Staying Safe While Learning and Teaching Online
The University is currently using a hybrid model of learning and teaching. This page offers guidance on troubleshooting digital safety concerns that may accompany periods of increased online activity.
Online Meetings, Events and Video Conferencing
As some classes, meetings and events are held online during hybrid work and study, it is important to take extra precautions to safeguard your own safety as well as the safety of others. Especially when using online meeting tools such as Zoom, which enable our community to connect with people outside the University, consider the following safety tips and recommendations.
When using Zoom, ensure that you take the following precautions:
- Always require a password for meetings. This password should never be shared publicly and should be sent separately from the meeting invitation.
- Do not share meeting links on social media or other public platforms where they can easily be intercepted by trolls or cybercriminals.
- Use the Waiting Room feature and verify all attendees one-by-one before granting access.
- Change your screen sharing settings to ‘Host only.’ This will prevent trolls from accessing your video calls. You can either change this in your pre-meeting settings or in the in-call admin settings for Share Screen -> Advanced Sharing Settings.
- Disable “Join Before Host” to prevent people causing trouble before you arrive.
- Enable “Co-Host” so you can assign a co-facilitator to help you moderate.
- Disable “File Transfer” to prevent digital virus sharing.
- Disable “Allow Removed Participants to Rejoin” so that expelled attendees cannot regain access.
- Do not use personal email addresses when registering for, or using, Zoom. Use your University email instead.
- No confidential, sensitive or personally-identifiable University information should be discussed or displayed.
More tips and guidance on how to prevent Zoombombing and troubleshoot disruptions in video conferences can be found at the links below.
8 Quick Tips To Keep You From Getting "Zoombombed" By Trolls (Buzzfeed News)
How to prevent Zoom bombing: 5 simple tips (Tech Republic)
Video Conference Etiquette
It is important to employ good practice when it comes to both facilitating and participating in video conferences and online classrooms. Currently, the University supports the use of Microsoft Teams, Blackboard Collaborate, and Zoom for video conferencing and meetings. Tips for communicating successfully through video conferencing include:
- Set an agenda for your session and stick to this to ensure everyone remains on the same page.
- Choose a quiet location for attending any video conferences or meetings.
- Arrive early to allow plenty of time to check mics and connections.
- Advise participants to mute their microphone when not speaking.
- Set clear expectations for engagement at the start of a session. For example, ask participants to use the "raise your hand" function in Collaborate before speaking.
- Consider using a pre-recorded presentation if your session needs to reach a lot of people.
- Ensure your session caters for accessibility needs, for example by including subtitles and offering the content in an alternative format.
You can find more in-depth etiquette tips for operating video conferences and virtual classrooms at the links below:
13 etiquette tips for video conference calls (Tech Republic)
5 Discussion Ground Rules for the Online Classroom (Colorado State University blog)
In the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, there has been a sharp rise in fraud both online and offline. The most common types of fraud include phishing emails, telephone and text message scams, and online shopping scams. It is more important than ever to be vigilant against fraudsters and to beef up your own digital defences.
For more information on different types of Coronavirus-related fraud, as well as how to protect yourself against these frauds, please visit the Digital Skills and Training team’s Fraud Awareness Resources page, and follow the Information Security team on Twitter for updates on known scams (both linked below).
Dignity and Respect Online
The University of Edinburgh has a zero-tolerance policy towards any form of bullying and harassment. As members of an international community that prides itself on honouring diverse perspectives, it is important to practise good digital citizenship and treat all others with dignity and respect both online and off.
The Respect at Edinburgh web hub offers helpful guidance on the University’s Dignity and Respect policy, the processes for raising and addressing concerns, and the support and training available.
As digital engagement forms an integral part of hybrid work and study, it’s important to take measures to safeguard your digital wellbeing, which Jisc defines as "the impact of technologies and digital services on people's mental, physical, social and emotional health." Top tips for prioritising your digital wellbeing include:
- Check your privacy settings – This is especially important if you use one or more forms of social media. As we spend more of our time engaging with others online, it’s important to know who has access to your posts and personal information. To keep yourself safe and secure, it’s good practice to review your privacy settings every few months.
- Review your location services – While we might not be venturing far from home during the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s still important to review how much access your digital devices have to your location. Perform a quick check to see if location services are enabled in each of your apps and ask yourself if it’s necessary that these applications have access to your geographical information.
- Use wellbeing controls – Many devices and platforms now offer options that help you manage the time you spend online. If you’re finding it increasingly difficult to separate work and study from your down time, simply turning off notifications or activating “do not disturb” can make a world of difference.
- Set your own boundaries online – Being constantly bombarded by news reports and social media posts can take a toll on your mental health. If you’re feeling anxious or fatigued, setting your own boundaries online might help you manage your digital wellbeing. Only engage with what you’re comfortable engaging with online and take regular breaks from social media if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
- Be an active bystander (if it is safe for you to do so) – With so much activity happening online, it’s important that we support one another in virtual spaces. If you’ve witnessed cyberbullying behaviours online you can report the issue to the platform, though sometimes even sending a personal message to victims of online harassment can make all the difference.
Top Tips for Digital Wellbeing While Hybrid Working
This guide is intended for all University staff and students engaging in hybrid working: a mix of on campus and off campus working unconstrained by one specific location. The guide provides a range of tips and resources for how staff can prioritise mental and physical health while using and relying on digital devices to work and connect with others who might be working from a different site.
Top Tips for Digital Wellbeing While Hybrid Working (UoE SharePoint)
Mental Health Support
If you require support for your wellbeing, the University provides several online resources, including Big White Wall, the Feeling Good App, and SilverCloud. Please visit the University's self-help hub for more information on accessing these resources.
Building Digital Resilience
Especially during periods of increased online activity, it is important to safeguard your own systems and devices against online threats. Building up your personal digital resilience is a good way to protect yourself against online fraud and malicious actors intending to do you harm. The following resources offer a good place to start in terms of building up your cyber defences.
Cyber Resilience Scotland
This series of podcasts from Cyber Scotland Week 2020 introduces listeners to various aspects of cyber resilience, from passwords and malware protection to cyber hygiene for businesses.
Cyber Resilience Scotland Podcasts (Link to external website)
Digital Safety Tips and Resources
The webpage from the Digital Skills and Training team offers a broad overview of ways you can keep yourself safe while engaging online, including quick safety hacks and a curated list of digital safety guides.
Information Security – Top 10 Safety Tips
The University’s Information Security (InfoSec) team have put together a handy list of their top 10 digital safety tips to help protect you and the University. This is a great place to start when it comes to managing you own digital safety.
Support for Digital Safety Concerns
We understand that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a profound effect on the lives of our students and staff. If you require additional support for your digital wellbeing, the page below offers a curated list of both internal and external resources to help guide you through some common digital safety concerns.
University Guidance on Hybrid Work and Study
Many members of the University community are currently working and studying from different locations. To help you navigate hybrid working, Information Services Group has issued guidance for both staff and students.
Learning Technology Hub and Training
Learn more about the services and systems available to support the use of technology in learning and teaching. Specialist support and guidance is available to all staff, including training, pedagogy-focussed workshops, and engagement events.
Information Services Off-site Working Guidance
Find information on how to get set up for home working, instructions for remote desktop, cloud-based file storage, connecting to University file storage, holding meetings online and accessing other University services off-site.
Students: Prepare for Hybrid Learning
Find a range of study skills support to help you prepare for a mix of in-person and digital teaching at this handy web hub for students, including an introduction to the University's virtual learning environment and short transition courses.
© Victoria Madden, University of Edinburgh, 2021, CC BY-SA 4.0, unless otherwise indicated.