As of July 2012, schools receiving federal e-Rate funding must have updated internet safety policies that show how they will educate minors about appropriate online behavior. Now, a new animated online curriculum is available to help schools fulfill this requirement and document their compliance.
The Federal Communications Commission last August amended the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) to include the digital safety education provisions of the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act. Under the new rules, federal auditors may ask e-Rate applicants to produce evidence that they have educated their staff and students about internet safety. The e-Rate provides discounts of up to 90 percent of the cost of telecommunications service and internet access to eligible schools and libraries.
AUP Online, an instructional program created by California startup Lersun Development, helps schools document the digital safety education of their students, which could be helpful in the case of an e-Rate audit.
Students use individual logins to access courses on Lersun’s website. After completing the required lessons, they electronically sign the district’s internet Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). Lersun then compiles time- and date-stamped documentation of student participation so that districts can easily demonstrate CIPA compliance.
“Every year the AUP document must be signed, and every year [there must be] instruction. Schools need to have a way to document their policy [for] when the audit comes,” said Lersun’s founder, Mary Ann Sund, a former deputy superintendent of schools in Arcadia, Calif.
Lersun charges an annual fee of 50 cents per participating student, as well as a one-time setup fee of $500 to $1,000 for a school or district. Once schools account for the printing and materials costs of other online safety programs available online, AUP Online is “cheaper than free,” Sund said.
During the development of AUP Online, she said, Lersun staff focused on “sticking to the basics so that teachers would not see it as intrusive” on class time.
Because the lessons are self-guided and hosted on a Lersun website, the course requires no teacher training and little support from schools’ technology staff—teachers can take students to the computer lab during class, or simply assign the course as homework.
There are five versions of the program, of varying duration and complexity depending on grade level. The elementary-level version hit the market this past January, and the more robust middle school course will be available for this fall. A third version geared toward high school students will launch in spring 2013.