This guide will be useful in dealing with the following activities:
Staff using images downloaded from websites in their learning materials
Students using their own mobile devices to access websites, including social networks, in their residential accommodation
The use of mobile learning tools for students with differing support requirements
Staff working at home using laptops, memory sticks and other mobile technologies
Comments, sometimes inappropriate, made by staff or students online, in blogs or on social networks
Learners that are provided with facilities to watch DVDs in lunch breaks
This guidance provides a broad outline of some of the issues involved in the use of ICT in an independent specialist college, and the steps that can be taken to minimise risk and uncertainty. It includes summaries of the key legal issues involved in the development and use of information and communications technology (ICT) within an independent specialist college.
Staff in your college will be familiar with the need to provide their learners with tools and resources which are accessible to them. This is, in fact, a legal requirement under the Equality Act 2010, where an education provider is obliged not to discriminate against disabled learners in its provision (including resources and delivery of teaching) and you should have a plan in place for ensuring inclusion which adapts approaches and tools to different learners’ needs.
Staff and learners at your college are likely to make extensive use of materials that belong to others, including books, articles, software, images and multimedia, and the law on copyright applies to this use. The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA) provides certain exclusive rights to copyright owners, including the right to control copying, communication, distribution, performance and adaptation of their works. Your staff can perform these actions where
The college is the copyright owner (eg if college staff have written the materials themselves)
They have the copyright owner’s permission (eg where a blanket Copyright Licensing Agency licence is in place which covers the use of the material)
The use falls into one of the limited exemptions under the CDPA (for example, fair dealing for criticism or review, illustration for instruction, or making copies for those with accessibility needs).
Independent specialist colleges collect, process, and use information about individuals such as learners and staff for various purposes. Your college has obligations under the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) to ensure the accuracy, relevancy and security of such information. Some of this data will be sensitive personal data, for example data relating to the health of individual learners.
Independent specialist colleges have obligations in both common law and statute to safeguard the welfare of all learners when making use of ICT. There are a variety of legal issues to consider within the e-safety context, including cyberbullying, harassment, defamation, hosting liability and data protection. In addition some colleges provide residential facilities for students where internet access is provided and is unlikely to be supervised by teaching staff. It is recognised that the management of these risks in order to both safeguard vulnerable learners whilst at the same time encouraging and promoting independence is difficult with no definitive solutions.
Independent specialist colleges may, subject to certain requirements, monitor the use of their network and their facilities to prevent abuse of the systems. Remote monitoring is covered by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 RIPA). Any interception must be carried out within the limits set by legislation, and learners likely to be subjected to interception should be made aware that such interception may take place, as far as is reasonably possible.
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) applies to any independent specialist college which is a designated institution for the purposes of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992. Colleges to which FOIA applies are required to have a publication scheme in place which details the information it makes available to requestors. The college must also respond to freedom of information requests within 20 working days (subject to certain exceptions). This means that college staff should be aware of the FOIA and their responsibilities, and the college should have appropriate mechanisms in place to deal with requests for information.
ICT may be a beneficial teaching and learning tool for staff and students, and procedures and practices should be in place in your college to ensure that the legal issues do not become a barrier to the adoption and use of appropriate technologies.