The unprecedented spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus has forced schools and universities across the nation to suspend in-person classes. Tens of millions of students are being introduced to e-learning and the prospect of finishing weeks or months of schoolwork online.
Remote teaching is a new experience for educational institutions and teachers across the country. How can educators prepare for remote teaching – safely and securely?
Why Security Is Essential for Remote Learning
This country’s educational infrastructure is undergoing a historical and fundamental disruption because of the coronavirus pandemic and resulting school shutdowns. Due to the current situation, many educational institutions have been either forced or opted to close for the duration of this crisis.
School goes on, however, requiring many of these institutions to switch to e-learning solutions. Teachers and administrators are scrambling for the tools they need to teach their students remotely. These tools need to meet the following requirements:
- Easily accessible on the web or via significant app stores
- Compatible with all devices used by students and staff – computers, tablets, and phones
- Easy to use for both teachers and students with no or minimal formal training
- Scalable for groups of different sizes
- Safe and secure communications, collaboration, and file sharing
Many remote teaching solutions meet all the requirements except the last. It’s essential, however, for all classroom content, group, and individual communications, and personal information (such as student names and IDs) to be protected from theft or other unauthorized use.
Educational institutions are increasingly the target of cyberthieves — the Identity Theft Resource Center reports that in 2019 there were 113 educational data breaches reported, resulting in the exposure of more than 2.2 million individual records. Insecure remote teaching solutions threaten to expose even more data.
Fortunately, the most secure communication and collaboration solutions, such as AWS Wickr, put a priority on security. Wickr’s unique E2E platform protects against data breach due to either errors by University students and staff or by third party attackers.
Planning for Secure Remote Teaching
Before implementing any remote teaching solution, educators need to plan for their online classes. In particular, teachers should:
- Review their school’s guidance for remote teaching
- Regularly and frequently communicate with students regarding online classes and procedures
- Revise class plans and content for the online learning environment
- Set up school email and voice mail for access from home
- Ensure that department and student contact lists are up to date
- Prepare a quiet and secure workspace that can be used for online teaching and collaboration sessions
- Make sure they have a computer with functioning webcam and microphone
- Secure their computers with up-to-date anti-malware protection and install all necessary operating system updates
- Confirm that their Internet connection is protected with a strong network password and is fast enough for real-time video conferencing
In addition, all remote teachers need a secure remote communication and collaboration solution. That solution needs to be installed on all students’ devices, as well.
Implementing a Secure Remote Learning Solution
The first step in protecting all of the communication, collaboration, and file sharing inherent in e-learning is choosing a secure remote teaching solution. That solution, such as AWS Wickr, should provide end-to-end encryption of all online classroom and group meetings, communications, and file sharing. Beyond that, there are several steps that schools and teachers should take to further secure all online work.
Secure communications involve protecting each device and each step of the process. Ideally, teachers and students should use only secure private Wi-Fi networks, not insecure public hotspots. Administrators should stress that all participants secure their apps and devices with strong passwords. The chosen communications solution should employ end-to-end encryption and automatically delete all messages when read and group chats when complete.
Teachers should note that not all communications take place in group chats or conferences. All 1:1 communications – whether text, audio, or video – also need to be secure.
Security extends to group text, audio, and video chats, as well as online lectures. Collaboration software and services should also employ end-to-end encryption and should only take place over secure connections.
Secure File Sharing
Files distributed for classwork can be stored in the cloud, using strong passwords for access. Some communication/collaboration solutions, such as AWS Wickr, also allow secure file sharing using strong encryption. (Tip: Teachers should record their online classes and offer those files for secure viewing or downloading at a later time.)
For further security, educational institutions should consider requiring teachers and students to connect via a secure VPN, such as Wickr’s Smart VPN. This would enable participants to safely connect to online classes and resources, even from nonsecure public hotspots.
Choose AWS Wickr for Safe and Secure Remote Learning
AWS Wickr is a robust and secure communications platform with end-to-end encryption and an optional Smart VPN connection. AWS Wickr for education facilitates safe and secure remote learning. It provides secure rooms for classes and groups, secure voice and video conferences with screen sharing for up to 100 participants, secure direct messaging and group conversations, and secure file transfers.
AWS Wickr is free for colleges and universities – download it today!