The digitisation of education will continue this year – here’s how

Teachers are going to be more reliant than ever on technology to help educate children remotely

Changes in the education system have been brewing for a long time, with digitisation as the main driver of this transformation. Now, as the UK education sector continues to face disruption, the lessons learnt during the first lockdown have become paramount to the successes this time around.

This digitisation of education is likely to continue this year, which is both good and bad. On the one hand, there are new tools and possibilities, including ones that originally weren’t related to education at all. A good example is the TikTok accounts that are dedicated to the topic. Initially, teachers did not use this platform – as YouTube was preferable – but in 2020, TikTok became a popular platform for producing educational content. Many of these new digital educational tools are not only enhancing the educational experience, but also introducing new threats. Here are the ones most likely to pose the biggest risk this year:

  1. Development of educational Learning Management Systems (LMS). LMS enable teachers to track students’ learning process, showing their progress and aspects that require attention from the teacher. While there are already some well-known systems (Google Classroom, Frog, etc.), the market for new LMS systems will only continue to grow.

As the number and popularity of LMS grows, the number of phishing sites associated with educational and video conferencing services will be growing too. Their main goals are stealing personal data or spreading spam within the educational community. Already in the spring of 2020, 168,550 unique users encountered various threats distributed under the guise of popular online learning platforms/video conferencing applications – a 20,455% increase when compared to 2019. In addition, LMS systems also open up the potential for new, unexpected threats, such as Zoombombing. If schools continue to conduct remote learning, these systems will continue to be a popular attack vector.

  1. More attention will be paid to video services, such as YouTube, Netflix, SchoolTube, KhanAcademy, etc. There will be more creation of educational video content that will either exist as a finished product or will be partially used by teachers in the classroom. In fact, about 60% of teachers already use YouTube in the classroom.

While videos can be a powerful educational tool, there’s also a lot of age-inappropriate content that can be found on popular video services, and creators of this content may use education topics to attract attention (YouTube/TikTok/Instagram, etc.). It’s not a new threat, but with the growth of digitisation, its relevance will also grow.

  1. Using social media tools in the educational process. Social media (Instagram, Twitter, etc.) can be a great way to encourage student engagement during and after classes, and serve as a way for teachers to connect with their students. However, there are also some threats related to content regulation. Currently, teachers or service administrators have to manually regulate the content on LMS and video-conferencing applications — it’s a big task. To moderate content on social media platforms or online group chats is a bigger one, especially in public groups or chats. That paves the way for inappropriate content, offensive comments and cyberbullying.

Another concern is privacy. Poorly configured application or service is a well-known way of compromising personal data, even without special tools and vulnerabilities. Students and teachers can be victims of such attacks.

  1. Gamification of the educational process. Almost everyone at school already knows about learning with Minecraft, but apart from this game, there are many services that allow you to learn through playing (While True: Learn, Classcraft, Roblox, etc.). However, as soon as you include games in the classroom, you open up students to the same types of risks they would face while gaming from home: trolls and bullying, malicious files disguised as game updates or add-ons, etc.

In fact, the biggest concern in the near future will be privacy. Managing it in any service requires clarification from the user, but many users (especially younger children) don’t know how to appropriately control their privacy settings. Also, there are many services that provide tools for organising the educational process online, and educators will most likely be using more than one. As a result, for each tool and in each case they will need to pay special attention to protecting not only their personal information, but also data of their students.

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