Video Conferencing Safety and Security Tips for Teachers and Students

Contributed By

Kristen Cole

Education Writer

Video Conferencing Safety and Security Tips for Teachers and Students

Posted in Pro Tips | October 20, 2020

Videoconferencing has become one of the most popular forms of communication this year, especially in education. As teachers, we want to have those face-to-face conversations with our students so we can stay connected, but we also must be aware of the risks to our safety and security and that of our students. Keep reading to find some safety and security tips for both teachers and students while utilizing video conferences for distance learning. 

Use Passwords 

Each video conference that you set up should have its own meeting ID and password. These can be automatically generated with your video conferencing software, or you can set your own. If they are automatically generated, they are less likely to be hacked by outsiders. If you choose your own, make it complicated and not something obvious that someone could easily guess (no offense to your beloved pet cat). Software generated passwords are generally safer than ones you could create on your own. As challenging as it can be for students to enter the correct password to the classroom, it is more important to keep outsiders away from your meetings. Passwords should also only be used once. Taking this foundational step will help keep your conferences secure from the start. 

Set Your Defaults 

When you set up a video conference, you have the opportunity to set some defaults before the meeting even starts. One suggestion is to not allow video or audio to be on to start the class. By giving students a chance to turn on their video and audio when they are in a comfortable setting for them to participate in the class meeting. Another default to set is whether or not to allow participants to share their screens. By turning off this setting, the teacher has control over who can share screens and when they can share screens. This adds a measure of security so that not only can outside sources not share content, but also so students are blocked from sharing unrelated content. 

Send Invitations 

When you invite students to your video conference, you should send an email with the meeting ID and password. This will ensure that only those you want to be there will have access to the correct information. You should not post meeting links to any social media, and if you must post it to your school’s learning management system (LMS), try to keep it in the private classroom areas to which everyone does not have access.  

Use the Waiting Room 

The waiting room is a useful feature for controlling access to your virtual classroom. While students are waiting to enter the meeting, teachers can take attendance, but teachers can also monitor who enters the video conference room. Utilizing the waiting room also allows teachers to kick out anyone that is not supposed to be there.  

By now you’ve probably heard of Zoombombing, or you may have already experienced it. This is where uninvited students or other unwanted guests “bomb” your Zoom sessions with inappropriate or disruptive content. Monitoring who enters the video conference space can eliminate these disruptions. 

Don’t Record 

During video conferences, avoid recording if you can. This will help keep student information secure. Avoiding recording also protects students whose parents do not want their child’s photo to be taken. If you must record—for students with an IEP or those who miss class, for example—only record your screen and voice, without showing the faces of other class participants.  

Keep Software Updated 

Not only should you use a video conferencing software that is designed for schools, but you should also make sure that you are running the latest version of that software. As each version updates, more bugs are removed. This means that the latest version of the software is the most secure from the manufacturer’s end. Then when you employ your own techniques for security, you can ensure an environment with the highest levels of safety possible. 

Utilize a Virtual Background 

A virtual background can not only be fun, but it can also add a layer of protection for both students and teachers. By changing the background of your video feed, you are eliminating the extra information about yourself that someone might try to steal or figure out, like where you live, the members of your family in any photos, or any other personal information. Find fun ways to use this tool and keep yourself extra safe. 

Practice Your Video Conferencing Skills 

Lastly, both students and teachers should practice interacting with and in a video conference before any major material is covered. Setting up a practice video conference allows teachers to practice setting their defaults, sending invitations to students, and allowing students in and out of the conference room. This is also a great opportunity to collaborate with colleagues because you can take turns trying to interrupt each other’s meetings so you can practice what that looks like digitally.  

For students, this is an opportunity to practice things from their end. They can find the link and enter the waiting room and wait patiently for the teacher to admit them. This practice conference should be low stress and allow students to ask questions about working the video conference so that they can attend one in the future where teachers will be providing instruction. A practice video conference is especially helpful for elementary students. 

The world of video conferencing is a wonderful addition to your classroom, and it is quite possibly a necessity for you to be able to meet with students. These tips will help to ensure everyone attending is safe and secure. 

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