Future of Privacy Forum, National Education Association Call for Review of Mandatory Video Policies in Online Learning
The Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) and National Education Association (NEA) today released new recommendations for the use of video conferencing platforms in online learning. The recommendations ask schools and districts to reconsider mandatory video requirements that create unique privacy and equity risks for students, including increased data collection, an implied lack of trust, and conflating students’ school and home lives.
“Mandating the use of video requires students to share more about their private home lives than they may want to, from their living situation to who they live with, creating potential social harm,” said Amelia Vance, FPF’s Director of Youth and Education Privacy. “It also risks deepening existing inequities, presenting additional challenges for students with disabilities, English language learners, and students with limited access to adequate wi-fi or video-supported devices. Video can be a helpful tool in online learning, but it shouldn’t be a mandatory one – or the only one – that educators use to engage with and assess students.”
“Video mandates during virtual class instruction coerces students to further blur the vanishing line between their home and school lives. When educators are required by districts to force video use, it violates the trust they’ve built with their students over countless hours of relationship-building through this pandemic and needlessly puts learning at risk in the pursuit of administrative oversight,” said Donna M. Harris-Aikens, Senior Director of Education Policy and Practice at the National Education Association.
Seventy-seven percent of students started the fall semester remotely, and as COVID-19 cases spike this winter, schools across the country are closing back down or delaying their in-person reopening plans. Recognizing that online learning, including video, is likely to remain essential through the remainder of the 2020-21 school year, FPF and NEA developed these recommendations to serve as a resource for educators that are continuing to navigate an evolving and unprecedented time in education.
Before mandating the use of video, the recommendations encourage educators to explore alternatives and considerations, including:
- Considering alternatives to create and measure classroom engagement, such as quizzes at the end of a lesson, or encouraging students to respond and interact with material in different ways, including “reactions,” emojis, or the chat feature. Another option: using avatars protects student privacy while encouraging creativity and allows educators to feel as if they are teaching to more than a blank screen.
- Considering privacy and equity throughout the process. There is no substitute to an in-person learning environment. While video may seem like the closest alternative, educators should carefully weigh the benefits and risks posed to privacy and equity, from increased data collection to the permanent documentation of deeply personal aspects of students’ home lives.
- Teaching students about privacy and how to ingrain it into their online lives. The shift to online learning creates a key opportunity to teach student safe online practices, and the role they play in protecting their own privacy. Students should understand the implications of sharing personal information, what data is being collected about them, and how to adjust settings within products and services to be more privacy-protective, including to minimize data collection, data sharing, and third-party tracking.