Responsible Remote Access to PCs for Teaching

As interactions move online, remote access to personal computers (e.g. screen sharing, remote control, and annotation) will be a valuable tool to simulate in person interactions. This should be only be done if all parties are completely comfortable with a variety of privacy, autonomy, and safety concerns.

An example of why remote access may be useful

Mary wants to provide feedback on a document/software Sarah is using, but cannot quickly see what Sarah is doing. Sarah can share her screen with Mary so that Mary knows what Sarah is doing. Mary may be able to annotate Sarah’s screen. Sarah can offer to let Mary control her computer to directly change the documents.

Responsible screen sharing for a person requesting access to a personal computer

  • Obtain permission before doing anything on their computer, but especially recording.
  • Ask them to shut down/close material unrelated to academic work before accepting remote access.
  • Never switch tabs, screens, or windows without asking for permission. Ask the person who owns the machine to do so for you if at all possible. It’s both easier and ensures better privacy.
  • Be very obvious that you are looking away from your computer if the person whose screen you are accessing doesn’t shut off remote access when performing searches, switching screens, or when personal communications (emails/texts/chats) appear.
  • Do not save or alter anything on their computer without permission.

Responsible screen sharing for the person granting access to their personal computer

  • It’s completely acceptable to decline access or control to your computer at any time. Remote access should only be used when it will facilitate learning and is comfortable for both parties.
  • Shut down/close items not part of your academic work before granting remote access.
  • Be careful performing searches or accessing email/chat histories. Ideally, you would turn off remote access before doing so. Alternately, ask the other person to turn away from their computer screen.
  • If you want the person with remote access to see a different window/file, switch to that file yourself. Disable remote access or ask them to turn away if non-work related material might appear.


A student or faculty member accessing your computer should

  •  NEVER ask you to do something on your terminal (on an Apple machine) or your command prompt (on a Windows machine) unless you know how to judge safe usage.

  • NEVER ask you to download any files to your computer that are not part of the public documentation for the interaction.
  • NEVER pressure you to allow them to do something on your computer.

This work was produced by Ella Foster-Molina, Swarthmore College, March 2020. It is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit