Student privacy with online educational solutions

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Recently PTAC (Privacy Technical Assistance Center, U.S. Department of Education) released a new publication, Protecting Student Privacy While Using Online Educational Services: Requirements and Best Practices. You can get the full publication here.

FERPA (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) protects personally identifiable information (PII) from student records from unauthorized disclosure. But with new technologies and services, those guidelines have a lot of exceptions and nuances; this new report aims to clear up confusion and provide updated guidelines in the face of new tools. The report shares advice and information to help schools protect student privacy while using software, apps, and web-based tools.

Lightspeed Systems solutions (including My Big Campus, Mobile Manager, and our Web Filter) are such technologies, classified by PTAC as Online Educational Services. We stay on top of these issues, and the new report doesn’t require any changes in our policies. We are, and always will be, committed to protecting student privacy and data and complying with all regulations when schools use our solutions.

Because of the variety of services and the wide range of district needs and circumstances, the report offers “It depends” as the answer to both “Is student information used in Online Educational Services protected by FERPA” and “What does FERPA require if PII from students’ education records is disclosed to a provider.” That answer, “it depends,” requires districts to have policies in place and overall knowledge of services being used in order to make an informed decision about which way the “it depends” goes.

Some good advice provided in the report includes:
Be aware of which online educational services are currently used in your district
Have policies and procedures to evaluate and approve online educational services

While it is necessary to collect some information to effectively provide our learning solutions, we go to great ends to protect students and to treat their data with care:

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Web Filtering with a Dynamic Education-Focused Database

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Today’s internet is a media-rich dynamic environment. High speed connections available anytime and anywhere have become the norm and end users expect performance when browsing the web. Technologies that attempt to scan in realtime the contents of a webpage at best introduce latency and at worst can break the functionality on a website. We have taken a different approach to this problem so that schools can maintain the security that they need without compromising performance.

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Tackling the Issue of Google Encrypted Search

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As a former district Technology Director, I understand the struggle between keeping students safe and monitored online, while still providing access to important educational tools. This is actually the mission of Lightspeed Systems—to equip schools with the tools necessary to create safe, collaborative, and mobile learning programs.

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Six Key Factors of a Successful Mobile Learning Program Implementation

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Mike Scheid, Technology Integration Specialist at Cherry Hills Christian School in Colorado, is passionate about mobile learning. He successfully implemented a 1:1 mobile program at his school and was kind enough to share his experience with other educators and IT specialists in the recent Center for Digital Education Special Report Webinar: Mobility and the Cloud. (Listen to the archived recording HERE!)

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