While COVID-19 is creating unprecedented uncertainty, Research and Education Networks such as CalREN will play an important role in supporting our educational institutions as they increasingly move to online learning. Network usage patterns may vary greatly from traditional face-to-face learning environments, in part because of the massive shift of users from purpose-built campus networks to commercial, residential network services.
In an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19, a number of California’s universities, colleges, and schools have already suspended in-person classes and turned to use of online learning. As remote learning increases, one critical consideration will be users varying levels of broadband access at home locations and whether users have any access at all. At a recent meeting, CENIC member institutions suggested colleges and libraries might augment and extend their public WiFi capabilities to help bridge this gap. One idea of offering drive-up wireless hotspots to the community might be a significant contribution to K-12 schools, colleges, and the general public weathering this situation.
Another pressing issue as online learning increases will be the capacity for conferencing tools, such as Zoom, and Learning Management Systems, such as Canvas, to accommodate a massive influx of users. While CENIC’s network has ample capacity, should the application become overwhelmed, several CENIC member institutions have suggested that backup tools such as Google Hangouts Meet, Office 365, Skype, GoToMeeting, and BlueJeans could be used.
As we monitor this rapidly evolving situation, providing continued and uninterrupted service to our members while maintaining the safety and well-being of our employees is our top priority. CENIC has prepared this information as a resource for CENIC members who have moved to, or are contemplating moving to, online instruction.