Safety Tips For Studying Online

Published on: December 28, 2021

Studying online is a lot safer and more convenient than traditional learning in many ways, but as with anything, it is not without risks. It is easy for students to become complacent about safety issues when studying from the comfort and security of their own homes. However, as more and more students opt for online learning, there is also a greater risk from online hazards. Reputable colleges or universities with online degree programs will have security measures in place to protect their students. Still, it is also the responsibility of students to safeguard themselves from online dangers. Follow the tips below to educate yourself about the types of risks there are for online learners and how to keep yourself and your data safe.

Do Not Give Out Any Personal Information

Be very careful about revealing too much personal information when interacting with other students online. Some online courses require students to collaborate on projects, but there is no reason to share personal information such as addresses, passwords, or photos. If another student is making you uncomfortable or being pushy about asking for personal information, contact your lecturer or someone from the online institution you are studying for assistance. If your online classes require video conferencing, make sure that there's nothing personal visible in the background or reflecting in mirrors.

Do Not Download Anything Suspicious

Most online courses feature additional materials such as documents or videos that students can download. Make sure that you always download these from the official sources provided by your online college or university. The same goes for any software that is required for your course. Again, download these from official sources and ensure that your anti-virus or malware scanner scans the files before installing anything.

Do Not Click On Any Suspicious Links

If your online course requires you to visit any external website, you will typically be given the links by your lecturer or find them in the official course materials. Be wary of links provided by other students or by members of outside forums. This is especially important for websites or pages that ask you for log-in details. Always make sure that the website you are logging in to is the official one and not a phishing scam. Official websites are typically secured with HTTPS and do not have misspellings or grammatical errors.

Use Secure Passwords

As part of your online studies, you will typically have to log in to multiple services or programs, such as your emails, video conferencing software, and more. Never use the same password for all of these, as this can give hackers access to everything if they manage to get their hands on your password. You should always make sure that you use a secure password for your accounts. According to Norton (https://us.norton.com/internetsecurity-privacy-password-security.html), a secure password should ideally contain numbers, characters, and a mixture of upper and lowercase letters while avoiding real words or phrases. Using services such as haveibeenpwned (https://haveibeenpwned.com/) will allow you to check if your email or phone is in a data breach and change passwords accordingly.

Keep Your Software Updated

Hackers spend a lot of time searching for vulnerabilities in software that they can then exploit to gain unauthorized access to data. Some of the more harmful malware attacks have come from hackers who took advantage of the software vulnerabilities that they found in commonly used applications like browsers or operating systems. There tend to be regular updates to keep the software safe and stable, especially if security holes are found. However, usually, it is up to users to authorize these updates, so don't procrastinate doing so if you want to keep your system safe and secure.

Do Not Use Illegal Software

Some online courses may require students to make use of third-party software, such as those used for CAD, photo editing, spreadsheets, and more. If these are not included in the course, they might also be available to students at a discount. However, if they are omitted, it is better to use free alternatives instead of being tempted to download the software illegally. Illegal downloads are usually available from shady sights or torrents that expose users to security risks. Illegal software can also be infected by malware or viruses, and users are often instructed to deactivate their security software as part of the installation process. As tempting as it may be to save money using illegal software, the risk is simply not worth it, especially as free or open-source alternatives tend to be readily available.

Carefully Evaluate Information You Find Online

A lot of information is accessible online, but unfortunately, not all of it is reliable. Social media, in particular, has made it easy for anyone to spread false information, which is then backed by others to fuel their own agendas. When researching something online for your online degree project, be sure to pay attention to where the information is coming from, what the original sources are, and make an effort to verify the authenticity of any claims.

Set Your Own Boundaries Online

According to Statista, the average daily social media usage of internet users worldwide exceeded two hours, and this number is continuing to increase (https://www.statista.com/statistics/433871/daily-social-media-usage-worldwide/). If you spend a large portion of your day engaged in online learning and then still spend time on social media and other internet activities, it can negatively affect your mental and physical health. It is not uncommon for people who spend too much time online to experience anxiety, depression, and sleeping disorders. Other reported effects include feelings of guilt as well as headaches and weight gain. To prevent yourself from falling into this pattern, be sure to set boundaries for your time spent online and make room for other physical activities and social interactions in your day as well. In addition, studying online can be draining, so be sure to take regular breaks that don't involve more screen time.

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