Mar. 24, 2020

Online Education and Meetings Performance

Online Education and Meetings Performance

The unprecedented loads in internet traffic due to the increase in working from home coupled with online education is taxing the country's internet and the infrastructure of companies such as Cisco WebEx, Zoom, Amazon and Google. It's apparent the internet is strained and struggling to reliably handle the load. Like all cloud web-based conferencing, Google Meet and Cisco WebEx are experiencing latency problems (i.e., audio and video degradation).  

Key actions: 

  1. Avoid using the College’s VPN unless necessary.  (See below.)

  2. Turn off camera function in online conferencing such as Webex. Mute your audio when not speaking. 

  3. Use alternative communications modes when possible instead of video conferencing, e.g., Google Chat. (See below.)

  4. Stagger use of your home internet connection so all family members aren’t using data at the same time. 

  5. Increase your home/remote internet bandwidth. (See below.) 

The following information is intended to provide some helpful guidelines in hopes of managing and minimizing the bandwidth load on the internet to improve performance. A helpful explanation of the impact and alternatives can be found at DePaul University's Center for Teaching and Learning, Director Daniel Stanford’s blog, Videoconferencing Alternatives

Virtual Private Network (VPN) - When you access systems through the College VPN, your internet connection path goes through the college network. Services in the cloud (e.g., Google, WebEx) do not require VPN. The extra step adds security but also adds to the latency and degradation. You are advised to use a VPN connection only when needed. The following is a list of online campus resources which require using VPN for security reasons.

  • Academic research and/or software - ash.conncoll.edu

  • Tamarack - Department, Inter-Department, User shares

  • Banner 9 Admin (not Self-Service)

  • Cisco VOIP Self-Care Portal

  • WebFocus Reporting  

  • Blackboard 

  • EMS (Desktop Client Only)

  • Titanium 

Communications and Meetings - Google recently replaced Hangouts with two distinct products; CHAT and Meet. They each open a separate tab within Google.  

Google Chat:  There are two options;

  • Individual one/one text chats - this enables a two-way conversation but like phone texting, it is not dependent on the other person being available at the same time. This works well for one/one meetings with minimal bandwidth.  

  • Chat Rooms - this is the "water cooler" conversation. In Google Chat, click in the search block. You have an option to create a room.  For example, set-up a "room" for your work team, (i.e., ETS) and invited team members to join the “room”. You can keep the chat room open throughout the day and update each other on what's going on, questions, problems, etc. It enables the team to keep working without having to take time for a "meeting". Your responsiveness and assistance is more timely and flexible.  Also, this utilizes minimal bandwidth.

Google Meet and WebEx -  Campus, particularly administrative departments, are asked to consider whether recording and/or video are essential. If meeting participants turn off their video for the meeting they will see less degradation of audio and video. For example, a recent campus meeting went smoothly with over 150 participants. Participants were asked to mute their microphone and video. 

Having Trouble Connecting? Audio problems? 

Whether you’re at home or a coffee shop, the quality of your internet connection makes the biggest difference in how well you can work remotely.

At home, a weak wi-fi signal or a poor broadband internet provider -- meaning less than 15 Mb/s download speeds, 5 Mb/s upload speed, or high latency -- can impact your ability to work remotely and participate. We recommend you test your internet service using the free speedtest.net website. This provides an end-to-end test of all the factors affecting your device’s connection: your internet provider, your home network setup, and the device you’re on. If your wi-fi performance is insufficient, you should contact your provider for troubleshooting or higher-speed options.

Sincerely,

Jean Kilbride
Associate VP
Enterprise & Technical Systems (ETS)