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Acceptable Use of Technology

Policies that govern the use of technology in the school, the use of the school’s hardware outside of the school building, and access to school technology systems such as learning management systems are obviously critical to the function of an online learning program. Although nearly all schools have had an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) for many years, it is not always friendly to online learning. Virtual school students tend to use a broader range of tools and resources than face-to-face students, and policies must allow for that range. For example, many schools continue to ban chat tools, discussion boards, video streaming and social networking sites, all of which can be used effectively for online learning.

Because of the complexity and details around a comprehensive AUP, we will not address all aspects here. We assume that your school has basic internet usage policies that govern obscene materials, vandalism, discrimination, promotion of violence, cyber-bullying and so on. The questions below focus on changes that may be required to ensure effective online learning. The sample policies that follow provide additional detail.

  • What expectations of privacy do users have regarding their course-based communications, including emails, discussion postings, chats and other submitted work? Who can look at the coursework, and under what circumstances? Consider:
    • Teachers not involved directly in the class
    • Advisors of various students in the class
    • Administrators, including technology directors, business managers, curriculum coordinators and others not directly associated with the student or course
    • Parents of students active in the course, and of parents who might be exploring future options
    • Students. Which communications are public, and which are private?
  • What tools and websites might be banned currently that students will now need to access? Consider:
    • Video streaming such as YouTube, TeacherTube, Vimeo, and news sources, as well as academic services such as Discovery Streaming
    • Social networking sites such as Edmodo, Flickr, and Facebook.
    • Communication tools such as Skype, iChat, Google Chat and similar tools that might be embedded in your learning management system or conferencing tools
    • 3-D worlds and avatar-based simulations, such as Second Life.
  • If the school will be providing laptops for students to use outside of school, what safety and security measures will be installed (such as filtering), and how will the school monitor those measures?
  • As the lines between personal electronics, cell phones and laptops blur through tablet computers, e-readers and the iPad, how might your policy language need to change to allow for the myriad of tools students might use to access online courses?
  • In many schools, the consequences of any violation of internet use include a loss of internet privileges for the student. In an online learning program, such a consequence effectively means expulsion from the course or school. This may be a more severe punishment than intended, and schools may wish to revise their policy accordingly.