New Hanover County manages online learning safety concerns

New Hanover County manages online learning safety concerns

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Families are still making their adjustments as the new school year gets underway. With the shift to online learning inevitably comes technical difficulties and worries about student safety online.

The school district’s technical department has been busy preparing and distributing devices and fielding calls from parents. One thing they’ve also fielded a complaint about is an uninvited guest in one of their online classrooms.

The tech department has educated teachers on how to safely hold class on Zoom, but in at least one instance this week a stranger made their way into a class Zoom meeting.

Staff have been instructed to do things like create a unique meeting ID, utilize zoom’s waiting room feature and password lock meetings to keep meetings secure.

Zoom-bombing, or unwanted intrusions during online meetings, are something many have had to deal with since the beginning of the pandemic, and school leaders say there’s only so much they can do to prevent it from happening.

“These platforms are not bombproof, so to speak. You know, the teacher sends out these links, they go out to the students, parents, so if you have that link you can get into that meeting. I heard one this morning there was a zoom-bomb in one class. Those are things we can’t necessarily control 100% because it’s a platform that’s out of our control but we do look at student safety as the upmost importance,” said technology director Russell Rivenbark.

District leaders have been in meetings for months now to make rules specific to synchronous online learning. The switch to strictly digital learning came fast in New Hanover County, but the district has posted clear rules for video interactions in the classroom.

Teachers have to share with parents and principals when they’re using video conferencing tools and why its necessary. Rules also range from making it clear students don’t have to turn their cameras on if they aren’t comfortable, to preventing staff from recording zoom meetings. Instructors can always turn student cameras and microphones off and students cannot share their screens.

Another rule in place prevents teachers from being alone in Zoom meetings with one student.

“Early on that was a recommendation and simply because we were trying to look at remote learning like the classroom. Would you want your teacher and your child having a one on one and you not know it? So essentially in a classroom with the door shut and that’s the kind of thought process and there’s been numerous meetings, especially regarding safety when it comes to our students,” added Rivenbark.

Parents are encouraged to stay engaged in your child’s schedule and what they’re doing when they have their devices on.

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