Learning environment

How can learners and facilitators ensure a safe digital learning environment?

Microsoft Education Manager for North, West, East and Southern Africa, Levant and Pakistan, Angela Nganga, explains what learners and facilitators can do to ensure a safe digital learning environment during their learning.

Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world, quoted South African activist and former President Nelson Mandela. Investing in education is one of the biggest investments a country can make for its current and future generation. Currently, approximately 420 million people around the world would be lifted out of poverty with secondary education, improving the quality of life in the world by more than half.

Today, as more and more people across the African continent have to stay at home due to government lockdown interventions, we are witnessing a massive shift towards distance learning. This has resulted in the growth in the use of collaborative tools such as Microsoft Teams to create virtual classrooms where educators can communicate with their students in real time.

In the emerging markets of the Middle East and Africa alone, more than 1.5 million students and teachers are using Microsoft Teams as their distance learning platform during this time.

Through these platforms, educators can connect and support students the same way they could in person with live meetings where they can show videos, share presentations, and even invite external speakers for talks. virtual outputs.

But, as students and teachers move online, the safety and security risks naturally increase.

As we adjust to the new normal and governments take the necessary next steps to safely reopen economies and embrace possible back-to-school strategies, blended learning will play a key role in ensuring that some of the Non-essential aspects of learning that do not require face-to-face interaction are enabled while ensuring the online safety of students.

Educational institutions must therefore take steps to ensure the safety of digital learning environments by putting in place concrete policies and restrictions when using these tools to protect the safety of students, while also ensuring keeping online classes attractive and giving teachers the tools they need to create a focused learning environment.

Restricting access to meetings can protect students

There have already been multiple instances around the world where unauthorized users have gained access to virtual classrooms.

Just this month we saw a online graduation ceremony interrupted by racist slurs by hackers, last month a man gained access to a online course and exposed himself as well as another online conference was interrupted by audio playing inappropriate content.

When educators organize meetings to teach students, a link is created that participants can use to enter those meetings. Sharing these links online to reach students may seem like a quick and easy way to communicate with students when and how to join live meetings, but it also opens the meetings to anyone who sees the link.

To ensure the secure digital learning environment for educators and students, administrators should instead create identities (or profiles) for each student and teacher, which requires them to log into the tool to participate in the meeting. . In Teams, admins can then choose to turn off the ability for anonymous users to join the meeting by changing it in the meeting policies.

In meetings, teachers can also ensure that all students are present in the classroom and that there are no unexpected attendees by selecting “show attendees” in the meeting controls. gives them greater control over who is admitted to the lesson.

Virtual classroom management allows students to stay engaged safely

Educators are often required to manage students in physical classrooms to ensure good behavior and keep students focused on learning from taught courses. This is also required when teaching online.

Online classes introduce a new dynamic for both teachers and students, making dealing with disruption and limiting inappropriate messages a task educators must do in new ways. However, these disruptions can also appear in the form of unauthorized users, with disruption often being their main objective.

To manage disruption while keeping students safe, administrators should limit students’ ability to schedule meetings, initiate private calls, and monitor chat sessions to remove inappropriate messages during channel meetings. This can be done by restrict meeting roles for students in a meeting.

Teachers can further control the learning environment in Teams by creating meetings for classes within specific channels, allowing them to turn off student chat if necessary and follow class discussions in context.

Other features such as the ability to blur video backgrounds, mute attendees, and control who can present during the meeting are key to ensuring safe learning for students with Teams.

A new world of learning

We have entered an unexpected and often difficult period where, in just over a month, the education landscape has completely changed. But as we have also seen, technology is a powerful tool that can be used to overcome these challenges and sometimes even improve functions such as learning. With technology, education can be interactive, engaging, and controlled as long as we provide digital security to protect students and staff online.

In order to support educational institutions in their work to ensure a safe digital learning environment, Microsoft has created a to guide serve as the basis for their safety plans, helping to give teachers, students and parents peace of mind while making learning more productive.

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