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Trouble with Course Streaming? We Can Help

Article by Blake Cooper

Published November 14, 2014

Classroom recording has come a long way from viewing VHS tapes of recorded lectures. UB’s solution for lecture recording and playback, an application called Echo360, provides more options and a richer experience than was possible before.

Blake Cooper (UB Student, Class of 2016) is originally from Canandaigua, NY. He is studying Spanish, Linguistics and Comparative Literature, and beginning work on translating an Argentinian novel into English.

But with new possibilities come new challenges. A lot depends on getting a good streaming experience. UBIT’s Network and Classroom Services shared some simple ways for viewers to improve their experience.

Covering all Angles

Classroom recording with UB’s Echo360 system is relatively new to UB. It combines streaming video and audio with materials displayed on the screen to bring an engaging classroom experience to those not actually in the classroom. A leader in blended and online learning, Echo360 is used by over 600 institutions worldwide. This includes other SUNY schools, such as Stony Brook, Binghamton and Fredonia.

That’s a lot of people, but they don’t always see the same thing when streaming a lecture. Having a good experience watching a classroom recording is a two-sided equation. There are wide variations in student Internet accessibility, and even those with generally good connections might experience different quality in playback. It could depend on the time of day, the number of devices on their network or even in their neighborhood.

Getting the Best Experience

Imagine then, trying to stream a lecture from the Student Union, where there might be hundreds of students using a limited number of access points. Not surprisingly, input from students suggested that viewer experiences ranged from great to barely viewable. So, UBIT did some investigating: we partnered with the UB School of Management, who are heavily involved in using UB’s Echo360 classroom recording service, and they provided us with information about their students’ experience with video playback and internet connections.

After that, UBIT’s network engineers ran tests designed to limit bandwidth to judge how videos recorded with different quality settings reacted while playing through lower bandwidth connections. Based on this research, here’s what we recommend for getting the best out of classroom recordings.

  • Remember: not all network connections are equal. Wired is always faster than Wi-Fi, and UB’s wired ResNet connection or on-campus computing labs are hundreds of times faster than Wi-Fi. If you’re not on campus to take advantage of the speedy connection, UBIT suggests a high-speed cable or fiber-optic service like Verizon FiOS. DSL is not recommended. You can always test your connection using the free service; a suitable bandwidth will be consistently above 1 Mbps (Megabits per second), for optimal performance a connection of 3Mbps is recommended.
  • If you’re on a Wi-Fi or broadband connection, try moving to a different location. Network performance can vary greatly depending on local traffic. If you’re using UB Secure to stream a lecture, try going to a place where there are fewer people using the network.
  • Close other applications or programs. Applications that use an Internet connection, such as a messaging service, can hog your bandwidth. But even if applications don’t use the Internet at all, they can still interrupt your device’s processing capabilities, making streaming more difficult.
  • Disable Hardware Acceleration for Flash Player. Many laptops and netbooks have video cards that aren’t able to take advantage of Flash Player’s hardware acceleration. In these cases, disabling hardware acceleration can actually improve performance. You can disable hardware acceleration by right-clicking anywhere in the Echo360 player window and choosing ‘Settings...’ from the pop-up menu.
  • Download videos rather than streaming. If you download a video while on campus, you can take that file with you and view it without being connected to a network. It no longer makes your viewing dependent on network speeds and means you can view your lecture even while offline.

UBIT is also continuing to explore ways to optimize video on the server-side, so recordings will work across a broader range of network performance. Like so many things, a large part of our job is reaching out to see what our customers think and need, and learning how we can work together to bring the best cutting-edge technology experience to everyone.

Tell Us

If you would like to discuss or provide feedback on UB’s Classroom Recording service please contact us and choose “Classroom Recording” from the drop down list.