Study Confirms Effective Virtual Learning Starts with Robust AV Technology
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many education institutions were forced to quickly develop or enhance their audiovisual capabilities when students and teachers were forced into virtual learning environments. This transition had two consequences. For those caught unprepared, it presented the opportunity to redefine what a classroom is and create plans for remote learning for the future. It also revealed the need for schools to invest in their AV infrastructure.
As reported by American School & University Magazine, a study on student home connectivity by the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) has revealed key objectives school systems, colleges, and universities must consider in order to provide an efficient remote learning experience.
The six-week study looked at 13 U.S. school districts—urban, suburban and rural, and found:
- Learning with video is essential, so systems must have sufficient bandwidth and upload and download speeds. More than 85% of network traffic in remote learning is used for video, the study found, and the popularity of video-based instruction is expected to increase for the foreseeable future.
- Students rely on access to wi-fi. Many students take part in online learning away from their own homes, and 92% use wi-fi to do so. Students often use district-provided devices and their personal devices at the same time, which puts a greater strain on wi-fi capacity.
- Certain areas, especially rural communities, require more resources. “Students in remote or rural areas most often have limited internet access, and students working in areas with a large concentration of other students also experience poor connectivity,” the study says.
- The quality of remote learning is significantly affected by the quality of the devices being used. “Students that were provided with older and less powerful equipment had an inferior experience than students with newer devices,” the study says. “Students that received newer devices with limited specifications (e.g., memory and processor) also had more challenges than students that were provided with devices with better specifications.”
“Based on the data from the study, CoSN recommends a per-student minimum bandwidth standard of 25 Mbps for downloading and 12 Mbps for uploading,” observed American Mike Kennedy, senior editor for American School & University Magazine. “The consortium concludes that the minimum bandwidth capacity set by the Federal Communications Commission for households is inadequate.”
The FCC currently recommends 25 Mbps download speed and 3Mbps upload speed.
“It’s crucial to highlight the importance of a per-student standard and not a per-household standard like the current FCC recommendation,” CoSN says. “Standards should be set at the student level and account for the total number of students in the home. For example, network requirements to support a home with six children should be different from network requirements to support a home with one child.”
Also recommended by the study is routine re-evaluations of bandwidth needs to support evolving technologies.
“Support for higher video resolution, such as 1080p high definition and 4K, will most likely be required in the future,” the study says. “In addition, many new technologies, such as eSports, Augmented Reality, and Virtual Reality will likely be used to deliver instruction. These kinds of advanced technologies will require at least 25 Mbps download/upload speed for standard definition and up to 500 Mbps download/ upload speed for 4K video.”
For more information about this study, including additional recommendations for schools, read the entire article from American School & University.
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