GUEST OPINION: The Internet offers schoolchildren everywhere unimagined learning opportunities. In the classroom or at home, it provides a wealth of essential information to support students’ curriculum while providing a vital place to communicate with peers, teachers and organizations across an ever-expanding range of platforms.
As technologies like AI and machine learning come to the fore, and the IoT brings more and more devices to networks, the internet will continue to revolutionize education and the way students are taught for the foreseeable future.
However, making large amounts of information available to school children is a huge responsibility for educators, and making the Internet a safe place has become a major priority for IT managers in education. First and foremost, this means protecting their networks from malicious actors, but equally important is ensuring the right content filtering measures are in place to prevent students from accessing what they are not allowed to do, regardless of their location or the device you happen to be using to connect.
Schools have grappled with the problem of content filtering since the internet became an educational tool and have invested heavily in filters, firewalls and patches to limit network access. At the same time, internet use in the classroom has increased significantly thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Teachers have had to completely adapt their plans, while IT teams across the sector have worked tirelessly to make distance learning a reality. This remote push has also prompted a far more rigorous review of the security measures in place and the tools needed to enable a safe remote educational experience. At the same time, however, cybercriminals have been busy exploiting the vulnerabilities of legacy systems to keep up with this rapid pace change, as evidenced by the explosion of ransomware attacks in all sectors, not just education, since the dawn of the pandemic. So how do educators stay in control of connectivity, security and privacy in such challenging circumstances?
This increasing demand for robust and secure internet solutions for schools has brought with it a number of accompanying IT challenges. Educators need solutions that not only protect their students from security threats and dangerous websites, but also maximize the potential of their Apple devices as learning tools.
The best solutions for distance learning
IT budgets in schools and other educational institutions tend to be conservative, and IT managers are often hampered by legacy infrastructure consisting of outdated servers, firewalls, and software that are no longer supported on modern devices.
Additionally, there is often a general lack of awareness of the Mac-specific needs of a school’s IT ecosystem. The advent of distance learning on such a large scale also took many institutions by surprise due to the lack of proper security or content filtering systems.
Educators had to strive to deploy the right security solutions across different locations and devices while maximizing student productivity.
However, there are several ways to secure remote learning. These include:
• Blocking student access to malicious content through constant network inspection and content filtering
• Prevent students from being impacted by a wide range of security threats such as malware and phishing
• Protect student identity with multi-factor authentication using biometrics
• Protect and manage devices with effective endpoint protection and regular automated updates.
Additionally, it is important to only use secure private Wi-Fi networks as opposed to public Wi-Fi networks as this greatly reduces the threat of hacking or ransom demands, while Wi-Fi hotspots also have an inherent lack of privacy . Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are another safeguard against security threats as they provide a valuable layer of security over public Internet networks.
At the same time, parents are another key stakeholder in the education community, and there are solutions that give them control over device management, allowing them to restrict browsers and apps on student devices and set location notifications.
These solutions for parents, teachers and students should all be used in conjunction with some student training on cross-network device management and adoption of “best practices” e.g. B. Adhering to strict policies for device management and only using authorized apps on their devices.
As threats become more sophisticated, today’s IT solutions can play an increasingly important role in the secure Internet experience of students everywhere.