In this guide, we'll cover two key considerations to support staff to deliver remote learning in a safe online environment: digital literacy and online safety awareness and policy review.
Staff must consider both how to protect themselves online and also their duty of care to learners.
Keep staff up to date
You can help by:
- Providing adequate training and support
- Making sure information on relevant policies and processes is up-to-date and easily accessible
- Ensuring staff are aware of their responsibilities and how to report an incident
Help with privacy settings to create a safe space
If teaching staff can choose what platforms they use to support online learning they should understand the privacy and safeguarding risks associated with third-party tools. Some, for example, might facilitate private messaging between learners - or with the public - leaving users vulnerable to unsolicited or bullying messages.
When using non-institutional tools, ensure your staff know how to change privacy settings to create a safe online environment for learners, as well as how to empower learners to keep themselves safe, this blog by Jisc’s John Chapman explains. Remember that some learners will need additional support.
Staff should work in partnership with learners, listening to their needs particularly if they have concerns about using a certain platform.
Ensure data is handled correctly
Staff also need to understand how a platform’s data-handling policies may affect the privacy of anyone using it. Some systems’ features can change without much warning (and not everyone will have read - or understood - the terms and conditions agreements).
Staff should be responsible for following your institution's training and guidance on everything from identifying cyber security threats to collecting, storing and managing data according to the law. Help them to understand this is in their own interests as well as the those of their learners and the organisation as a whole.
They should also be alert to how criminals can exploit human behaviour to attack organisational systems or gain access to data.
Our simulated phishing and associated training service can help you reduce the risks of cyber-attacks by giving users the skills and awareness to spot threats and phishing emails.
Maintain appropriate boundaries with learners
And, of course, staff should take care to establish clear boundaries when building rapport with learners. It is easy to misconstrue meaning in online spaces. Our subject specialist Scott Hibberson offers some hints and tips on staff digital skills when communicating with students online.
Using digital tools and online social spaces can be a highly positive aspect of someone’s learning. Understanding the risks and their responsibilities means that learners can take advantage of this in a way that protects their safety and wellbeing.
Don't make assumptions about digital capability
It’s a mistake to make assumptions about learners’ existing capabilities. Terms like ‘millennials’ and ‘digital natives’ hide big differences in the digital capabilities of learners. Also, some learners with additional needs will require extra support, especially as they are more likely to be vulnerable.
Support learners to make informed decisions about which platforms to choose and how to use them and do it in a way that enables them to transfer their knowledge to new technologies when they encounter them.
The reports from our digital experience insights service can help you get a detailed picture of learner’s experiences and expectations of technology in education.
Help learners understand how their data is used
It’s essential for them to understand how their personal data is collected and used in different systems and devices, especially the fact that private data may become de-anonymised when linked with other data sources. This Guardian article from 2019 refers to research that shows how this might be done with relative ease.
Learners should also understand how they can help protect other people’s data by:
- Following their college or university’s guidelines
- Behaving responsibly
- Understanding how their own devices or accounts may be vulnerable to criminals
Educate learners about online identity
Offer guidance about how they can make choices about what elements of their identity they want to project, whether in organisationally-owned digital spaces or the public domain.
Learners should be wary about the information they disclose, even on platforms that feel private. It may be very easy for that information to be placed on another platform without their consent, and removing it may be very difficult - with potentially long-lasting effects on their online reputation and wellbeing.
Our digital capabilities service can support and guide staff and students to develop the digital skills they need and build their confidence with digital technologies.
Our subject specialists can help advise on online identities and offer training on supporting learners’ digital identity and wellbeing.
Make sure that organisational values and obligations are set out clearly to provide a common reference point and to guide decision-making that affects the safety and wellbeing of students and staff.
Without this clarity, inconsistent practices could put the organisation’s members at risk, leading to legal action and reputational damage. To avoid this, it’s essential to review the scope of your policies to make sure they protect individuals.
In addition, make sure the policies are in a consistent and accessible format and that they are easy to navigate.
Read more in our quick guide on how your digital policies can support online safety.
Our web filtering and monitoring framework offers a range of solutions that enable you to apply your web-use policies.
Supporting staff and student wellbeing
- Managing emotionally challenging situations for frontline staff training course - support for staff who are usually the first point of contact for students having to deal with difficult situations which might include online safeguarding issues
- Digital wellbeing of learners quick guide - an easily-digestible resource that covers the fundamentals of digital wellbeing and what you can do to support it
- Are your staff digitally ready to communicate with learners online? - our blog post giving guidance for teaching staff on building safe and effective relationships with their learners in online learning environments
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) - staying safe online - government advice on protecting your privacy and financial security online, including advice for parents and carers
- Sex. Relationships. The Internet - advice from the National Crime Agency for learners on protecting themselves from online harm and abusive relationships
- Online safeguarding in higher education - a tool to help higher education institutions self-review their online safeguarding practice, developed by the University of Suffolk with support from the Office for Students (OfS)
- How can you take your teaching online? - links to courses and free resources from the Open University for educators
- Stay Home, stay safe? - a blog post from our accessibility subject specialists
- WRAP training - Jisc-run training on protecting vulnerable learners from radicalisation and recruitment by terrorist groups. During lockdown, it becomes harder to see when learners are more at risk
- ETF Prevent training
Using tools safely
- EDS: Being responsible online - essential digital skills training from the ETF on dealing with socially inappropriate or illegal behaviours online
- Coronavirus scams: how to spot them - a blog post from our information security officer, Jon Hunt
- Cyberaware - the UK government's advice on how to stay secure online during coronavirus
- Update your devices - practical advice on updating devices from the National Cyber Security Centre
Jisc tools and services
- Cyber security services
- Trust and identity services - includes a free health check and hands-on consultancy
- Digital strategy review - our service that looks at your overall digital strategy, of which safeguarding is an integral part
- Infrastructure review - this service takes a comprehensive look at your organisation’s digital infrastructure including aspects of cyber security