How to identify professional and safe practices?

As an element of the capacity building framework designed to help students make better use of personal mobile devices (PMDs) for workplace learning (WPL), this specific resource aims to help students better understand the issues of professional and safe use of mobile technology for their learning while on placement.

Most institutions encourage participation in the digital economy and digital citizenship, and support responsible engagement with social media for purposes that enhance professional work and professional development. However, they also seek to prevent employees from unprofessional behaviour and misconduct arising from inappropriate engagement with social media or various (mis)uses of mobile technologies. Students may come across workplace placement hosts that allow the use of PMDs and others that do not allow it. Further, not all workplaces are technology-friendly environments. The use of PMDs may not be deemed suitable in certain professional contexts.

How can academics, workplace educators and their colleagues help students identify their responsibilities around a professional and safe use of PMDs while on placement?

With the internet, the professional, educational, public and private spheres are increasingly blurred. The internet can be used for learning, working, playing, socialising etc. Students need to appreciate the benefits and risks of using mobile technology for learning in professional settings. An initial approach to safeguarding against misuse (disruptions, distractions, disclosure, breaches of permission and information, etc.) has often led to the banning of PMDs during working hours altogether, to protect people’s rights to privacy [1], for example.

Institutions are at different stages of appreciating the benefits of using PMDs for work and learning, and therefore, are at different stages of introducing special ethical guidelines or netiquette regarding the use of and access to mobile technology, social media and the internet while at work. These netiquettes mostly focus on personal mobile phone use and e-safety (e.g. online bullying, unsafe sharing of information, identity theft).

Students need to be made aware of such special digital or online communication etiquette. They also need to be made aware of the impact the visible use of mobile devices in professional practice has on their relationships with colleagues and clients/patients.[2]

Therefore: Students need to be made aware of the need to ask first and understand the privacy and confidentiality policies, as well as be mindful that some people are reluctant or even refuse to be included in videos etc. Clients have the right to decline permission to use PMDs.

When students intend to use mobile technology, including taking photos, they need to consider carefully the professional and cultural contexts, user preferences, motivations and purposes. They need to think carefully about the tools they use, how they use them and who has access to them. They cannot assume that people have given consent.

Refer to the associated resource page for some examples of how to do this.



[1] Fuchs, C. (2011). Towards an Alternative Concept of Privacy. Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society 9 (4): 220-237.

[2] Byrne-Davis, L., Dexter, H., Hart, J., Cappelli, T., Byrne, G., Sampson, I., Mooney, J., Lumsden, C. (2015). Just-in-time research: a call to arms for research into mobile technologies in higher education. Research in Learning Technology, 23.