Teaching in Disruptive Times


When teaching online or in a hybrid or hy-flex configuration, instructors need to be aware of digital safety, physical safety, and privacy for their students and themselves. Protection from digital security breaches, whether malicious pranks intended to alarm or actual theft of data or denial of services, requires coordination between multiple campus departments and you will be asked to do your part as well. If you teach on campus, you will need to follow your college’s COVID safety precautions and the CDC guidelines linked in this section. And finally, you will want to learn about the U.S. Department of Education’s interpretation of the federal student privacy act (FERPA) in remote teaching. This section links to a webinar answering questions like “Can non-students observe classes?” and “Can the college give learning apps student personal information?”

Before teaching online, you should take some basic precautions to prevent security breaches. For example, protect your home WiFi with a password that is not named anything that can be associated with you, your family, or your college. Install anti-virus software on the computer you will use for teaching and keep it up to date. Talk to your campus distance learning department about how you will connect to your college LMS and determine what additional safeguards should be installed.
Remote teaching platforms provide a number of features that will protect your virtual classes from intrusion and other forms of “Zoombombing.” Use the waiting room feature and lock the session once it has started to make sure you know that no unauthorized persons are present. If needed you can mute individuals, remove them from the class, or limit or disable their screen sharing and chatting functions. Whatever platform you use (and this will probably be determined by your school), take time to familiarize yourself with, and practice using, the platform’s built-in security features.

Learn more

As colleges return to offering at least some in-person teaching, learn the details of your college’s safety plan, study the CDC’s recommendations, and diligently promote safety in the areas and activities over which you have control. Acquaint yourself with your campus safety precautions and protocols regarding face masks, hygiene, social distancing, and symptoms or exposure.

In the classroom or lab, follow these COVID safety guidelines:

  • Arrange classroom seating for optimal social distancing and ventilation.
  • Disinfect shared surfaces and objects (such as lab counters and equipment) regularly.
  • Remind students often of standard disease-prevention protocols such as masking, hand washing, and coughing or sneezing into tissues or the sleeve.
  • Discourage congregating in common areas and sharing cell phones, digital tablets, books, and pens

Students who exhibit COVID symptoms, test positive, or have been exposed to COVID should stay home. You will need to develop and communicate policies that assure self-quarantining students that virtual learning options and (where appropriate) flexibility in completing course requirements are available.

Learn more

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) is a federal privacy law that gives postsecondary students the right to access and seek amendment of education records; to provide consent to disclosure of personally identifiable information (PII) from student records unless a FERPA exception applies; and to file a complaint under FERPA. On March 30, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education’s Student Privacy Policy Office hosted a webinar designed to address FERPA-related implications for remote teaching. The webinar covers topics such as circumstances under which teachers are permitted to take PII home for teaching purposes, whether FERPA permits schools and districts to disclose PPI to providers of virtual learning apps, whether FERPA governs which apps can be used, whether nonstudents can observe virtual classes, stipulations for recording lessons and sharing the recordings, electronic consent for release of PII, whether it is permissible for teachers’ family members to be present during student-teacher conferences, and secure transmission of PII. Please review your college’s FERPA statement of procedures and best practices and consult your administrator if you have questions.

Learn more