A FREE course aimed at helping internet users develop the skills to better manage their online identity has been created by experts at the University of Edinburgh.

It will give participants the opportunity to find out how to shape the digital footprint they create through social media, image sharing and web browsing. They can also learn how to handle content posted online by other people.

Course organisers say a well-managed online identity can result in job opportunities and social connections, but a poor one can cause real reputational damage. The course will enable participants to take responsibility for overseeing personal data on the internet.

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Called Digital Footprint, it offers advice on removing unwanted information from the web, and encourages reflection on privacy and social media use.

Learners will also find out how to transform their digital footprint into a positive online identity for professional networking.

Course designer Nicola Osborne said: “In today’s world it is important to consider our online identity.

“People should ask themselves what would come up if a future employer searched for them online.

“Social media is embedded in most of our lives and we hope the course will enable participants to get the best out of these brilliant digital tools.”

The new Massive Open-access Online Course — or MOOC — has been developed at the university’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and EDINA and is available from today at www.coursera.org/learn/digital-footprint/ It comes as the Scottish Business Resilience Centre (SBRC) – which aims to create a secure environment for business – issues a fresh warning about malicious email, following a spear-phishing email sent to one of its members. Such emails appear to come from a trusted source – often an individual within the recipient’s own company – in this case SBRC chief executive Mandy Haeburn-Little’s PA.

SBRC is warning its staff and the general public to be extra vigilant: “Always make sure that you look very carefully at the email address of the sender and always treat an unexpected email containing an internet link or attachment with suspicion. If you’re at all in any doubt, ensure you contact the sender to verify its legitimacy.”

The body is also giving anyone the chance to learn about cyber security through the online Cybrary community (www.cybrary.it).

“We believe everyone deserves an opportunity, and that opportunities should not be limited to people who ‘win the birth lottery’,” said the SBRC. “Fortunately, the internet enables us to do this.”

It wants to give everyone the educational tools they need to become competent and confident. People, companies and training come together in the Cybrary community, giving everyone the ability to collaborate in a way that is revolutionising educational experience: “We are creating the ability to bring all the best cyber security learning elements and content together, from the people who are doing it, the people who have done it, the people who have learned from it and the companies that are innovating on it, and deliver that for free to anyone who needs or wants to learn from it.”

Ralph Sita and Ryan Corey founded Cybrary after spending much of their careers in the training industry and realising how unprepared it was to have any real change on the cyber security sector. As training became more accessible online, the pair decided to offer it for free, forever through a network of instructor friends, to give everyone the opportunity to learn.