What Role Do VPNs Play In Learning Online?

Many of us are considering a career change in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The additional time that we have been afforded through not being able to distract ourselves with the usual trips to the pub and holidays abroad has caused a lot of us to reflect on our lives, and think about changes that we could make to improve our situation by either earning more money, or by finding a career that is more satisfying in other ways.

If you are considering a career change and you don’t want to leave your current job to do so, then enrolling on an online learning program is a great way to build your skillset without losing income. As with any type of activity carried out online, the opportunity does come with some small security risks. However, many of these can be mitigated through the use of a VPN (virtual private network).

Protection if you are away from home

One of the great difficulties with studying is juggling your need for some quiet time to do your work, with the needs of family and friends who keep interrupting you!

As lockdown restrictions begin to ease, a great way for many of us to address this issue is to simply take our laptops and work in a coffee shop, or even better, in a co-working space. It means we get both the space we need and a change of scenery, which is often incredibly helpful in terms of productivity.

The downside to working in a public place is that the Wi-Fi network you use is often not all that secure, leaving you vulnerable to hackers who are trying to steal your information. Even if you use a Wi-Fi network that purports to be owned by the coffee shop you are working in, you can never be completely sure that it isn’t actually owned by someone else. And even if it is owned by them, do you actually trust Starbucks with your personal data?

The best way to get around this issue is to use a VPN to access your learning materials and online seminars. This way, the security of the Wi-Fi network you are using is less important, because any would-be hackers will find it much more difficult to access your data.

Protect your data from your ISP

If you manage to find a day where you have the house to yourself and can get some work done in the comfort of your home using your own secure Wi-Fi network, it’s still worth considering using a VPN.

If you do not use a VPN, then your internet service provider (ISP) has access to all of the data that you are sending and receiving. Obviously, the threat from your ISP is quite low—they are not going to steal your bank details or register for a credit card in your name. However, some ISPs may sell on your data to third parties who will use this information to target advertising towards you. Have you ever wondered why when you’re browsing Facebook you suddenly see adverts for the car you searched for once while you were bored on a lunch break? That’s why. It’s not an inherently harmful practice, but it can be irritating and it certainly won’t help you in your efforts not to make frivolous purchases!

Access to private networks

More and more universities are taking steps to make their courses available online; not only as a necessity borne out of the pandemic, but as a way to provide access to education for students who might not otherwise be able to opt to study. For example, Wilkes University offers it’s FNP programs online. Family nurse practitioner training is available to those who are already registered nurses, and are likely therefore to already have busy day-to-day lives. By offering its courses online, more registered nurses are able to take the opportunity to further their careers. However, as with any healthcare course, data protection is paramount. Students are taking part in clinical placements and dealing with sensitive patient information every day, and it is paramount that the data is protected as online learning progresses.

VPNs are often used by institutions such as universities to allow remote access to private file locations. Due to the sensitive nature of the data they hold, they have to lock down access so that they are not vulnerable to hackers, but simultaneously allow access to students and staff. This is where a VPN is useful. Students and staff are given access to a VPN, which, in turn, accesses the private file locations, but there is no direct access to the file location directly that keeps it safe.