Low-bandwidth learning

Ever since the lockdown started, many teachers have been facing challenges on delivering online lectures and lesson plans to their students. From what we can see and experience, webinars or video conferences that were made available require high bandwidth. This, in turn, would make teachers complain, as their internet infrastructure or access is very slow, hampering online learning in the process.

The Philippines is still very much a work in progress when it comes to infrastructure. Yes, we see new roads, bridges and highways being constructed here and there, but the sad fact remains that our internet infrastructure still has a lot of room to improve, and that access is still not available nationwide. As an example, in Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental province, there are at least 33,000 public schools that are not yet online. Many other places face the same predicament, and given that the internet infrastructure rollout would take some time, the Department of Education will provide transistor radios to aid online learning and teaching.

The provision of these radios in this scenario is an example of low-bandwidth learning. While there are schools and students with access to good internet infrastructure – and, therefore, can sustain studying online — there is a segment in the country that would also benefit from low-bandwidth learning, which we should also consider and prepare for. Countries such as the Philippines will benefit from this, since not all learning institutions would be able to access video conferencing all the time and with the sheer number of public school students we have.

In Daniel Stanford’s article on videoconference alternatives, he said that two key elements to be considered in conducting online learning are bandwidth and immediacy. The access to bandwidth will dictate the manner in which the teacher and student can consume the content and immediacy deals with how immediate the learning can happen. For low-bandwidth learning arrangements, we are looking at both low and high immediacy possibilities, and this can be the basis of how teachers can design their instructional course or lesson plans. An example would be the provision of prework or prereading materials, which can be sent via SMS (low immediacy) and then discussing these online for mentoring and coaching purposes on Viber (high immediacy).

Such available capabilities represent how low-bandwidth learning can be executed in the country and sustainable in the long run. That is why transistor radios (and television sets) would be able to aid in delivering distance learning, and that the main consideration of teachers then would be on how to create a learning design structure to ensure that students are able to grasp and comprehend the lessons taught remotely.

The opening of classes will happen in a few weeks’ time, and for sure there will still be adjustments needed and errors made in delivering online education, given that this is the first time it is being done at a national level. The important thing is to find that sweet spot to ensure that both the teacher and student are able to maximize the available platform at hand in teaching the required subjects while coexisting with the pandemic.


Kay Calpo Lugtu is the chief operating officer of Hungry Workhorse, a digital and culture transformation firm. Her advocacies include nation-building, sustainability education and financial literacy. The author may be reached at kay.lugtu@hungryworkhorse.com.

Source: https://www.manilatimes.net/2020/07/09/business/columnists-business/low-bandwidth-learning/739811/