Importance of Data Privacy and Security in E-learning

Calendar Icon February 15, 2022
Reading Time Icon Read Time: 4 min
By Firmwater

Data privacy and security are significant concerns for all businesses. Failing to protect customer data can result in substantial financial losses, potential lawsuits, and profound damage to your company brand. As training providers, you might not realize or even consider how much customer data your business collects.

What Is Customer Data?

Customer data is the behavioral, demographic, and personal information about customers collected by businesses. The four types are:

  • Personal data
  • Engagement data
  • Behavioral data
  • Attitudinal data

In this article, we focus on the fact that as a training provider, your company has access to a large amount of personal data, such as full names, email addresses, login details, credit/debit card details, phone number, location, job details, etc.. There are many points along the way where this data is transferred. Transfer of the data happens between the learner, their employer, the training provider/e-learning developer, the learning management system (LMS) vendor, and any third-party vendors (some e-learning authoring tools also capture learner data). It’s vital to take the correct precautions to ensure that everyone’s data is protected.

Impact of Data Breaches

The negative impacts of a data breaches include:

  • Poisoned search results on your corporate brand: Driving eyes to your ecommerce store or website is integral to your business. Imagine if the story about a data breach is the first search result every time your business is Googled.
  • Lost sales after the data breach: A data breach can result in a loss of trust, translating into a loss of dollars.
  • Unexpected expenses: A data breach can result in lawsuits, which can mean paying various legal penalties. This is especially concerning for small and medium-sized businesses, as 60% will shut down within six months of the attack.

As a training provider, you may find it intimidating to think about e-learning data privacy and security. What should you be doing to make sure you are being a good steward? Let’s start with prevention.

Data Privacy

You should understand the technical requirements of data privacy and security, including recognizing how industry standards, client needs, and international frameworks may impact technical requirements.

Work with clients to fully define and outline who owns the data. This question is a critical consideration for training providers, particularly when it comes to course analytics and reporting. Potential data owners may include the learners, trainers/facilitators, the client, and third-party vendors. Addressing this question requires stakeholders to understand and negotiate data ownership rights up front. If there is a data breach, it will also prevent a misunderstanding on who is ultimately responsible for the protection of the data.

If your business has international clients, it’s crucial to have a clear understanding of international technical requirements regarding data privacy and security.

Data Access

Data is transferred at many points. One way to prevent an e-learning data and privacy breach is to control client/user access to the data. Regulating access and admin privileges are essential to managing data privacy and security—not all users will or should have access to all data.

Work with clients to understand how they are managing their learning programs. For example, if the client has multiple LMS administrators across the country/region, they can be set up to view only the user data and reports within their region/country. In the Firmwater LMS, this is called, “Location Administrator.” Work with your LMS provider to see if they offer this type of functionality. Other things to consider include:

  • Reporting restrictions: If your training program requires the collection of sensitive data (e.g., medical, sexuality/gender, financial, etc.), think about restricting specific data points in reports to certain admins or client leaders.
  • Single-sign-on (SSO) and multi-factor authentication (MFA): SSO, albeit a highly useful tool for content administration, may pose a security risk if the SSO is breached, leaving all content on that platform exposed. However, MFA can help mitigate such risks and enhance security. If the client decides that they want to use this, they can configure it with the identity provider, and MFA will then be used for all applications configured to use the SSO. Requirements around password complexity and password change requirements are all managed in one place. Training providers should check with their LMS vendor to determine if they support SSO and MFA. For example, the Firmwater LMS enables clients to set up their own password requirements, such as including numbers and special characters.

Hosting and Security

Verify the LMS vendor’s data security center. Certificates may expire and data security practices may quickly become outdated. It’s imperative to monitor and continuously confirm the vendor’s security practices.

Speak to your LMS vendor about the following:

  • Where are your servers located? What is the uptime/downtime? How often is the LMS updated/patched?
  • ​​Does the LMS store data? If so, what data is stored?
  • Where does the data come from and where does it go?
  • Ask international vendors if they are general data protection regulation compliant.

What to Do after a Data Breach

Now that we’ve covered how to prevent an e-learning data and privacy breach, let’s discuss what to do if your company has already experienced a breach.

Here are a few mitigation recommendations:

  • Determine the scope of the breach.
  • Respond strategically and rapidly. Rapid response is crucial here.
  • Contact the proper authorities and other agencies.
  • Prevent future breaches.
    • Work with vendors to update software and plug-ins regularly.
    • Ensure that your security program is holistic and not just aimed at phishing scams.

Clients and Learners Need the Assurance That Their Data Is Secure

Breaches may lead to a loss of clients for training providers and may expose them to harsher consequences, including lawsuits and lost revenue. Those who go the extra mile in protecting clients’ and learners’ data and who are transparent regarding security and data privacy can implement these measures to build an attractive brand that appeals to clients with robust data security requirements and that supports learner engagement.

For more information on data privacy and security, we recommend these resources:

Here at Firmwater, we don’t just sell an LMS for training providers. We partner with our clients, giving them the tools and insights they need to implement the best practices in e-learning course development, growth, and delivery. We care too much about our customers’ businesses to have them wade through forums and chatbots for help.

Ready to use an LMS that’s designed for the way YOU work, with a team dedicated to YOUR needs? Book a no-obligation consultation directly with our team today!

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