As closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world’s schools, many found themselves scrambling for devices, digital curriculum, student internet access, and remote safety solutions. Limited time and a need for digital learning continuity struck school IT teams with a demand for quick solutions. Fortunately, San Marcos Unified School District had a reliable filtering solution in place: Lightspeed Filter™.
San Marcos Unified School District serves over 21,000 students among 18 different campuses. Without a 1:1 program in place, San Marcos USD geared up to send devices home with students for remote learning. “We were not 1:1 before COVID-19 hit and had never sent home devices with students, other than one or two students here or there,” says Stephanie Casperson, Director of Technology at San Marcos USD. “The last six months has been a real shift for us sending Chromebooks home and checking those out to students.”
In their switch to remote learning, the district quickly put processes into place to accommodate a new learning plan; fortunately, a prior shift to cloud-based Lightspeed Filter helped them guarantee off-campus web filtering was not an issue. “We had to develop paperwork; we had to develop procedures; we didn’t have an asset management system set up for check out, so we had to develop Google forms to have people fill out if they checked out devices to students. The end of March and beginning of April was very hectic, so in many ways I’m thankful we didn’t have to worry about the filtering,” shared Casperson.
When San Marcos USD started an adoption of Chromebooks to distribute for student at-home use in 2019, the district made the switch from appliance-based filtering to cloud-based Lightspeed Filter to allow for mobility. “One of the reasons why we switched to cloud-based filtering was because we can maintain content filtering off-site. Everything was already set up for us when COVID-19 hit,” says Tony Cabral, Technology Coordinator at San Marcos USD. “Lightspeed is one of the few filters that are available without a big commitment to hardware.”
When campus closures forced districts to move learning to an online environment, schools lost critical visibility into student activity and learning efficacy. Since students were no longer attending classes on campus, districts had to find ways to make sure that students were safe online, learning initiatives were being successfully adopted, and CIPA compliance was being maintained. Thankfully, San Marcos USD had access to all of this information through the exceptional reporting tools available with Lightspeed Filter.
Lightspeed Filter offers granular policies, providing districts with an overall view of all student activity, with the capability to drill down into smaller groups for greater visibility into student internet history and trends. The new Online Activity Dashboard monitors student internet activity by time of day and site history, so necessary action can be taken for students who are off-task or attempting to visit malicious sites. “Now, because of remote learning, kids are on their computers all the time”, says Velarde. “I get a lot of questions from teachers asking, ‘Can you run a report to see what they’re trying to do that’s distracting to class?’ So, I use [Lightspeed Filter’s] reports a lot.”
With multiple help desk tickets coming in every day, Velarde is grateful for easy implementation and configuration provided by Lightspeed Filter. “In my experience, [the implementation] has helped me a lot. I pre-configured the systems so now I don’t have to spend time monitoring the actual server. It’s easier for us to push the [filter] Agent through and manage everything through the web, which saves me time.”
Smart technologies and cloud capabilities aren’t the only reasons why San Marcos USD chose Lightspeed Filter over competitors – the unparalleled support provided by Lightspeed is some of the best the SMUSD team has seen. Velarde adds “I’ve dealt with a lot of customer service throughout the years and I have to say and that [Lightspeed Systems] is in my top 5.”
Lightspeed Systems has been servicing district tech teams for over 21 years and has continuously advanced and modified support processes to provide fast assistance whenever, wherever. Lightspeed has a team of support specialists available for chat, email, and phone assistance, in addition to a team of highly skilled Senior Systems Engineers and world- class documentation specialists, forming a comprehensive team available for any potential need a district may have.
Velarde attests to this level of support, stating that “it’s one of the best support systems I’ve ever worked with.” He adds “Every time I have a critical problem, I know who to reach for and they’re good enough to let me know what the quick fix is, or that they’re either starting a case for me … even if my Systems Engineer isn’t available, they provide specific instructions to follow and then follow-up to check how everything is going. To me, [that level of support] is a big plus, knowing that someone is going to reply to my email to help me fix whatever fires I might have.”
When asked why other districts should consider using Lightspeed Systems as their remote learning filtering solution, the SMUSD team had two reasons: ease of use and exceptional support. “You can have the best product in the world but if you don’t support it, it won’t make a difference,” says Cabral. “Lightspeed’s product works, and their support is great!”