Education and Online Security…What's the link? 'Social media's role in Education'

Social media’s role in Education

There is much debate in current theory over how appropriate it is for social media to be implemented in the recruitment processes of universities. Many argue that it’s a dangerous step given the additional management and time required to control the messages and opinions that are expressed. However, it cannot be denied that the social media sphere is where the majority of a university’s target audience hang out and so it would be idiotic to ignore the obvious potential…

Universities and Social Media

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It cannot be denied that the vast majority of prospective students are social media connoisseurs so it makes sense for university marketing teams to venture down this trail in their recruiting activities. The days of paper leaflets and bulky prospectuses are fading fast and in order to stay relevant to students, it’s imperative that universities drop the obsession with tradition and pride and remember as Renault keep telling us… we live in modern times. Many universities have already adopted these strategies encouraging students to engage in friendly banter on their Facebook pages, or use it as a source for prospective students to engage with the experiences of current students. The big worry many universities have is, how do you stop people publicly slating you? Well the answer… you can’t really so get over it. If someone wants to write something derogatory, they will and at least if it’s on your page you are able to monitor such comments for any validity and perhaps get to grips with some of the truths that you choose to ignore but which are preventing recruitment! The fact is social media sites are basically self-regulating and all you have to do is facilitate. That is, for every negative comment made there will someone waiting to refute it often a happy student! It’s important not to shy away from the bad because the fact is; no university is or has ever been, above ridicule. Rather than becoming obsessed over whether or not to take the plunge into social media universities should perhaps be more concerned over the growing issue of online security, both on a practical level and in an educational context. Given that all university students are legally adults there seems to be less of a concern about protecting their online experiences. However, it’s still important that students are deterred from visiting inappropriate sites on campus, for their own safety, for the comfort of others and indeed to allow for optimum productivity on the student’s part. Additionally universities, as institutes of learning should be a primary setting for educating people on the actual threats and dangers inherent with unprotected online activity to make them more astute. Most universities offer IT course in some format but very few devote any time to increasing knowledge on the area of cyber security, either through research or practical workshops. One exception which caught my eye online today was the actions of 2 Newark Law schools.

Law school students, prosecutors and homeland security agents, as part of a project sponsored by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, will have the chance to learn more about cyber security law and the emerging concern with online terrorism. This was one of the top story’s released by the Northjersey.com news this morning, reinforcing the growing realisation of the link between education and online security. The Cybersecurity Law Project, which will be held at two Newark law schools, is one of the first of its kind nationwide, said Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli. Overall this points more than anything to the acknowledgment for the need of for education in regard to online security, and were better to further the gaps in knowledge than at universities, noted as the pillars of academia in society!

Pupils taking an ICT GCSE falls 17 per cent

However it’s perhaps wrong to pile all the pressure on the universities given it can be often the student’s relationship with IT formed through their secondary school education that forms their online behaviours and knowledge of the subject. A latest report suggests that almost a fifth less students took the ICT GCSE this year, which is a significant fall from last year. It is perhaps more surprising given the fact that this age-group spend a considerable time online; actively engaging in social media, online shopping, gaming and general browsing. In many ways for the majority of these teens, such an absorption in online activity coupled with a deficiency in knowledge can leave these students the most vulnerable. Introducing the need for an education solution.

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As Osborn from Symantec points out, the fall in ICT participation by 17per cent, is strange given the national shortage of skilled IT professionals. The reason given by The Royal Society is because that ICT GCSE lessons are too boring! Osborn suggests that adding information security to the IT curriculum would make it more interesting for pupils and help them to engage more. Additionally, it would also help young people to protect themselves online, which is crucial given the continuous fears that social media sites such as Facebook have brought to the fore. However, increased student awareness into the importance of online security should be complimented with a similar teacher and administrator awareness. That is, the onus on schools throughout the country to implement a managed service such as Maildistiller’s Webaware to safeguard students online. Such a service allows schools to control the type of sites students can visit whilst on campus. They can choose whether to totally block access to particular websites, simply limit access to lunchtime or better still limit the number of posts made on a certain site! Therefore, enabling a school, to reassure parents and guardians, of their commitment to student’s safety.

So Education and the web….. the perfect match?

Overall, the point remains that educational institutions rely heavily on the internet; for secure email correspondence between staff and students or peer to peer, their website to provide updates and information, student browsing through the wealth of information and tools available online to help with studies, access to online research journals and much more. Therefore it is not unreasonable to assume that online security should be at the fore. Is there?