Society in the Classroom

Protecting Student Data

Security in Schools

Schools and educators have a duty to protect student data as best as possible, (see FERPA ).  Universities are required by law to provide students with access to their educational records, as well as to maintain and dispense those records in a responsible manner, taking “reasonable” precautions to safeguard student data and delete it when that data is no longer relevant.  However, FERPA and the protections it guarantees to students only pertains to student transcripts and officially recorded data with PII.  It doesn’t protect all the other data students generate when studying at a college or university, like browsing history, chat logs, video calls, contacts, physical whereabouts, and other metadata. Students also may not fully understand the importance of protecting their private data in a secure manner.  While FERPA is in place to protect certain kinds of student data, it’s currently insufficient to protect student privacy and the schools from the liability of data breeches.

Legacy systems, like the Google application suite, which are widely used by schools today, not only retain student data indefinitely, (see Google policies), they explicitly engage in the business of monetizing that data for profit. Only data that is explicitly protected by FERPA is presumably omitted, but again FERPA doesn’t necessarily protect more mundane student metadata. An ideal solution to student communications would prevent unwanted people from outside the educational setting from having access regulated PII and data protected by FERPA as well as all student generated data, no matter how seemingly insignificant it is.

The WhiteStar Solution

Society: Secure Social Network from WhiteStar Communications solves these problems by leveraging the revolutionary WhiteStar Network and its’ underlying Cloudless architecture.

The WhiteStar Network enables students with Society accounts to connect to each other and to educators via a secure, NIST and GDPR compliant peer-to-peer network. In the classroom, Society allows students and teachers to cryptographically own and manage the content and messages they distribute.  This means educators who send assignments, tests, and papers to students can fully control the use of that content.  Likewise, this solution maintains full compliance with PTAC standards and recommendations for educators maintaining good data protection practices in the classroom, since it allows for proper data disposal at the end of that data’s lifecycle.

Society also has built in lifecycle controls that allows the content owner to fully dictate how long a piece of content, be it a test, quiz, paper, or assignment will be available to any recipients. Society accomplishes this by leveraging the underlying WhiteStar Network controls for content management so that content is removed when it is beyond its’ predefined “shelf life”. This solves a major compliance headache for educators and administrators who are working within FERPA frameworks for data retention in the school system, protecting the school from potential liability and allowing the school to best comply with the letter of the law - automatically. 

Likewise, research universities often need to protect the IP of professors and researchers working on projects at the university, while at the same time maintaining flexibility with interns and students who cycle in and out of research projects. Researchers may also need the ability to collaborate remotely with other subject matter experts both at the same university and at other universities around the world. Society allows conversation owners to add new users to existing conversations, giving them access to all previous messages within that conversation, and then upon completion of the project, remove a collaborator and all the messages shared with them. This helps to prevent IP leakage, protecting the university’s reputation and as well as anyone working on sensitive information from potential liability.


Instant Secure File Transfer

Society also makes the process of submitting and grading papers and homework a breeze.

Students can complete assignments and submit them via Society’s StarDrop feature from anywhere in the world, and Society will securely transfer the document quickly over the WhiteStar Network with full encryption. From there, an educator can simply import that document, review, assign a grade, then send it back to the student cryptographically secured. Educators can augment their teaching effectiveness by opening a private chat with the student to provide additional feedback and guidance and actively coach their students to success.

This is especially important in a remote setting, where students and educators are physically separated. StarDrop supports any file type with any size from a Python programming routine to high definition vector designs.


Private and Public Communities

Another standout feature of Society is the Social Community, which can be tailored to suit the needs for individual schools. Communities provide students with a place to gather and interact with other students and educators with common interests. Participants in a community can be controlled to include only whitelisted devices to create a Private Community, or they can be set up as Public Communities for wider participation with university alumni or even the general public. Departments and professors can create individual Communities for their classes, where students can collaborate, and professors can communicate important updates regarding class schedules or assignments. Society Communities also support the secure transfer of any type or size of file, allowing professors to easily distribute class materials.


Secure Private Chat

While Society Communities allow for group discourse, Society’s Conversations can be used as private chat rooms enabling educators to add students into a private one-to-one office hour sessions, or as a chat room for the entire class to discuss topics introduced in the classroom. This is especially helpful for teachers who are trying to provide the best integrated experience to both remote learners and students who are physically on campus, as it creates a central area for an inclusive, yet private discussion. When a new student enters the chat for the first time, they will receive all previous messages in the conversation, allowing them to quickly catch up on the discussion and participate. If students leave the conversation, or if the educator needs to remove a disruptive pupil, all of their chat messages and content goes with them, keeping the chat clean and concise for the participants who remain in discussion.

Society also allows students and educators to edit their content even after it has been sent, allowing them to correct any mistakes they make in the event of a “fat finger moment”. Likewise, Society helps to prevent plagiarism with built-in features to prevent screen captures which can lead to questions of academic integrity.

The WhiteStar Network and Society app addresses the Security needs for schools by providing data privacy and security as well as a set of collaboration features that enhance the learning experience while improving the efficiency of educators.


Related White Papers

Learn more about related topics in one of the papers below: