As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, schools, businesses and individuals are trying to find the best virtual platforms to fit their needs. Some of the front-runners for these virtual communication platforms include WebEx and Zoom, yet not everyone fully understands the features of these sites.

If you Google “Poor Jennifer,” you can see the unfortunate tale of a Zoom call gone wrong. An unknowing co-worker who thought her camera was off traveled to her bathroom and proceeded to use the bathroom, unaware that her camera was on and that the rest of her co-workers could see. Luckily, the video was blurry and the laptop’s angle prevented others from seeing too much. After a few agonizing seconds, “Poor Jennifer” realized her mistake and quickly closed her screen. 

Issues like “Poor Jennifer’s” could happen to anyone who isn’t aware of what they are dealing with. 

UNC Charlotte students rely on the learning platform, Canvas, to keep track of class assignments, grades and so forth. Canvas is able to track what all users on the site do including where, when, how long and how often all users of Canvas are engaging with a Canvas course. Instructors are able to see this information as well. This is one way instructors are able to catch students who may be cheating. 

“I think students should at least be made aware of what professors are able to see on Canvas and that it is only right that they know professors are able to see everything they do regardless if wherever they may be,” freshman Paul Lipetzky said. “I don’t necessarily agree with everything Canvas allows instructors to see but I do understand it can help to prevent cheating.” 

In addition to Canvas, many professors are utilizing Zoom and WebEx to hold virtual classes. 

As of February 2020, Zoom has added more than 2 million users. This site includes features such as a virtual background where users can upload an image of anything they want to use as a customizable background. Another feature of Zoom allows users to “touch up” their appearance such as by subtly smoothing fine lines and undereye bags. Yet, as popular as Zoom is, security concerns are beginning to form around the platform. 

One criticism Zoom seems to be facing is in regards to the security of private messaging features. Supposedly, if the host of a Zoom call chooses to record a Zoom meeting locally, then the chats that were sent publicly as well as privately during the call are saved. A new form of harassment referred to as “Zoombombing” has surfaced in which intruders hijack video calls and post inappropriate messages or images. Sophisticated hackers have also found ways to access Zoom calls and pull out private information. The FBI has warned people, specifically schools, to be careful. 

“I think the hacking problem is serious, but unfortunately there aren’t many other options at the time,” Lipetzky said. 

The whole world is having to adjust right now and while online platforms help people to communicate, it is important to understand what one is dealing with so that they may take the necessary precautions.

“I don’t think the virtual platforms are as effective as in-person learning but my professors are definitely doing a good job at making themselves available and communicating with us.”

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