IT | Security

The Parents’ Perspective: Insights into Distance Learning and Security

By: Absolute Editorial Team | 12/9/2020 | 3 min read

As we now approach the mid-way mark of the 2020-2021 school year, distance learning remains an instructional delivery cornerstone for most schools in one way or another. It’s around this halfway point that it feels like the right time to check in and ask key questions like, ‘How are we actually doing? Are students effectively learning and engaging online? After spending more time online, are students – and their data – adequately being protected?’

To try and answer these, as well as gain a better understanding of the realities of distance learning, we decided to ask some of those on the front lines: the parents, who may be struggling to balance remote work and online learning, or to equip their students with everything they need to learn in a virtual setting. In a survey of adults with children at home, 3 in 4 said at least one child was engaging in some form of distance learning. Of those, one in three are using a school-issued device to learn from home while another 1/3 of respondents said their child was relying on a personal laptop.

Low confidence in device security

While many parents said the devices being used for online learning were equipped with security tools like anti-virus (AV) and firewalls for protection, only 35% of responding parents reported feeling very confident that these controls actually keep student devices and data safe. And understandably so, as we know that such security tools are only effective when they are installed, fully up-to-date and have not been tampered with. Our data shows that less than 70 percent of education devices, on average, have an AV app that is healthy and compliant.

This becomes even more troublesome by the fact that 65 percent of parents reported they aren’t fully confident in their ability to recognize a phishing email or worse, don’t know what a phishing email is. Schools and students are prime targets for ransomware attacks, with phishing being most the most popular and widely used attack vector. And while schools administrators are working to inform parents and students of security updates and potential vulnerabilities, only 1 in 4 parent respondents consider the communication coming from their school to be enough.

Read: 4 Ways to Protect Your School from Ransomware

Increasing student device usage

Before COVID-19, most school-held devices were used for some classes, but not others. In today’s distance learning environment, every class requires a laptop… and they’re being heavily used. Absolute's own data shows there has been a 39 percent increase in overall active daily hours since the start of the pandemic, and 70 percent of parents surveyed say their students are on their devices 4 or more hours per day.

But, are students using the device for online learning? 85 percent of parents say yes, students use their devices for online learning… at least most of the time. Absolute’s insights show 25% of student web usage is dedicated specifically to engaging with education and online learning tools, while 30% is spent on entertainment and online video sites.*

(*Note: this includes YouTube, which is used for both educational and entertainment purposes.

Duarte Unified School District in Duarte, California wanted to ensure their students were getting the most out of their technology tools - so they turned to Absolute Web Usage to monitor, manage and measure their distance learning program. Read about how they were able to demonstrate ROI on technology investments, and gain visibility into device, web and application usage visibility in this case study.

As a leader in Endpoint Resilience, Absolute can help enable smarter, more secure learning. We have the unique, privileged position of being embedded in the firmware of devices from more than 25 of the leading endpoint device manufacturers, which means we are capable of enabling an undeletable tether to every device. This digital tether, leveraging our patented Persistence technology, allows our customers to see all their devices from a single pane of glass, remotely query and remediate them at scale, and even extend the power of self-healing to their mission-critical security applications.

Learn more about how Absolute empowers education organizations to manage and secure their devices and data with a persistent, undeletable connection on our website.