Digital learning can rise privacy concerns: Here is how to address them

Rick Cooper

Sep 27, 2022

7 min read

Digital learning is on the rise and the onset of COVID-19 boosted the much-needed transition. In such a scenario, distance learning is crucial for staying safe during the pandemic, but it also raises some privacy issues.

Finding trustworthy sources of information about device safety, sensitive information protection, and standardizing compliance can be challenging.

This discussion on these safety protocols frequently takes place after the technology has been put into use. However, there are important actions to follow in order to create a data governance policy and gain a better understanding of the state of data privacy in your schools.

Assess the situation

Concerns stemmed from the mad rush to get online during the start of the pandemic when schools needed to go digital as soon as possible to stick with their schedules. However, this trend eventually persisted and not much has changed over the past years.

The first step to any kind of security is assessing the situation. The educational institutions that are spearheading this change must find the weak links in their digital learning practices. Expert staff needs to be employed to work with these institutions to examine the data security status quo and provide remedial guidelines.

Privacy challenges

Data privacy is a huge issue when it comes to online security, it is found that from 2005 to 2021, K–12 school districts and colleges/universities across the US have experienced over 1,850 data breaches, affecting more than 28.6 million records.

There can be multiple channels that can affect data security.

Unvetted applications

At the start of the global pandemic, teachers adopted a variety of digital tools to connect with their students, most of which are new to them. Videoconferencing apps like Zoom ballooned in popularity and digital devices like Chromebooks and learning platforms like Babbel and BrainPOP saw a sudden spike. The huge number of interactions that happen on these apps opens the doors to new vulnerabilities and potential data breaches.

One device, many problems

Most of the devices that are used for digital learning are also used for a multitude of other purposes. This means that even if data is safely stored within the device by trustworthy digital learning apps, there is a chance that this data can also be collected by non-educational apps that are used by the students to edit/present work.

Connectivity breaches

Students that are accessing these remote learning platforms are often connecting to these from safe home environments, but there are some cases where they access the classes from remote locations like cafés, libraries, and other public places with wi-fi that have weak security. This vulnerability can pose a huge problem since there are multiple interactions happening simultaneously between students for reasons like file sharing and collaboration, and a breach to a single device can creep in and affect all the devices in the network.

Cloud deployment

The data that is stored by the schools is often hosted on a remote cloud service. This by itself is actually a good thing, but according to a report, 50% of the schools surveyed either don’t have a cloud security platform or don’t know whether or not one exists. This is concerning since student data ranging from their private security number to class grades are all stored online on a cloud server that most schools do not even know about.

Lack of awareness

These devices are often used by students and kids who are unaware of healthy online practices. They can often overlook the importance of updating passwords regularly or maintaining an active anti-virus. Besides this, they are also more susceptible to opening any unknown links that they come across online without having the knowledge of the consequences. Therefore, it becomes the need of the parent or the teacher to have a plan to avoid such circumstances.


K-12 Cybersecurity Act being signed into law in October 2021. This law requires the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency to study the cybersecurity risks facing elementary and secondary schools and develop recommendations that include cybersecurity guidelines designed to assist schools.

The plan

When you are dealing with kids and young adults you have to understand that even when they are advised to avoid something, chances are that they might not care. It is in the best interest of the adults to employ parental locks and other management features on the devices.
In such a case management software like Hexnode UEM comes in handy to manage the devices of the students so you can deploy policies and restrictions to stay ahead of malicious actors.

App management

With the help of an UEM like Hexnode, you gain access to Mobile App Management which provides granular control over the application, thus enabling the administrators to manage and secure app data. It helps to protect devices and manage data. It enables to apply and enforce policies on mobile apps and to limit the sharing of data among apps. This can help administrators to blacklist apps that are non-productive/malicious.

Password management

When you have a weak password, you are more susceptible to being hacked. When you are in a connected environment like a digital learning platform, one bad apple can compromise the whole network. So, it is important to impose rules on password-keeping.

UEMs like Hexnode can help you exactly in this. Through Hexnode’s password policy admins can place various complex restrictions like minimum passcode length, password age before it expires, password history, and a lot more.

Managing access

We need to educate students about the dangers of giving access to unknown apps or websites. When logging into third-party accounts, some support direct log-in from your G-mail/Facebook and other linking accounts, it is important to be wary of such log-ins.

Monitoring the access that is given to the devices can help you understand if any devices are non-compliant and the status of the devices enrolled in Hexnode can be easily viewed from a common portal, where any device that does not fall in-line with the compliance will be marked non-compliant.


Using a common device for both your personal and digital learning needs can save you huge costs but can prove extremely costly in the case of a breach. UEMs like Hexnode help in containerizing data and apps, separating them, and placing them in different containers so if there is a breach through personal data, your school content is still protected.

Try separating where possible.

Separating the digital learning platforms where ever possible is a healthy way to make sure your data is safe. It can include practices like having a different account for personal and school. A separate cloud account if you use the cloud to save your data. Having this distinction helps in making sure if personal accounts are compromised, the school data stays safe.


There are a lot of digital tools that can help you manage and secure the student’s digital learning experience, but it is also important for teachers/parents to understand that in addition to this it is important to educate the students on the importance of cybersecurity and that is truly the only way to completely secure the digital learning ecosystem.

Rick Cooper

Product Evangelist @ Hexnode. Millennial by age. Boomer by heart.

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