How to Overcome Technical Challenges While Studying from Home
As students begin shifting to online instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic, technical issues are now top of mind. Work applications like video conferencing consume a lot of data. With millions of additional people now working and learning from home, internet networks are becoming increasingly strained. When you factor in streaming services, online gaming, and other high-impact data applications, most networks will struggle to keep up.
Current infrastructure is accustomed to peak activity, however the massive transfer of data throughout the day will show new heights of internet use, with many users sharing the same data-hungry apps that are typically reserved for offices and schools.
To successfully manage this change, stay engaged remotely, and minimize loss in productivity, we would like to share some advice to make the transition with minimal disruption. Here are some technical hacks to minimize potential problems and make sure you’re getting the most out of studying from home.
- 1. Reposition your router. Is the router in some remote corner of your house? If so, consider moving it. Position your router towards the middle of your house, preferably on whichever floor you are using your computer. If you spend all your time working and videoconferencing in the living room on the first floor, put your router on that same level.
- 2. Reconsider Ethernet. Everybody uses Wi-Fi these days, but while wireless connections are convenient, they’re not as fast. Cabled connections like Ethernet will be faster and more reliable than wireless ones. The cable gets the signal directly to your device rather than relying on over-the-air transmissions. If you can, connect your most important devices to the internet via an Ethernet cable. Bonus: An Ethernet connection is also more secure than Wi-Fi.
- 3. Clear the “cache” on your internet browser. As you visit websites and enter information, browsers collect little bits of information about you and marketers use this data to send relevant ads based on your browsing behavior. If you’ve ever seen the same ad follow you around the internet, then you’re familiar with this concept.
To get rid of all those cookies and trackers, you have to clear the “cache” on your browser. You can do this manually or install a plugin that does it automatically. Make it a habit to clear your cache so all that accumulated data doesn’t affect your overall internet speeds.
- 4. Consider your data cap – another culprit of slow internet speeds. A data cap means you can use a certain amount of data every month— from a couple hundred megabytes to hundreds of gigabytes. If you exceed your data limit, your internet service provider (ISP) will restrict your internet speeds.
ISPs don’t advertise their data caps for obvious reasons, but they can mess with your connection. If you don’t know whether or not you have a data cap, check your bill. If you keep exceeding your data cap every month, talk to your provider about a plan with a higher data limit.
- 5. Run diagnostics checks. If you’re having general connection issues, not related to bandwidth, then consider running a network diagnostics check. For example, Windows has a tool called Windows Network Diagnostics that lets users troubleshoot connection issues. Go to Windows Settings– Network & Internet– Status. Under Change Your Network Settings, click Network Troubleshooter.
Windows Network Diagnostics will run a couple of tests to see what’s possibly causing connection issues, or let you know if it doesn’t find any issue. If there is a problem, you will be given a list of possible actions to take to resolve the issue. This tool should be available in every version from Windows 7 to Windows 10.
On a positive note, ISPs such as Charter Communications will begin providing free broadband internet to K-12 and college student households who do not already have a Spectrum broadband subscription for 60 days. Installation fees will also be waived for new student households. In addition, they will continue to offer Spectrum Internet Assist, a high speed broadband program eligible to low-income households.
Verizon, Cox, Comcast and AT&T are also taking measures to help students who will be learning from home. Cox Communications recently said it will be upgrading basic users to a package with 50 megabits per second. Comcast said that for the next two months it would lift data caps that limit broadband use so that people who surpassed the limits of their data plans wouldn’t be penalized.
Students who would like to learn more about these types of programs and services should call their local ISP for more information.
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