Reducing Post-COVID Risks in Digital Education

COVID-19 shifted the way we look at our educational institutions, especially in higher education. The world was already on a path toward more digitization, but the pandemic forced us to adopt new technologies quickly and apply them to our learning environments.

It’s safe to say that the abrupt transition to online learning proved to be a struggle for many families across the country. Some adjusted just fine, while others were affected by job loss, food insecurity and the virus itself.

As we make our way out of this pandemic, more conversations surround the topic of remote learning as well as automating our workforce. However, it’s essential to evaluate the post-COVID risks, and more specifically, the possible threats in digital education.

We can reflect on the remote learning experience college students and professors had to work through. We must look at some of the benefits and drawbacks of digital learning to make educated decisions on how to move forward. Prioritizing student experiences will help establish a precedent for future decisions.

Let’s dive into possible solutions for risks in digital education.

Risk #1: Internet Security Issues

With all forms of technology, the risk of hacking, viruses and malware exists. It’s rare to find someone who never had to deal with some form of a security breach — whether it’s someone trying to steal passwords or something more serious, like identity theft.

When we center our education on technology, we take on the possibility of information being tampered with.

To prevent any security issues while participating in digital education, institutions must offer malware and virus protection resources. Colleges and universities must have firewalls and antivirus software installed on their systems to protect sensitive student information.

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Ensuring internet security will allow students to thrive in a digital environment. Hiring or training employees that are capable of limiting threats is crucial. It’s hard enough to focus on school in the classroom, and it can be even more challenging to learn when fighting off viruses online.

Young woman working on her laptop in the post-covid, digital learning age.

Risk #2: School Closures

When the COVID-19 pandemic caused countries to go into lockdown, many higher education institutions had to close campus dining halls and force students to remain in their dorms. Classes shifted to online-only instruction.

To prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, shutdowns were necessary. Still, the question remains — “Where do we go from here?”

Davidson College put forth an initiative to monitor how colleges and universities responded to the crisis. These institutions taught students in one of these four categories:

  • Hybrid
  • Primarily or fully in person
  • Primarily or fully online
  • To be determined

The initiative tracked 3,000 colleges and universities, 589 of which decided to transition to primarily or entirely online. This is a significant shift, something we’ve never seen before in the education space.

If current and future online college students can adapt to remote learning, it could greatly benefit them in the job market. There’s a strong chance it could improve their marketability as society’s workforce becomes more digitized. Companies are looking to hire remote workers, which is an excellent opportunity for recent graduates.

Before the pandemic, many employees wanted to work some days of the week remotely. If students can perceive this as an opportunity to learn new skills, they can use it as leverage during their job search after graduation.

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Whether or not online learning is effective is still being debated. Still, it’s worth noting that the ability to work or learn remotely will be highly sought after and a possible solution that mitigates permanent school closures.

Risk #3: Poor Student Experience

One fear educators had when it came to the digital transition was how students would retain information and achieve overall academic success. Because no one had traveled down the road of online learning, it was stressful for both professors and students to navigate platforms.

In April 2020, over 1.2 billion students across the globe were learning away from the classroom. The majority of those students had never experienced online education and had to adjust accordingly.

Some students who were already disadvantaged lacked internet access or the right technology to complete their work. There were stories describing students using public Wi-Fi connections to participate, which is an issue that industry leaders must address.

Colleges and universities can allocate resources to ensure all students have access to learning material. This will give them a better learning experience and opportunities to pursue their future careers.

Young man working on his laptop in the post-covid, digital learning age.
Happy ethnic guy in headphones smiling and writing in notebook while sitting at table and listening to teacher during online lecture at home

The Future of Digital Education

It’s impossible to know for sure how the digital education landscape will change in the coming months. As mentioned above, automation and working remotely were on the rise pre-pandemic — the lockdown forced us to scramble and figure out innovative ways to teach our next generation of leaders.

New technological advancements always come with their fair share of risks. If the concept of digital education is here to stay, understanding how to make up for shortcomings is crucial.

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Higher education institutions can combat the drawbacks of online learning by prioritizing connectedness and inclusion and providing an equitable experience for their students. Meeting students where they’re at is crucial to their success. However, it’s easier said than done — more research and action plans are needed to avoid these potential risks.

To see how you can protect your organization against cyber threats and attack, learn more about our Cybersecurity Solutions. To teach your students the future skills to launch their career in cyber, learn more about the Cybint Bootcamp.

Shannon Flynn

Shannon Flynn is a technology writer and Managing Editor at ReHack.com. She's written for sites such as Finovate, Innovation & Tech Today, Smart City Hub, and more. Shannon aims to write articles that help businesses and organizations mitigate cybersecurity threats to keep at-risk individuals safe.