By Zac Macdonald and Sharmila Vijayann


Increased Awareness

With small and medium organizations shifting learning, there is an increased awareness of digital privacy and policies. For example, a medium sized Manitoba Credit Union had to shift all classroom training programs including onboarding programs online. Web 2.0 tools were introduced to increase engagement and motivation. This resulted in the digital team running a series of online programs on revised privacy and security guidelines and policies. Legacy employees who had never had any experience using collaborative tools for learning, woke up to a new reality that asked for awareness and application of policies and practices that were relatively new.

Increased Protection and Increased Innovation

Closed digital learning environments and improved privacy practices can protect users and encourage innovation. A secure digital learning environment allows users to express new or controversial ideas without fear of external repercussions. Having a safe space reassures that debate and collaboration can occur without judgment. A closed community also helps negate anonymous bullying or online harassment. Corporate organizations increased the use of their Intranets to provide contained collaborative spaces for learning and knowledge exchange.

Improved Guidelines

Most teams moved to remote work during the pandemic while critical frontline teams continued to work in socially distanced and protected environments, creating a cultural shift. Learning activities burst out of a contained classroom and LMS settings. Teams were no longer supervised and learning materials were no longer private. Completing coursework and attending zoom sessions meant private organizational learning assets were open viewing in informal situations, beyond the confines of the classroom. This led to financial institutions like ours revisiting and enhancing internal privacy, communication, social media and risk policies.

Increased Accountability

With remote work and learning becoming a reality, privacy became everyone’s responsibility. Employees who considered privacy and security largely the responsibility of IT, Risk or Customer-facing teams realized they are now equally responsible.

Decreased Interest and Limited Understanding

Cloud based services don’t float in the sky. Although some jokingly point to the sky when we say “it’s stored in the cloud”, there is a physical location this data is stored and sent from. Organizations must understand the privacy law impacts in the digital learning environments they use.  A common example is many Canadian organizations avoid US hosted services as they can be subject to the Patriot Act which allows the collection and distribution of their data. Decreased motivation from the pandemic and increased fatigue leads to decreased interest in consuming and deepening privacy and policy related learning.

All digital learning environments have privacy policies and we don’t read them. Any site, program, digital resource, you will find a Privacy Policy, generally tucked away at the bottom of the page. Likely amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic, many users have had to adopt numerous new digital platforms and may have unknowingly shared more data then they realize. It is very common, we click accept or next just to move on to the resource we are trying to access. In this way, digital privacy has been down-played as “not a big deal” to many users.

Digital learning environments must consider geographical data restrictions. We commonly think of the Internet being everywhere with access to everything, but this is not always the case. Through necessity many digital environments cannot share geo-restricted resources. This can be due to a YouTube video only licensed for a certain country or a nation’s internet usage policies which may prohibit a certain subject. Digital learning providers and consumers require a depth of knowledge, skills and behaviors that are new in most organizations.

Increased Risk 

Children’s toys are increasingly connective and personalized, but bring risk to consider. Upon exploring digital privacy and digital learning we discovered an excellent report called “Kaleidoscope on the Internet of Toys: Safety, security, privacy and societal insights” that shifted our perspective. We recommend looking at Table 1 in the article as it brings up risks and benefits of internet connected toys. More commonly we see young children playing and learning with technology and this explores some of the potential implications.

Ambiguous Ownership

In organizations like credit unions, with the enhanced privacy protocols and revised policies, and because of distributed learning and remote work, there is an increased expectation that there should be shared ownership. However not all teams understand the length, breadth and depth of digital privacy in an all-digital environment and believe that digital privacy and policies belong to the IT, Digital and Risk teams. While there is increased accountability there is also no clear owner or shared ownership.

Inadequate Readiness

With the pace of change and being thrust into digital learning almost overnight, many of our legacy employees report feeling overwhelmed, demotivated and exhausted. There is resistance to change, resistance to learning and that begs the question, are our legacy employees ready to learn and apply the privacy and policy requirements? Are our expectations realistic? With many employees in a 79 year old institution like an unnamed Manitoban Credit Union, being in the organization for over 25 years devoid of post-secondary education, are our policies and privacy protocols setting them up for success? 




Bates, T. (2015). Chapter 9 Choosing and using media in education: the SECTIONS model. In Teaching in the digital age. Contact North

Centre for Research in Digital Education (n.d.). Manifesto for Teaching Online. Retrieved from

Chaudron, S., Di Gioia, R., Gemo, M., Holloway, D., Marsh, J., Mascheroni, G., Peter, J. and Yamada-Rice, D., Kaleidoscope on the Internet of Toys: Safety, security, privacy and societal insights, EUR 28397 EN, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, 2016,  doi:10.2788/05383 (online)

Muirhead, B. , Robertson, L. (2021, April 24). Living and Learning Online: Why Digital Privacy is Everyone’s Responsibility  [PowerPoint slides]. MALAT Virtual Symposium, Royal Roads University.

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UNSECO (2020). Beyond Disruption: Digital Learning in the Pandemic.