How Rules Work

This article provides a detailed explanation of how Rules work in Classwize.  It covers advanced topics including 

Rules are a way for you to let your students access things that are normally blocked by your school’s internet filter or block things that the filter normally allows. 

To understand how Rules work, you need to understand four key ideas:

  • Signatures

  • Locking, Blocking and Allowing

  • Global Rules and Class Rules

  • Rule Order

What is a Signature?

You may think of your school’s internet filter as something that blocks and allows specific web addresses, but the truth is a bit more complex than that. It actually blocks and allows Signatures.  Signatures can be websites, but they can also be applications (like Twitter), games, search keywords, IP addresses, ports and groups of websites.

These are the types of Signatures you’re most likely to see when managing your class:

Website Signatures

When we talk about websites being Signatures, we’re usually talking about domains and subdomains, not individual urls. We don’t usually have Signatures that are urls  because we can't always see and filter on the full url before the page reaches the student.


This means that if you make a rule using a Website Signature,  it will apply to all of the individual pages in that website.  For example, setting an Allow rule for the YouTube Website Signature will let the students access every single video on YouTube. Blocking the Wikipedia Website Signature will stop students from accessing any Wikipedia page.

Group Signatures

Most websites need other websites in order for them to work properly. Sometimes, usually with very popular websites, we’ll create one Signature that includes both the website and all of the other websites it needs to work. We call these Group Signatures.  This lets you create an Allow rule on a site without worrying about it not working.

For example, Khan Academy uses YouTube to host its videos. If you Allowed Khan Academy but had Blocked YouTube, Khan Academy wouldn’t work properly for your students. We group Khan Academy and YouTube together into one Group Signature, so that videos will still load if you Allow Khan Academy but forget to Allow YouTube.

Category Signatures

The internet is enormous, and we can’t expect you or your school’s IT team to set a rule for every website and service that students could access.  Instead, we classify each website into one or more Categories, and let you create rules that apply to every single website in that Category.

Categories can also contain other categories.  These are called Parent and Child categories.  For example, there’s a very broad parent category called Gaming.  This category contains several child categories: Online Gaming, Board and Card Gaming, and Video Games.  Each of those categories contain Signatures.  You can set rules on Parent and Child categories, as well as individual Signatures. This gives you and your school a lot of flexibility in how you make and apply rules.  You can create a rule that applies to the parent category, and then create exceptions to that rule by applying a different rule to a child category or an individual signature.

Game Signatures

We’re not saying it’s hard to stop kids from playing Among Us, but… it’s hard to stop kids from playing Among Us. Or Fortnite, or Roblox or whatever other game is the current flavor of the month.  There are often multiple ways to access these games, and so we create specialized Game Signatures that let you block—or allow— those games everywhere they can be played.

Global Rules and Class Rules

What is a Global Rule?

Your school or district maintains a central set of filtering rules in a separate tool called School Manager. We call rules in this central set Global Rules, and Global Rules always apply unless you use Classwize to make Class Rules.

There are four types of Global Rules:

Global RuleDescription
Locked BlockedThe Signature is Blocked and can’t be accessed, even if another Global Rule or Class Rule is set to Allow.
Locked AllowedThe Signature is Allowed and can always be accessed, even if another Global Rule or Class Rule is set to Block.
BlockedYour school doesn’t normally let students access this signature.
AllowedYour school normally lets students access this signature.

What is a Class Rule?

Classwize lets you make Class Rules that override Global Rules on a class-by-class and even student-by-student basis.  There are two types of Class Rules:

Global RuleDescription
BlockedYour student can't access this Signature, even if your school normally allows it with a Global Rule.
AllowedYour student can access this Signature, even if your school normally blocks with a Global Rule.

Rule Order

When a student tries to access a website, Classwize talks to your school's filter and asks it a series of questions to decide if the student should or should not reach it. It asks the same questions in the same order every time, and it stops asking questions as soon as it gets a Yes.

Question 1: Is it Locked?

The first thing Classwize does is ask the Global Rules if the site is in a Locked Signature.  If the answer is yes, it enforces the Lock.  The Lock always wins, no matter what other rules might apply, so a site in a Locked Blocked Signature is always blocked and a site in a Locked Allowed Signature is always allowed.

If the answer is no, Classwize moves onto the next question.

Question 2: Is there a Bypass code?

The second check made by the Classwize is to see if the student is using a Bypass code.  If the answer is yes they can access the site, unless the site is also in a Locked Blocked Signature.  A Bypass code won't beat a Locked Blocked Signature, but it will beat any other Block Rule.

If the answer is no, Classwize moves onto the next question.

Question 3: Is the internet Paused?

The third check made by Classwize is to see if you have applied a Pause internet to the student or to the class that they're in. If  the answer is yes, the student can't access any sites that aren't Locked Allowed without a Bypass code. 

If the answer is no, Classwize moves onto the next question.

Note: If you Pause internet for a single student it won't affect any other students.  However,  if you Pause internet for the whole class, it will stop browsing for any student who doesn't have a Bypass Code.

Question 4: Is there an active Focus site?

If the answer is yes, Classwize checks to see if the site the student wants to access is the Focus site.  If it is the Focus site, the student can access it.  If it is not the Focus site, the site is blocked.

If the answer is no, Classwize moves onto the next question.

Question 5: Is there an Allow or Reward Classwize Rule?

If Classwize hasn't found any special Locked, Bypass, Focus or Pause rules, it checks to see if there's an Allow or Reward Classwize Rule. If there is, the student can access the site.

If the answer is no, Classwize moves onto the next question.

Important: If you have set a whole class Allow Rule on a Signature, you will not be able to set a Block Rule on the same Signature for a single student.  The same is true if you create an Allow Rule on a parent Category Signature and a Block rule on one of its Child Signatures—the Allow rule will take precedence.  We understand that this makes it hard to block a site for some students while allowing it for others, and are working on improving this feature.

Rule 6: Is there a Classwize Block Rule or Global Block Rule?

Finally, Classwize asks if there are any other Block rules.  If the answer is yes, the site is blocked.  If the answer is no, the site is allowed.

Troubleshooting and Frequently Asked Questions

How do Rules work in Classwize?

Classwize Rules are a temporary override of your school’s day-to-day content filtering rules. 

  • You can use an Allow Rule to let students in your class access websites or use applications that would otherwise be blocked by your school’s content filter. 

  • You can use a Block Rule to stop students from accessing content during your class that may be disruptive or off-topic. 

How quickly do Classwize Rules take effect?

New Rules will start working immediately. However, what happens on your students’ side will differ depending on which version of Linewize Connect is installed on their device.

For Connect for Chrome
  • If a student is on a page that you want to block, turning on a Block rule will immediately kick the student off of that page. The tab will close, and the student will get a message at the top of the new tab telling them that you closed a tab.

For Connect for Windows or macOS, or no Connect installed
  • The student will still be able to access the blocked website until they go to another page or reload the one that they are currently viewing.

    This is due to caching, which allows browsers to save temporary files for quicker loading the next time the user opens a web page.

  • Videos will not close immediately, but buffering or loading will stop eventually as the new rule takes effect. 

If you create a Rule for a class that is not active, the Rule will apply the next time the class becomes active.

Do Classwize Rules work in all classes?

The rules you create are unique to each of your classes, and they only take effect while that specific class is running. 

For example, your school’s filter may normally stop students from accessing Youtube. If you wanted students in your class to access Youtube in support of their learning, you could create an "Allow Youtube" rule in Classwize. The students in your class will be able to access Youtube until the class ends or you disable the rule, whichever happens first.

I’ve made an Allow Rule but my students still can’t access the site.

There are a number of reasons why the new rule might not work, including: 

  • You have another active Classwize rule that blocks the site.

  • The signature is Locked Blocked by your school.

  • The site that you want students to access belongs in a blocked category.

  • The site has a parent category that has a Blocked rule.  

Contact  your school’s IT support for help or to check if there is a technical issue with the site.

I made an Allow Rule but the site is not working properly or looks wrong.

This can happen when you use an Allow Rule on a specific URL instead of on the website’s domain, subdomain or Signature. Try making the Allow rule at the signature, domain or subdomain level, rather than on the specific URL.

domain and subdomain

If your Rule is at the Signature, domain or subdomain level and the site is still not working properly, contact your school’s IT support team .  They can check to see if it’s a technical issue with the site, if they've Locked Blocked a site that you need, or if we need to create a new Group Signature.

What’s a Group Signature?

Many websites rely on other websites in order to work, and sometimes those other websites are blocked by your school. For example, your school may block access to Facebook, but another site you want your students to access may use Facebook to provide features and services. If you Allow that site without also Allowing Facebook, the site won’t work properly. 

A similar thing can happen when a single site or application has a different version of itself for different platforms or devices. For example, Youtube has a site designed for computers (www.youtube.com) and one designed for mobile devices (m.youtube.com) and also has android and iOS apps. If you use Classwize to allow the desktop url https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQw4w9WgXcQ, students on mobile devices may not be able to access it because the url is specifically for the desktop version.

Since it’s hard for you to know what other sites need to be Allowed for that one site to work properly for all of your students,  we create special containers called Group Signatures that include the site and everything it needs to work. Group Signatures always apply at subdomain or domain level. You can select the Group Signature for a site by typing the name of the site or application into the ‘This Rule Controls’ box and selecting it from the drop-down list.

I’ve made a Block Rule but my students can still access the site.

There are a couple of reasons why students may still be on a website after you’ve blocked it.

  1. Your School always Blocks this site.

Just as your school can Lock Block a site, which stops Classwize Allow Rule from temporarily unblocking it, your school can Lock Allow a site. This prevents you from using Classwize to Block the site. This is usually done for things like Google Docs, where blocking them can accidentally stop other sites from working.

  1. You have an Allow rule on the same signature.

If you have both Allowed and Blocked a signature, the Allowed rule always wins.  For example, if you create a rule to Allow Youtube for your class and then create a second rule that Blocks it for a single student, the student will still be able to access Youtube. 

  1. You may have an Allow rule on a parent category.

In Classwize, Allow rules always beat Block rules. If you Allow a parent Category Signature and Block a child category, the block won’t work. You’ll need to Block the parent category or turn off the Allow rule.

For example, if you create an Allow rule for the parent category Gaming and then set up a Block rule for the child category Online Gaming, then Online Gaming will still be allowed. That is because the child category inherits the rule from its parent category. In order to block the Online Gaming child category, you need to block its parent category (Gaming) first. 

Are my Rules saved from class to class?

Classwize Rules are made and saved on a class-by-class basis.  If you set a rule for one class, it will be saved for that class only and applied each time the class runs. The rule will switch off when you turn the rule off or delete the class. The rule will not apply to any other classes you have.

Can I create rules even if the class isn’t in session?

Yes!  In fact, it’s good practice to set up base rules for a class before it starts. However, remember that the rules you make for a class only apply to it, and only take effect while the class is active.