Privacy in education must be top priority

The education industry has been profoundly impacted by the rise of modern technology. For every traditional learning method, tool, or skill, there are five digital counterparts in development or already making waves in the education sector. Students are given their own iPad or laptop to do their homework on and they take touch type and coding classes to broaden their skill set and prepare them more soundly for a future that is technologically dependent. Educators have moved from paper submissions to online submission portals and mark and provide feedback on their students’ work digitally. Parents can opt in to parent-teacher conferences via video messaging, allowing them to be an active part of their child’s development, even if they can only do so from a distance. Data is the modern world’s fingerprint, and technology is the database that the fingerprint exists within. Education, along with practically every industry in the world, is in a state of transitioning from fingerprints to data storage systems, and they are facing some serious privacy concerns along the way.

As technology has continued to seep into the education sector, it has brought with it many potential risks and causes for concern. As with any innovation of the modern world (and all those before it, for that matter), technology has given way to the rise in digitising systems and methods in education. With this digitisation and technological advancement has come privacy and security risks. As more data and sensitive information is stored online, there are more points for potential infiltration of the digital systems. Especially considering that students are taking more classes online, therefore entering more data into the virtual stratosphere than ever before. It is easy to understand where the concern around privacy comes from, and it makes perfect sense that more and more individuals and industries are opting to take additional protective online methods – like a VPN – to maintain their privacy online.

Many people ask the question, ‘what is a VPN’ these days, and it is not difficult to understand where the question comes from. The global digital takeover has brought with it many evolutions and innovations, all of which are centred around the concept and focus of an easier, more convenient life. While a VPN cannot definitively solve every privacy and security issue online, it considerably cuts the risks in half and allows individuals – including students, educators, and parents – to experience a safer, more seamless education experience.

In the education sector, student information is considered to be of critical importance, and yet there have been instances in which sensitive information – including mental health and academic records – have been made public knowledge. This obvious breach to student privacy has been a thorn in the education industry’s side since the dawn of the digital revolution. As these instances occur, investigations are launched to uncover why, when, and what needs to be done to prevent the same mistake from happening again. Often, these investigations are deemed to be ‘too little, too late’ solutions that aim to rectify an issue that should never have become a problem in the first place.

The privacy or students and the security of their information should always be of the utmost importance. While it should be a top priority for the education industry to protect its students, educators, and parents from threats of privacy and security invasion, instances continue to slip through the cracks. Technology has changed the industry, and while this change is more than likely going to prove to be for the better in the long run, it is the trial and error process that many find difficult to digest and trust in. You would be hard-pressed to find many people that believe that the education industry has not been reshaped by technological advancement. The argument is not if change is happening, but how that change will affect education as an industry and into the future.

The education industry has been positively turned on its head in the wake of technological advancement and certain digitisation. The more that technology has infiltrated the sector, the more people have been exposed to, and realised, the potential risks that come with entrusting so much data to virtual systems. Technology is undoubtedly the core of the future of humanity, but it is also currently a gateway that is still jumping from side to side, trying to gain enough traction to slide definitively to the positive side. Education is in transition to becoming a digitised industry, and it is opening a world of opportunities – and risks. Combating those risks and tackling them head on is key to stabilisation in the education industry. Stabilising and maintaining data privacy and security will ultimately lead to a happier, more advanced, and more secure future for education. And realistically, that is always the goal; to preserve and secure the industry so that future generations can enjoy the same experiences we are.

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