Bandwidth quotas for students

We’ve implemented a 50mb daily bandwidth limit for students, and a few people have been asking me why.

Just like most other learning providers, we’ve always struggled to find the right balance between granting sufficient access to useful resources and restricting access to inappropriate or distracting content. The best example might be YouTube. Lots of great video content to be found, with plenty contributed by educators which can clearly be of great value to students. I know if I were still in my teens, learning with visual and audible content would have been far more engaging and rewarding for me than learning computing theory from text books.

Hang on a minute. YouTube is also filled with an incredible array of video content that will contribute nothing to the learning process. That skateboarding dog is quite talented, but you aren’t going to learn much from watching him glide around Venice Beach (okay – media students studying why video goes viral might get away with watching it once…).

How do we do it?

We use a filter appliance called ContentKeeper. Content Keeper includes a little client tool that authenticates every user based on their Windows desktop credentials. In other words, whoever is logged in to the desktop will have their bandwidth consumption monitored by the applet in accordance with whichever content filter policy applies to them. Filter policies can go much further than this; you can include granular policies that will monitor bandwidth for specific content categories. Probably a bit complicated really, both for the user to understand, and for the administrator to apply fairly.

Why set a limit?

Just walk around any campus and observe student behaviour. When you get to a private study area, you will see lots of good work going on. For the most part, FE students are well focused, many with strong HE and career aspirations. In the main, my experience is that generally the learning and support facilities offered by the learning provider are used sensibly. In most cases these have been embedded to the degree that accessing them frequently is essential for all learners. It’s not easy for everyone though and some students are easily distracted by media that isn’t related to study – this usually amounts to watching entertainment shows, music videos, or video game walkthroughs. The idea is that with a limit applied, and accompanied by the correct support and guidance, students will begin to appreciate the importance of managing their priorities whilst studying, placing academic activity first, and saving the lighter activity for a different time.

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