It seems like everywhere you look these days, there’s a story about a hack or data breach. These cyber incidents are becoming more common as hackers become more emboldened and enjoy more success targeting organizations and individuals. Hacks and breaches have a profound impact on the targeted entity and its business operations. They also can have a significant negative effect on the entity’s reputation.
Accordingly, in order to protect people’s information and corporate reputation, organizations are hustling to improve their cybersecurity and their data management practices. And while you might think hacks and breaches target consumers’ personal and financial information, the truth is that cybercriminals do not discriminate when they go hunting for information. This is why it is so important for educators to ensure they have dedicated plans for storing and protecting the data that gets collected before, during and after educational activities.
AO North America’s Manager of Measurement and Evaluation, Dr. James Morgante, says educators should focus on “planning and organization” when they craft data storage and protection policies. “Educators should plan for at least two types of storage methods in case one type is lost or destroyed.”
These storage methods should combine hardware and software for maximum protection and access. Different storage solutions include “laptops, networked drives, external drives and cloud storage,” Morgante says.
He also urges educators to consider access control measures. If a particular file or dataset is available to multiple people, there should be ways to track updates and edits to the file. In the event of confusion around a particular change or a question of access to the materials, it should then be easy to check who has accessed or made changes to the file.
In addition to taking steps to protect data when it has been collected, educators should discuss their plans for the data before learning takes place. Morgante again stresses that planning and organization are essential when it comes to the storage and use of data related to educational activities.
“Prior to beginning data collection, educators should discuss how data will be organized and prepared for analysis,” he says. Decisions, he says, such as “the use of a particular software, organization of variables within spreadsheets and development of a resource or codebook should be made in advance of data collection.”
“Potential analysis plans should also be discussed in advance of data collection to ensure that they are supported by the measures used and structured for them in a developed database,” Morgante says.
After the data has been collected and stored safely, it can be analyzed. Morgante describes this data as instrumental in helping educators refine or tailor their activities. When data is collected before and after the educational opportunity, by means of pre-established measures, educators are positioned to accurately assess the impact of the education on the learners’ developing expertise. But Morgante emphasizes that all data collected from an activity or program should be analyzed and interpreted, with no exceptions.
“Regardless of whether it is positive or negative, collected data tells an activity’s story,” Morgante says. “That story may provide insight into a next potential activity, offering or opportunity to refine an instructional method.”
Annabel Steele is an editorial senior associate for the Almanac.