teaching staff and learners to navigate social media. It's essential to ensure, for example, that harassment and bullying are recognised and that there is a transparent procedure in place to allow reporting of criminal activity.
This guidance from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) tackles the offences commonly committed via social media and identifies four distinct categories of offences:
- Threats - communications which may constitute threats of violence to the person or damage to property
- Targeting specific individuals - any communication that specifically targets an individual or individuals and which may constitute harassment or stalking
- Communications which may amount to a breach of a court order or a statutory prohibition
- Communications which are grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or false
4. Ensure staff are kept up to date
All staff need to be kept up to date, not only with the organisation’s processes and procedures for dealing appropriately and proportionately with online safety issues, but also with regular training opportunities that help to reinforce good practice.
We offer a number of training solutions to help, such as our Workshop to Raise Awareness of Prevent (WRAP), designed by HM Government, which provides staff with an introduction to the Prevent strategy and an individual’s role in safeguarding vulnerable people.
We also offer online workshops on supporting learners’ digital identity and wellbeing, to equip participants with an understanding of the issues learners face when developing digital identities. The workshop provides participants with a range of activities to use with learners, so they can in turn make informed and responsible choices when using digital technologies that help them thrive in a digital world. The next course takes place on 14 December 2017.
5. Make online safety everyone’s business
Regardless of role within the organisation, everyone needs to be involved to ensure learners’ online safety needs are addressed and acted upon. We offer a tailored consultancy service around addressing online safety needs, where we work with your online safety lead and work around the specific requirements of your organisation.
As part of your Jisc membership, we’ll get you started in the right direction, focusing on an informed and impartial diagnosis of your current situation to help you benchmark your current position and identify key issues to address.