Delivering Instruction to Students with Low-Bandwidth Connections

During remote instruction, students may find themselves without access to consistent, high-speed internet connection, making it difficult or impossible to watch video content, participate in real-time lectures or meetings, or engage effectively and equally in remote learning. How can you develop and deliver content in ways that reduce bandwidth demands on students?

Opportunities

1. Reduce the size and length of video content.
Long video lectures and narrated presentations with voice and video produce large files that can be difficult to upload, download and share. Consider whether it is necessary for students to see you during an entire video lecture, or if some sections or lecture can be recorded with just your voice. Whatever mode you choose, keep it short. Research shows that the ideal length for students to consume video content is 4-6 minutes. Short recordings can help students focus on one topic at a time, and also reduce the delivery demands for the student.
Resource:
Delivering Video Content to Students

2. Review recording settings for authoring video content.
The tools you use to create video content have default settings that control for the quality of recorded content. During remote instruction, lowering these quality settings can reduce the size of video files while still maintaining adequate video quality.
Resources:
Creating Narrated Presentations with Microsoft PowerPoint ( Mac | PC )
Creating Video Content with Kaltura Capture

3. Provide download options for video content.
In addition to embedding videos into Canvas pages for students to stream, you can also provide students with the ability to download video content. Students with low-bandwidth connections can begin to download files while continuing to work on other tasks and then play the videos offline without interruption. Additionally, downloading the video to their own computer allows them to review the video multiple times without having to stream it each time.
Resource:
Embedding Video Content into Canvas Pages

4. Leverage user-controlled video quality.
When you upload a video into Kaltura MediaSpace, several versions with different levels of quality are created. When students view videos, Kaltura delivers what it believes to be the most appropriate version of that content based on the students’ connection speed. Let students know that they can click on the “gear icon” in the video player to select a lower quality version of the video to save bandwidth, if needed.
Resource:
Using Kaltura User-Controlled Video Option

5. Control the use of audio and video in real-time lectures or meetings.
With tools such as Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, the use of microphones and cameras, by both you and your students, significantly increases bandwidth demands. Consider limiting the use of these features by using certain settings in Blackboard Collaborate Ultra and thinking about how best to deliver your lecture in advance.  For instance, you could notify your students in advance to join lectures or whole-class meetings with their microphones and cameras muted. To facilitate instructor presence, you may choose to have your video enabled at the start of each session, but turn it off after the initial introduction and switch to just using your microphone. Students can use the “raise your hand” or chat features to ask questions or make comments.
Resources:
Setting Up Blackboard Collaborate Ultra Sessions
Blackboard Collaborate Ultra Chat Feature
Managing Raised Hands in Blackboard Collaborate Ultra

6. Leverage the dial-in option for real-time lectures or meetings.
In most cases, students use their computers to participate in audio conversations in Blackboard Collaborate Ultra. The tool does, however, allow up to 25 students to use a phone connection to contribute to the session. This option is especially important for students who may not have consistent internet access. Information on accessing a dial-in connection can be added to the invitation sent to students to join a session. Both you and your students can find the phone number and PIN for the session in the top of the right panel after the designated session is selected. You may want to include the dial-in information in an email or class announcement before the session in case students lose their internet connection at the time of the session.
Resource:
Accessing Blackboard Collaborate Ultra by Phone

7. Consider alternatives to synchronous lectures or meetings.
If students continue to experience difficulties engaging in live lectures or meetings, there are tools that can provide similar outcomes with lower bandwidth requirements. Consider the use of the Canvas Chat tool for synchronous text communications or pre-recorded Blackboard Collaborate Ultra sessions that students can download or watch at non-peak times.
Resources:
Using Canvas Chat
Recording Blackboard Collaborate Ultra Sessions
Downloading Blackboard Collaborate Ultra Sessions

Further Exploration

References/Related Literature

Wang, Jiahui, Pavlo Antonenko, and Kara Dawson. “Does Visual Attention to the Instructor in Online Video Affect Learning and Learning Perceptions? An Eye-Tracking Analysis.” Computers and Education (2020) 146. 103779.