Lightspeed Systems, an AWS Public Sector Partner, helped the Kentucky Department of Education deploy online safety solutions efficiently, protect students online, and give K–12 leaders tools to make better decisions about online learning. The Lightspeed cloud-based solutions provide content filtering, data management, and real-time notifications of student safety concerns.
Security is essential for the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE). The state government agency, which provides education technology services to all 171 public school districts across the state, must comply with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) and other internet safety laws to protect 650,000 enrolled students and 150,000 staff members online. “We partner with all 171 local school districts to ensure all students and staff have safe and secure access to the internet as an instructional resource,” says Chuck Austin, chief of customer relations and emerging technology for the Office of Education Technology, Kentucky Department of Education. A state-level internet safety law established in 1998 requires the Department must provide protection from inappropriate content as well as malware and viruses. “We’ve been providing internet safety measures and focusing on Digital Citizenship for the last two decades,” says Austin.
For several years, KDE provided security and authentication services through an on- premises web-filtering solution from Lightspeed Systems, a member of the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Public Sector Partner Program (PSP) and an AWS Advanced Technology Partner and Education Competency Partner. However, as all Kentucky schools pivoted to virtual learning at the onset of the pandemic, the Office of Education Technology realized it needed a more flexible security solution to meet the needs of students and teachers accessing learning content from away from the school campus. “To deliver anywhere, always-on learning, we knew we had to focus on a cloud-based internet safety solution,” says Austin.
An existing Lightspeed Systems customer for the last five years, KDE decided to implement the latest cloud-based platform, an AWS-based solution, enabling the Department to support online safety in a distance learning environment. “It was an easy decision for us to deploy Lightspeed Filter (formerly Lightspeed Relay), because it’s a cloud-first solution for protecting students and teachers,” says Austin. “The fact that it is based on AWS gave us a lot of confidence that it would be scalable and offer much-needed reliability and enhanced security.”
Lightspeed Systems uses advanced artificial intelligence (AI) technology to provide an online safety and analytics platform for K–12 schools throughout the US. Lightspeed Filter provides web filtering and reports on student activity while supporting any device or operating system. The solution runs on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances and relies on Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) as its database, while storing data in Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) buckets. Lightspeed Filter uses AWS Lambda serverless architecture to enable easy scalability so Lightspeed Systems can add compute capacity based on demand. “We had worked with the Department of Education for more than five years, and we were shifting from on-premises appliances to cloud-based services. At the same time, the pandemic required availability for secure internet access away from school for all students, teachers, and staff, so it was the right fit for both organizations,” says Rob Chambers, vice president of customer success for Lightspeed Systems.
In addition to filtering, Lightspeed offers a student safety alert feature that provides real-time notifications when students are at risk of self-harm or violence towards others that Kentucky school districts can implement as needed. Another helpful component of the platform is the Lightspeed Classroom Management solution that helps teachers keep students on task while working remotely.
Additionally, KDE has begun using AWS-powered Lightspeed Analytics for reporting and visibility into student usage and adoption of education technology applications and services. This feature enables KDE to take a data-first approach and leverage comprehensive data analysis to its advantage.
KDE’s aggressive and nation-leading cloud first strategy since 2010 enabled an immediate transition to virtual learning at the onset of the pandemic. “We had to pivot to 100 percent virtual instruction as fast as we could, and we were able to do so because of our commitment to cloud-first and our existing partnerships with Lightspeed Systems and other industry-leading service providers,” says Austin.
KDE is protecting students and teachers by providing safe and secure access to online learning resources with the Lightspeed platform. Specifically, the cloud-based filtering enables Kentucky school districts to establish policy and usage guidelines, which is critical for compliance with state and federal laws around safe technology.
In addition, Kentucky school districts can rely on Lightspeed Systems for fast and easy deployment, complete visibility into their distance learning program, and timely product updates. “We have a limited number of technology support staff across the state, so it is extremely beneficial for us to have a partner like Lightspeed to help local school districts manage internet safety,” Austin says.
Using the features of Lightspeed Analytics, Kentucky school districts are collecting and analyzing key data about how students and teachers use district applications. Taking advantage of this data, the local district leaders will be able to get the right information to make smarter, data-driven decisions. With data analytics, leadership can better leverage their spending in areas of high usage and impact, for example. Says Chambers, “The Department of Education has been doing great things with data for a long time, and we are excited to partner with them to get even more from their data, relying on the power of AWS.”
Lightspeed Systems, headquartered in Austin, Texas, is a leading online safety and effectiveness platform for K–12 schools. A proven partner for student safety and engagement, Lightspeed uses advanced AI to view and analyze student activity across the web. Lightspeed serves over 15 million students in 38 countries and 28,000 schools globally.
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