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Survey Finds Support for Online Learning Amid Security Woes

An updated report from the nonprofit Center for Democracy and Technology found schools are improving their support for virtual learning, but cybersecurity remains a looming concern as schools embrace ed tech.

by / April 2, 2021
Shutterstock/ranjith ravindran

According to research from the ed tech advocacy nonprofit Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), support for virtual learning is strong among teachers and parents despite concerns about cybersecurity and data privacy.

On Wednesday, the center released updates to its October report surveying parents and teachers who weighed in on the importance of virtual learning technology, this time with more focus on cybersecurity. The latest data came from online surveys in February 2021 with 1,002 U.S. parents of K-12 students and 405 teachers of third through 10th grade.

The CDT’s new report, With Increased Edtech Comes Increased Responsibility, indicated a 10 percent increase in schools instituting plans to address student privacy and security and an 11 percent increase in guidance for technology use during COVID-19. Recent surveys also noted that 74 percent of parents and 85 percent of teachers are now supportive of online learning continuing as part of classroom instruction after school closures are done, representing a 7 percent increase among teachers.

Still, the report says nearly 40 percent of teachers receive “no substantive training on privacy policies and procedures.” Emerging cyber threats, including what the K-12 Cybersecurity Resource Center calls “cyber invasions” from unauthorized users in virtual class meetings, have been among major concerns, according to the report that dubbed them “Zoombombings.”

“Student privacy isn’t just a safety issue — it’s an equity concern as well,” CDT Director of Equity in Civic Technology Elizabeth Laird said in a news release. “While our evidence suggests that schools have stepped up their efforts to close the digital divide as teachers report a 28 percent increase in schools providing devices to all of their students, rather than just some, it’s important for schools to have policies and training in place to protect the data and privacy of these students as they come online.”

In February, education policy organizations submitted a petition calling on the Federal Communications Commission to invest in school cybersecurity protections through its E-rate program. The petition, led by the Consortium for School Networking, estimated the annual cost for next-generation firewalls, endpoint protection and advanced security features to be at least $2.389 billion for schools across the country.

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