The Internet is one of the most essential study tools for students nowadays, but schools can sometimes swing the other way and limit web access on their premises. To help you go around this problem, here is a guide on the various ways to unblock sites at school.
How do schools block websites
- Lessen distractions: Students can be preoccupied with social media and entertainment sites, resulting in less focus.
- Block dangerous sites: Schools actively try to ensure their wards will not be exposed to contents like pornography and those that promote violence.
- Improve security: Unrestricted access to the Internet can leave schools vulnerable to hackers and expose information of both students and employees.
The reasons can vary from school to school, but most schools always have some form of Internet restriction in place.
The level of Internet blocking also varies depending on the level of schooling. Elementary schools typically have the most stringent blocks to protect younger students. On the other end, universities expect their students to self-police and enforce only minimal blocking. Campuses with multiple schooling levels either impose a universal block or employ different blocking levels for each department.
Blocking through Internet filters
The most common way schools restrict Internet access is through the use of filters that prevent access to blacklisted sites. Filters often have multiple levels of protection, like:
- Lists: The first level blocks access to specific sites based on predetermined lists.
- Categories: The second level can block more websites based on the classification set by the school.
- Keyword: The third level can be used to block even foreign language sites based on specific keywords.
Schools use these multiple levels to separate accessibility for students and school personnel. This video demonstrates a school web filter in action.
Using web-monitoring software
Web monitoring programs are a more flexible means of blocking websites since schools install them on individual computers. They are used on class/lab computers and public access terminals, leaving students free to use their own devices. This gives them some degree of privacy on campus.
Another great thing about these programs is that they provide activity logs. Schools can use these logs to monitor Internet traffic and revise their restriction policies accordingly. Some monitoring programs also let administrators set the time that certain content is accessible.
The third way that schools block website access is by using OpenDNS, a program that blocks access to sites on the network level. This provides schools with broader means of restricting access. OpenDNS is installed on the network router, making it cost-efficient since schools need to set it up only once.
This method also lets schools control their Internet traffic from a central management center. However, one disadvantage is that there are no different levels of access. This makes them less ideal for campuses with multiple departments.
Unblock sites at school through VPNs
The most effective ways to unblock sites at school is with virtual private networks (VPNs). They work by encrypting your outbound traffic, making it harder for filtering systems to determine what sites you are connecting to. If they can’t ‘see’ what you’re doing, they can’t stop you.
VPNs also give you a different IP address. A VPN tells the blocked sites that your traffic is coming from a different location instead of your restricted address. This serves as a go-signal to let you access the contents of these sites.
The encryption function also lets you evade school authorities’ monitoring. While you might not be doing anything suspicious, they can still be strict about accessing blocked sites and punish you for violations.
How to use your VPN at school
The great thing about VPNs is that they are easy to use. Just turn on the VPN client, and connect to any of the available servers. Once everything is ready, you can visit any site normally, even through your school network. Here is a quick tutorial on how to set up a VPN for unblocking sites.
One thing to remember when using VPNs is to download and set them up while you are off-campus. Schools themselves are well-aware of the VPN method and will likely include VPN sites in their blacklists. You can still use several methods to work around VPN blocks and continue your Internet surfing uninterrupted.
Finding the right VPN
While any VPN can be used to unblock sites at school, you should choose one that would best suit your purpose. Here are the features to look for in a good VPN for unblocking sites.
- Speed: Your school’s blocking system can slow down the network connection. Choose a VPN with fast speeds to compensate for this.
- The number of countries served: The larger the number of countries a VPN has servers in, the more diverse the sites you can unblock.
- Automatic IP address switching: This feature lets you change IP addresses faster when accessing different sites.
- Integrated kill switch: This feature automatically disables your connection and protects you from IP leaks that could expose your activities to school officials.
Take a look at our list of recommended geo-unblocking VPNs to find out which provider has the best combinations of the above features.
Unblock sites at school using alternate methods
There are various alternative ways to unblock sites at schools for situations when VPNs are inaccessible. Using proxies is one such method. These are servers that hide your IP address in the same way as VPNs. They are even easier to use. Just put a proxy server’s IP address into your computer’s LAN settings, and you will be able to connect.
Take the time to seriously compare VPNs and proxies so you know what they are and are not good at.
The biggest drawback of proxies is that they don’t encrypt your traffic. This means that your unblocking antics are very much visible to school authorities. Because they are readily available to even high school students, schools also tend to be more aggressive in blocking such tools.
Using alternative browsers
Tor is a specialized web browser for hiding your Internet traffic and unblocking websites. It works by rerouting your Internet traffic through a series of special servers. This makes it difficult for school authorities to follow your trail. What’s more, you can freely download Tor right at school as long as you use it on your own computer. Take a look at how Tor and VPNs differ.
Another handy trick is to use a portable browser installed on a USB stick. These browsers often have built-in proxies you can use. Most of the popular browsers (like Google Chrome and Firefox) have portable versions. Here is a quick tutorial on how to set up a portable browser in a removable flash drive.
Using caching sites
In some cases, you might want to unblock a site at school to only read its content and not interact with it. For this one, you can use a caching site like Wayback Machine to access a copy of the page you want to view.
To use these sites, input the URL you want to access, and the caching site will display all the available cached versions of the page.
Be sure to choose the latest cached version to get the most up-to-date content. Note that this method isn’t exactly unblocking since you are not accessing the actual site, which gives you more leeway.
Unblock sites at school: Quick tricks
All of the mentioned techniques will require you to use specialized tools and do a bit of preparation, but you can also unblock sites at school through some ready-to-use tools. Google itself has a few you can take advantage of for unblocking.
Google Cache works similarly like Wayback Machine and is more accessible. To view a cached site, type “site:URL of site” in the search bar. In the search results, click on the arrow beside the URL, and select Cached.
You will then see this.
Note that Google Cache displays only the latest saved version of the page, and the links will lead you to the blocked live site.
Google Translate, on the other hand, is useful for viewing blocked sites written in foreign languages. To use it:
- Go to the Google Translate page. Paste the site URL in the From text box.
- Select the site’s original language in the ‘From’ section and English in the ‘To’ section.
- Click on the link shown in the ‘To’ box to access the translated page.
When you click on any of the links in the translated page, the tool will automatically translate the upcoming page. This lets you access more sections of the site.
You can also take advantage of link shorteners like Bit.ly for unblocking sites. To use it, enter the URL you want to unblock on the site. Get the shortened link, and paste it on your browser’s address bar. The method works well for social media sites that your college might block. However, this might not work for all sites.
Also, you can ditch URL links altogether, and connect to blocked sites using IP addresses. Steps to get the IP address in Windows are:
- Open Command Prompt by typing cmd in Startup.
- On the command prompt, type “tracert ‘site URL’” without http:// or www.
- Wait until the traceroute is complete. The IP address is the one at the end of the list.
- Go to your browser and type “http://site IP address” in the address bar.
Alternatively, you can use online IP checker sites to get a website’s address.
Unblock sites at school and discover more knowledge
We need to stress that all the methods we’ve shown to unblock sites at school are purely for educational purposes. Using these methods could still subject you to punishments from your school authorities. To recap, the ways you can access blocked sites are:
- VPN: This is the safest, easiest, and most often successful method to access restricted sites since you get security and anonymity.
- Alternative tools: Proxies and special browsers (like Tor) will give you a good level of anonymity to go around most website blocks.
- Read-only versions of sites: There are many caching sites you can use to access the latest archived versions of blocked sites you can use.
- Linking tools: Even something as common as Google Translate or link shorteners can be used to access blocked content.
Use these methods at your own discretion, and you will be able to access more knowledge at school. Any VPN can work for this, so be sure to read our reviews below, or click right through to the website you already think will work for you!
[affilioProvider max=”3″ top=”n” cat=’home’]