The video conferencing platform Zoom has been getting a lot of criticism since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide because of its security and privacy shortcomings that puts its users at risk. Some countries have ordered that the program should not be used until the company sorts out these problems.
In Singapore, the Ministry of Education is aware of these issues and have announced here that they will be continuing the use of the platform now that the company has introduced security updates.
The MOE previously ordered schools across the country to stop using the platform last week after several privacy breaches were reported. Some students say that hackers took over their lessons and displayed or sent obscene content.
A new Zoom update was released during Good Friday weekend
In response to the privacy intrusions reported in the country, Zoom has released new versions for the platform during the Good Friday weekend. The new Zoom platform now has a “security button” that lists down all the security features added to the platform.
According to the MOE’s divisional director for educational technology Aaron Loh, the ministry contacted the company and has worked with them to improve the security settings for the platform. It is easy to activate and the ministry is managing the security settings for all the country’s teachers using the platform.
Aside from the new security settings set and controlled by the MOE, the MOE has also removed some of Zoom’s features that teachers can use. This includes screen-sharing and annotation, and the use of the whiteboard features.
According to Mr. Loh, these features are still being studied for their security risks and may be made available in the future as the ministry studies the platform’s security even further.
Finally, teachers will be required to train and learn the new security features of the platform and show that they are ready to use the new security settings for the platform. If they fail to agree to the guidelines set by the MOE for the platform, they will be asked to use another platform.
Zoom has also said that they have changed the settings for education users and added the “password required” feature to protect users. It was not originally included in the free version of the platform.
Teachers have been provided with a checklist
To ensure that teachers keep their students protected aside from the security features now added to the video conferencing platforms, they are given a checklist on what they need to do before using them.
The checklist includes the instructions on how teachers can sort out the security settings of the platform they have chosen before they invite their students for their classes. It also includes verification checks to ensure that students are the ones entering these meetings and not other people.
Some schools may also add other guidelines for their teachers to follow to ensure that their students are safe using these platforms. For instance, they may require students to use their school emails to access the platform.
The teacher must show that they are willing to do these instructions before they are allowed to begin their classes through these platforms. The ministry will be updating the checklist regularly to cover any new changes to these platforms.
Teachers can use Alternative Solutions other than Zoom
The ministry also allows teachers to pick other video conferencing tools that they can use for their classes.
No matter which one they selected, the school will be given a checklist and a list of things teachers must remember to keep themselves and their students safe while using the platform. Students will also be advised to practice responsible online use during their online lectures through these platforms.
Here are the three other platforms teachers can use during the home-based learning period besides the ones we recommended:
1. Google Meet
Google Meet allows users to hold video and audio calls with multiple participants. Students can simply click on a link to the “Meet” and join the discussions through their phone or computer.
Since it is developed by Google, the platform is integrated with other Google services such as Calendar, which teachers can use to inform students about deadlines and lecture times.
Google Meet has recently updated its security guidelines during the same weekend Zoom added their security features. Before students can join their online classes through the platform, they must log in using their school emails or Google email before they are allowed in.
2. Facebook Live
Facebook Live allows users to live stream any event through their Facebook pages.
The live event will show up on your child’s teacher’s page or in the school’s Facebook page and it can be replayed if your child missed the actual live event.
To keep up with the discussions, students can comment on the livestream in real time. This encourage online participations among your students who are already familiar with FaceBook. However, we need to beware that students may also be encourage to spend too much time on social media as we discovered here.
3. Cisco WebEx
Like Google Meet, Cisco WebEx allows users to chat with one another wherever they may be.
Every meeting can hold multiple people in them and these participants can join from their phone or desktop.
There is also a calendar feature where teachers can sort out schedules for online lectures.
With students now doing their classes at home and online as part of the social distancing measures introduced here, it is important that parents check with their children’s schools that the platforms they are using will protect children from privacy attacks.
Make it a point to talk to their teachers about the platforms that they will use and see how you can also ramp up your child’s online safety by using web security programs and other tools. Here is how you can start the conversation with your child’s teachers.
Every school may use different platforms to educate your children during the current situation and these platforms may have different security protections in them. You should also sit down with your child to teach them how to use the internet responsibly and clearly tell them why they should abide by the rules set by their teachers during these classes.
With some careful planning and understanding regarding these platforms like our online tutor platform, you can be reassured that your children will be able to enjoy their classes even if they are doing them online.
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