Is ‘distance learning’ secure? Montgomery Co. leaders say yes

Maryland’s largest school system is in the middle of its second week of a distance learning program that has students at home trying to adjust to a new way of life during the coronavirus pandemic.

All things considered, Montgomery County leaders say the program has gotten off to a smooth start — but there is a lot more work to be done.

“This is a gradual ramping up,” said Chris Lloyd, president of the county teachers’ union. “We’ve tried to work to establish a schedule that folks can see their teachers on and that we can get going on some instruction.”

So far, more than 40,000 laptops have been given out to students to be used for distance learning.

On Monday alone, the school system hosted more than 6,000 virtual classrooms through the video conferencing tool Zoom.

“This is not normal school,” Lloyd said. “We just all have to exercise patience.”

One of the main questions parents have been asking is whether so-called “zoombombing” is possible, referring to someone logging in anonymously and disrupting virtual classes.

That cannot happen with these particular classrooms, according to the school system’s chief technology officer, Peter Cevenini.

“The only people who can log in are MCPS students and teachers,” said Cevenini. “People from the outside cannot log in.”

Plus, according to Cevenini, teachers can put someone on mute if they are being disruptive, and nobody can log in anonymously.

“We have taken steps to ensure that these things are mitigated as much as possible,” Cevenini said.

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