One of the most network intensive functions in use at school is videoconferencing. The videoconferencing tool built into Google Classroom is Google Meet.
Google states that the minimum bandwidth (speed) necessary for connecting to group meetings with HD audio and video is 3.2 megabits per second (mbps).
Most basic household internet plans have speeds starting at 25-50 mbps. These basic plans should be sufficient for a few (2-3) devices to be videoconferencing or surfing the web simultaneously.
If you’re curious what speeds you're currently getting, you can browse to https://www.speedtest.net on your device and run a test for free.
Heavy internet usage can slow down the speeds available to entire neighborhoods or even cities. Contact your Internet Service Provider (ISP) if you aren't getting the kind of performance from your network that you expect. If there are issues with the provider's systems, they may be able to give you information about service outages and a timeframe for service restoration. Using the internet during off-hours (early in the morning or late at night) may improve network performance, but won't be appropriate for everyone.
Be aware that some internet plans have a data cap, and will significantly limit internet speeds or turn off completely if you go over that limit. Streaming a videoconference can chew through as much as 1-1.5 Gigabytes (GB) of data per hour. With students participating in online classes, they may be using 6-10GB per day, or as much as 300GB per month (per student).
Bandwidth isn’t the only factor at play when considering your network setup. How you connect to your network matters too. The physical hardware and connection protocols determine your speeds and the stability of your network.
Wired networks are the gold-standard for reliability and speed. Directly connecting your computer to your modem, router, or network switch with an ethernet cable will provide the most reliable connection and fastest speeds. If you need to use a computer or mobile device away from a network port or your device doesn't have an ethernet connection, using a wired network might not be an option.
Wireless networks use radio signals to communicate over short range. Different network protocols offer different speeds, ranges, and frequencies; Click here to read more!
The configuration of your network can also play a part in the speed and stability - especially if there are quite a few networks in your area.
• 5GHz networks tend to be faster, but have a limited range.
• 2.4GHz networks tend to be slower, but have a much longer range.
WiFi networks can face interference from overlapping networks. The same principle is at play when you're driving and two radio stations are playing over each other. Neither station comes through clearly, and both impact the ability to hear the other.
This interference can increase load times because the computer and the servers have to send information multiple times in order to get a clear response. If the interference is bad enough, the network may drop the connection altogether.
Running a WiFi band analysis can give you an idea of how much interference there might be, and which portions of the band are the most crowded. Changing your network band to a less crowded part of the band can help reduce interference. Downloading a detailed user manual for your WiFi router can help guide you through the process of changing the band on your specific device. If you aren’t comfortable adjusting the settings yourself, you may be able to contact your ISP for help reconfiguring your WiFi router.
Chromebooks are simple, versatile, laptops providing an inexpensive computing platform for students. Each Chromebook comes with a web browser and a videoconferencing camera and microphone. Internet content access is managed by the school to prevent students from accessing inappropriate materials.
One of the ways Chromebooks remain inexpensive is by providing only basic processors and and memory in the hardware build. While this is typically fine for word processing and basic web surfing, the Chromebooks can be pushed to the edge of their performance during long videoconference sessions or in situations where an unstable network might require the device to re-send information multiple times.
Limiting the number of active applications or tabs in the Chrome browser can help minimize the load on the hardware. Focusing on one person (generally the teacher) in the meeting rather than watching the entire class in a grid can minimize the amount of information being sent back and forth.
To pin a participant in Google Meet, click Pin in a participant's thumbnail image. The participant will only be pinned in your view.
At the moment, the Google services are under a tremendous strain, and the company is working hard to enable additional capacity to support the exponential increase in demand as schools start back up this fall.
There is a possibility that even with the best computer and the best network connection, that there still may unavoidable be issues on Google’s end.
What to do
If you're having trouble, the first steps are to:
• Try connecting to a different network.
• Try using a different device.
• Communicate your issues with your student's teacher, and be as detailed as possible when describing the problem.