What a Lag!!!!

The Teacher’s Guide to to Student Internet Connectivity Issues

This guide is to help give an overview of internet connectivity and to understand why you - and your students - will likely experience lagging or freezing when in online class. We also add a few tips and tricks. 

Unfortunately we won’t be able to fix every internet connectivity issue but we will do everything in our power to try!

Part 1: Background on Bandwidth 

Bandwidth is like the number of lanes on a highway where some data is going from the internet to your computer (like streaming a movie) and other data is going from your computer to the internet (like presenting in a video conference). 

Like a highway - the more lanes available, the more cars (or data) can move through with usually faster speeds. The bandwidth available to you is determined by many things. These same factors are in place for your students and the adults in their life that are making home internet decisions. All of these and more have an impact on the quality of your online class.

  • At home, you may have a basic internet service package that gives you a few lanes, while your neighbor splurged for the multi-lane version. 

  • You may have a multi-lane premium package but also have 2 students and another adult using the lanes at the same time so it gets more crowded

  • You may have chosen a package that you agree to let the internet service provider throttle - or lower -  your speeds back in certain circumstances. Think about an on-ramp light that holds people back from getting on the freeway.

WiFi 101: What is Bandwidth? (ignore the advertising- it’s a quick overview of bandwidth)

Part 2: How Do We Ensure Quality Online Classes?

As we respond as best as possible to this unprecedented situation, we are constantly working to improve and add to our toolbox of internet solutions for students. Efforts include: 

  1. Providing information to families about broadband options including our
    Broadband Internet Service in Your Home - English, Spanish and Somali are all on the document.

  2. Connecting families who need internet support with a Social Worker, Cultural Liaison, or other District Advocate to help work through our One91 Internet for All process. This helps us identify specific family needs for district internet sponsorship.

  3. Providing hotspots to our identified students or set up the family with a Comcast account if possible.

  4. We are also working with Dakota County to identify and address housing complexes in our district that do not have access to broadband internet. This involves laying new fiber and is a long-term plan.

Part 3: Teacher Role

There are things you can do to help limit the bandwidth drain for your online class. These aren’t hard and fast rules and won’t solve every situation but the more you know about bandwidth requirements for various activities - the more likely you are to avoid lags, freezes, and drops happening by you or your students. We can’t prevent all issues but here are some suggestions.

Don’t play videos to the class while in a live class. This is a double whammy on the bandwidth needs for you and every student. It is preferable to provide the video link to students to watch before class and save the time in the live class for discussion.

We know they are cute. However,  bitmojis, animated gifs, and animations take much more bandwidth both for you and for every one of your students. If you or your students are having issues - consider what you are sharing in your virtual classroom and try to minimize the size of the data you are pushing out.

Glitches happen, bad connections on a day here or there happens. If however, you see a pattern from a specific student we will want to take action and find out what internet access they are using. You can share the following suggestions with parents.

Suggestions for Parents and Students

Many families have internet service but there are limits per month on the amount of data or the speeds available. Some internet services will start to throttle or limit the speed of the internet if data use is over a certain amount in a billing cycle. We know not all of these options will be available to all families but some may be options for some families.

  1. Turn off all devices that are not needed during online class including checking if your phone is on wifi or cellular.  The more devices on Wifi - the more demand on the internet connection.

  2. Prioritize online class during live classes. IE. If a younger sibling is streaming a cartoon while an older student is in class - that could negatively impact the student’s connectivity. 

  3. Exit all other programs on the Chromebook to ensure that bandwidth is only used for learning

  4. If you have an ethernet connection, plug in any laptops or desktops if possible. Chromebooks may also be plugged in using an USB to Ethernet adapter and an ethernet cable.

  5. Have the student try different areas of the home

  6. Have the student move closer to the router or hotspot

  7. If using a hotspot, try moving it closer to a window or external wall, especially if there are concrete walls

  8. If using a hotspot, log out of any streaming service like Netflix or YouTube as they use data even when not watching.

  9. Upgrade internet service

  10. If you know you have low bandwidth, limit streaming non-academic content to reserve your bandwidth for class.