What is e-safety and why should we do it?

An increasing demand for cost-effective, responsive delivery, the use of personal devices, and teachers employing a range of online social tools to reach and engage learners means that managing and monitoring access to content has become central to teaching and learning delivery. Although there are many resources being developed for schools, e-safety cannot be managed in the same way in the post-16 sector. In fact, the issue of staying safe online is only one factor in the increasingly complex environment of online delivery. The responsibilities go beyond keeping learners safe; the essential difference being the variety of activities, diversity of age and ability of learners, as well as the range of teaching and learning delivery methods employed throughout the sector. This resource aims to address as many variables as possible but will need to be supplemented by your own specific experience, knowledge and context.

Cherwell Room, OUCS, University of Oxford – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The focus is on e-responsibility

In the post-16 sector e-safety must be a two-way process. Both learner and provider have responsibilities to fulfil. As with everyday life the key to staying safe online lies in raising awareness, improving skills and in encouraging an understanding of the implications of unsafe or irresponsible behaviour. That is why we have used the term e-responsibility to define our approach. Cultivating responsible behaviours in both staff and learners is key to raising awareness and enabling individuals to protect themselves, each other and the organisation. Staff and learners should be made aware of the issues, enabled to act to protect themselves, each other and the organisation. They can be encouraged to take responsibility for their own behaviour online by providing educational opportunities linked to clear policies and consequences.

e-Responsibility means:

  • enabling staff to develop their skills and knowledge
  • encouraging learners to become informed users able to identify risks and act to protect themselves and others
  • ensuring that all users are aware of and avoid potential misuse of technology
  • supporting both in identifying risks and acting to protect themselves
  • persuading users to behave responsibly online through education, policies and sanctions
  • provision of a clear procedure and confidential support process so that users have a mechanism to report any concerns or communications they have encountered online

e-Responsibility falls under the umbrella term of ‘digital literacy’ and by encouraging responsible online behaviours you’re also broadening the competencies of learners in other key areas.  Competencies such as being able to collaborate online, develop a positive digital presence, find and evaluate information and so on are all necessary to equip learners for living, learning and working in a digital world.  Learning providers are already developing these digital literacies in staff and students through staff development strategies and curriculum design in order to create a dynamic and engaging learning experience, but keeping apace with the latest developments can sometimes be a challenge.  So how can we help?  The Jisc Regional Support Centres are putting together a series of resources on key aspects of digital literacy, including e-responsibility, to help inform staff development programmes and offer an organisational review of your current practice to help you identify how to embed digital literacies across the organisation.  If you’d like to find out more contact your local Jisc Regional Support Centre or take a look at our support pages for digital literacy.

What are digital values? Acknowledging your responsibility to protect yourself and others online

We recommend an approach that promotes digital values and encourages everyone to think about the consequences of their behaviour online – even when they can be anonymous and don’t know the people they are talking to. There are a lot of good resources to promote digital values with learners and staff on the learning and teaching page of this resource. Examples include:

  1. Security awareness such as using strong passwords and not sharing them. Sticking to the rules in the Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) will protect you too! You don’t want to be seen as responsible for something someone else has done wrong
  2. Cautious information sharing – yours and everyone elses. Don’t share anyone’s information without their permission – even a strangers
  3. Respect for yourself and protecting your digital identity. Think about how others will see you now – and in the future
  4. Ownership – copyright and referencing. Collaboration online may be easy but is it always legal! Find out about Creative Commons
  5. Take care with web forms, text messages and emails. Exploring digital literacy skills will help you to raise your understanding of the risks and how to deal with them
  6. Respect for others in online communities. Reflecting on the way we behave in anonymous online communities and how that would appear face to face

Legal aspects

Meeting legal requirements and satisfying inspection criteria have been key drivers for e-responsibility. e-Safety measures will still be considered at inspection so providers need to demonstrate and evidence a whole organisational approach linked to their safeguarding procedures and policies which should be proactive, based on a realistic assessment of the risks learners actually face and developed with their involvement.

Some users may be more at risk online than others and this may be due to age (children or older people), disability or health. It is also worth remembering that some disabled learners may be at particular risk online due to difficulties in understanding, communication, and/or limited access to and interaction with information.

There is a clear statutory responsibility to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young learners in Further Education (FE) in the same way that schools do. In addition, both FE and Higher Education (HE) owe a duty of care to staff and learners. This duty is likely to be greater where younger or more vulnerable students are concerned. Further information on legal responsibility and duty of care can be found in the section on legal responsibilities.

Disabled learners

This will therefore be a key consideration in terms of e-responsibility in some parts of the sector, for example in Independent Specialist Colleges (ISCs), and in any provision where there are learners with disabilities. In some of these contexts the issues are complex and it can be difficult to communicate the concept of e-safety.

Further information on legal responsibility and duty of care can be found in the section on legal responsibilities.


A special thank you to the Jisc Regional Support Centres (RSCs) who developed this resource through their e-Responsibility Group. Also to Jisc Legal and Jisc TechDis who kindly provided their time and expertise to develop and review this infoKit, and in particular to Julia Taylor (RSC South West, e-Learning Adviser – Accessibility & Inclusion) for coordinating input from multiple key stakeholders.