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Assessing the effectiveness of cloud-based web filters for K-12 schools

Product Updates December 2022-01

Not all web filtering tools are effective in safeguarding K-12 learners. Today’s students are learning on computers, tablets and mobile-devices and using the internet for class activities, research, assessments, communication and collaboration. If your web filter is outdated or you spend too much time managing it, it’s time to look into cloud-based web filters for schools. 

Your web filter needs to be powerful enough for current learning needs. But how do you determine which one is best for your school district? Use the following questions to assess the effectiveness of the web filter you currently have or are considering. 

Does your web filter work across devices and operating systems?

If your web filter doesn’t work across devices and operating systems, it’s likely outdated. A cloud-based web filter restricts content for students both in the classroom and when learning remotely. Your school district may issue one type of device to learners, such as Chromebooks. But it’s likely that your students are learning on a variety of devices and using different operating systems. Your web filter then needs to be capable of filtering content across devices and operating systems. 

When learners are logged into their school Google account, Deledao ActiveScan, presented by Hāpara works on computers, tablets and mobile devices, as well as Android, macOs and Windows. So whether your learners use Chromebooks, iPads or their phone for class activities, this web filter protects them online.

Does your web filter work at school and off-campus?

Some web filters can only restrict content while learners are in the school building. But today’s learners access their school accounts and educational content outside of school, too. Whether they are riding in the car after basketball practice or working on a class project at home, they need to use the internet for learning outside of their classroom walls and school hours. 

Cloud-based web filters for schools can filter content anywhere and anytime students are logged into their school accounts. The web filter does that when necessary. You can quickly create a filtering rule specifically for after-school hours and tailor rules to different organizational units. For example, you can set up different filtering rules for educators and learners, buildings or grade levels. As a result, you have the flexibility to create safeguards exactly the way you need to support instructional use of the internet.

Does the cloud-based web filter work beyond a blocked list?

Some cloud-based web filters for schools work by only using blocked and allowed lists. In this case, technology administrators have to constantly update their lists by adding web domains, URLs, categories or keywords. Some cloud-based web filters have a library with a lengthy list of keywords and categories that technology administrators need to select from. This requires a lot of clicks, time and consistent management. It’s also possible for inappropriate, harmful or distracting content to slip through to learners online.

Deledao ActiveScan, presented by Hāpara, on the other hand, works in tandem with your blocked and allowed lists. You can easily upload URLs your school district prefers to block or allow. You can also quickly select categories, such as adult content or VPNs, to always block. 

On top of that, the web filter uses artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze the context on a web page and restrict harmful and inappropriate content. Technology administrators don’t have to constantly update their blocked and allowed lists while the AI works to protect learners. With easy management, it ensures that learners stay protected anytime they are online.

Does the cloud-based web filter use true AI?

Some web filters claim to use AI, but the AI doesn’t work in real time to filter content. What these web filters use is an AI database rather than true AI. In this case, they used AI to develop a database of websites and URLs that were categorized for blocking or allowing. The problem is that this type of cloud-based web filter can’t keep up with all the new websites and URLs that are frequently added online. 

An effective K-12 cloud-based web filter needs to have the capability of intelligently analyzing material on a web page in real time. This should happen regardless of websites, URLs, categories or keywords a technology administrator adds to a web filter rule.

The web filter uses real-time AI to analyze videos, including YouTube videos or embedded videos, as they play. When a learner sees a video playing, the web filter blurs or mutes any part of the video content that is inappropriate or harmful. It also analyzes images, including Google images, and blurs what learners should not see. With a real-time AI web filter, content won’t be missed even as websites constantly update. It also allows educators to safely include YouTube in their learning resources.

Discover how a South Carolina school district supports SEL with browser monitoring

Watch the video to hear why Highlights helps educators like Kathryn combine monitoring with social and emotional learning.

Does the AI work across all of Google Drive?

If your school district uses Google Workspace for Education and Google Classroom, you need a web filter that monitors content across Google Drive. Not all cloud-based web filters analyze all of the content in Google Drive. Some work by filtering content in Google Docs only because they don’t work in real time. Deledao ActiveScan, presented by Hāpara, though, filters across all of Google Drive to analyze content and restrict what’s harmful or indecent.  

Does the K-12 web filter detect Google Sites and games?

Many K-12 web filters don’t recognize Google Sites and Google games, and learners are able to access them. In math class, instead of completing a formative assessment activity, learners may be playing the snake game, even if you have a “games” category blocked in your web filter. Some learners even add a game link or embed a game into their own Google Sites. 

Deledao ActiveScan, presented by Hāpara is able to detect Google Sites and games and automatically block them. Other web filters often require a technology team to manually add individual Google Sites with games to their blocked list. This could be a never-ending task, so be sure that your web filter can pick up on these types of websites.

Does the web filter have compatibility with video conferencing?

If your school needs to turn to remote learning because of school closings, you need a web filter that will continue to shield learners from inappropriate content. When educators connect with learners over Google Meet or Zoom, your web filter may not operate on live webcam feeds or screen sharing.

The web filter can identify inappropriate content through video feeds in real time. Educators and learners can safely hold class on Google Meet or Zoom through their internet browser without disruptions.

Does the web filter offer robust reporting?

A cloud-based web filter should have reports available that key you in to learners’ online activity and patterns. The web filter provides reports that show you the websites learners are visiting, when they were on the site and for how long. The goal is to give you a full understanding of online activity across the school district. You can also drill down to an organizational unit or view an individual learner’s activity. This helps you identify areas of concern or spot websites that you want to add to your allowed list. 

What type of web filter does your school district use? If your web filter is outdated or not powerful enough to protect today’s learners, consider a switch. A cloud-based web filter with real-time AI will provide a consistently safe online learning environment and save you time.

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