Partner: Center for Social Innovation

According to Huang, et al., (2020) in order to ensure data protection in online learning, it is critical to understand the typical steps for using multi-type tools for online learning. The steps involve preparing devices, networks, and tools; Preserving privacy when signing up/in on learning platforms; Protecting privacy when navigating learning platforms; Staying safe while learning with social networking; Clearing personal data after learning online.

Before participating in online learning, make sure that your devices, networks, and tools are prepared and that you are aware of the privacy policies. You can achieve that by setting up the digital devices appropriately, selecting them and keeping them safe. Among these measures, you can take care of cameras and microphones on your device, lock your device, set a secure password, and install anti-virus software.  A safe connection and use of the Internet are also essential. Use a VPN over Wi-Fi or over a cellular network, for instance. When selecting online learning tools, you should also consider the suitability, ease of use, accessibility, and required equipment. For safe downloads and installations, you should check the website address, download from canonical sources, and pay attention to the pricing details. Lastly, make sure you carefully read the privacy policy.

For preserving privacy when signing up/in on learning platforms use strong passwords when creating accounts. For example, create passwords that have at least eight characters in it, contains a mix of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols, and special characters like */&, and don’t include name, address, and date of birth. Also, you should protect your passwords from leaks, for example, by not sharing them between people or systems, and storing them in unsecured memos on your mobile phone. Stay safe when using public computers in libraries, internet cafes, or airports by not saving your login information, not leaving your computer unattended when sensitive information is on the screen, and not entering sensitive information into them, among other things.

It is crucial to protect your privacy when navigating learning platforms after you have signed in. There are some issues related to data protection, such as enrolling in an online course, utilizing personalized learning services, using search services carefully for example don’t put personally identifying information in your search terms, recognizing location services, and finally you should know how to back up your data, for example data backup to cloud storage.

If you use social networking services for online learning, you should avoid sharing too many personal details with large groups of people, for example by opening your social media account. Also, make sure you are familiar with the privacy settings on the social network you are using. You should also consider who might see your information besides your intended audience when posting information online. Additionally, use video conference tools carefully, post in discussions and forums responsibly (don’t share intimate details, for instance), and be aware when surfing the internet.

Finally, clearing personal data after learning online is crucial. In case you decide to delete the data after finishing the online course, you should know how to remove traces of your online learning and deactivate your account.

Here is a guide that can help you learn more about the topic and gain a deeper understanding:

Huang, R.H., Liu, D.J., Zhu, L.X., Chen, H.Y., Yang, J.F., Tlili, A., Fang, H.G., Wang, S.F. (2020). Personal Data and Privacy Protection in Online Learning: Guidance for Students, Teachers and Parents. Beijing: Smart Learning Institute of Beijing Normal University.