VIEWS & OPINION Keeping your data secure

Comment by ENZO BRIENZA, Sales Manager, InterSystems

In this, the second of my two-part series of articles on improving cyber security in higher education, I’d like to focus on the importance of keeping data secure. Universities and colleges process

significant volumes of personal data. The sector should consider how to address this issue securely and in a way that complies with GDPR. One of the most effective strategies is to establish governance for the protection of personal data, which starts with the appointment of a Data Protection Officer who will be responsible for ensuring that the institution maintains compliance and enforces and communicates a clear GDPR strategy across the community of the institution. Although students agree to adhere to cybersecurity policies and GDPR when enrolling at an institute, it is likely some will fail to comply with the regulations. The Data Protection Officer may consider communicating the risks and

consequences of failing to adhere to cybersecurity policies for the individual as well as the organisation, and this can be included in a policy communicated clearly and widely across the student body and full-time employees. Additionally, it is critical that the institutions understand that

ineffective and insecure storage and management of student data can severely impact the student experience long past their time with the university. As institutions are data controllers of student data, they must work with their technology partners to implement the appropriate data platforms securely and safely to store and transmit both student data and other resources. The most effective solutions will include security based on

authentication, authorisation, auditing, and encryption. The authentication capabilities will allow the institution to verify the identity of all users, while authorisation ensures that users can access the resources that they require. Additionally, auditing functions will guarantee that the institution keeps a log of user activities, predefined system transactions, and application-specific events to which the Data Protection Officer can keep on record. This can be enhanced with encryption to protect information against unauthorised viewing. Introducing processes to test the effectiveness of the procedures the

institution implements and undertaking improvements as necessary, higher education institutions will be able to mitigate risk and ensure students can access personal data in a timely manner should they encounter a breach. Maintaining security in a changing education landscape With an increase in remote learning due to the ongoing pandemic and

the requirement to hold even more information on students for track and trace purposes, the amount of data higher education institutions is handling is only rising. It is, therefore, necessary that strategies are adopted to protect both the business and their students from growing cyber threats. From technical initiatives such as implementing two-factor

authentication for all, to organisational ones, appointing a Data Protection Officer and working with partners to adopt the right strategies and solutions, there are significant changes universities and colleges can make to reduce the risks and strengthen infrastructures.

Recent exam measures are a positive step, but they haven’t ‘levelled the playing field’

Comment by LAWRENCE TUBB, Headmaster at Independent Online School, Minerva’s Virtual Academy

Last summer’s grading fiasco has given rise to much confusion and uncertainty around how next year will look, both for Year 11 and Year 13 pupils. At least now, young people have the assurance or at best, the likelihood, that they will sit exams next year. The events of this past year have been damaging to the whole learning process to say the least, especially for those studying for GCSEs and A Levels. The ‘extra measures’ surrounding inflated grading and visibility of exam topics as announced by the Department of Education recently, are of course a welcome relief for pupils, for what is arguably a pretty impossible task to get right. Is it fair? It’s a question that many will ask now, and again in 2022

when our current Year 10s are preparing for their GCSEs. On one hand it is encouraging that disadvantaged children who have struggled during

January 2021

the pandemic will be given forewarning around what topics are coming up in the exams and will hopefully, be judged kindly by future employees and universities (as part of the COVID generation). But on the other hand, it seems grossly unfair that children who have had all of the advantage (great schooling, supportive parents, extra private tutoring) will be given exactly the same privileges. The issue is, although the measures are a positive step forward and will

hopefully reduce a lot of anxiety and sleepless nights, they haven’t simply ‘levelled the playing field’ for pupils. Schools will still need to up their game in terms of providing the essential one to one learning and pastoral support that many pupils will need over the coming months. We are inevitably going to see a record number of top grades next

summer. As it stands, the new measures are probably the best option for what is an unprecedented situation; but only if disadvantaged children are given the extra support they need next year, either through additional state-funded tutoring or access to fit-for-purpose online learning platforms, so that they can study remotely when needed across the entire GSCE syllabus. Being able to study with continuity, and if necessary, without the need of a teacher, will provide greater reassurance should virus cases spike again in the future. It difficult to know what the future will hold for GCSEs and A Levels as

a result of this pandemic, but we should expect big changes ahead. The likelihood is, we’ll see a revolution in education in the future because schools and teachers are already stretched beyond their capacity. There is a real need for virtual learning to become more integral, more robust, more relevant and more accessible to pupils, especially for those who need less micro-managing, academically speaking. The opportunity to access their learning independently, will create greater self-reliance and empowerment to succeed. This also means schools can really focus on identifying those pupils who are in most need of individual mentoring and support. 21

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