How to optimize eLearning content to meet high demand

These days, eLearning is the only form of learning. The global move to virtual classrooms has brought both risks and opportunities. Here’s how to optimize eLearning content to avoid disruption.

eLearning experience & pandemic

In 2014, Michael Trucano, the World Bank's Senior Education & Technology Policy Specialist, suggested that ‘’some sort of major health-related scare’’ could be a tipping point for educational technology. Murano predicted that future epidemic outbreaks would put online learning processes to their real test. It seems that he was right.

As millions of students are housebound, the demand for eLearning courses has skyrocketed. This has led to a dramatic increase in internet traffic and load on servers. Universities around the world are now hurrying to boost their online capacity to deliver eLearning content.

Apart from the increase in traffic, there have been changes in traffic patterns — when learners access courses and from where. The after-work evening peak times have now shifted to the morning, when most classes and virtual meetings take place. Home connections from multiple scattered locations have replaced those from a handful of hubs like university campuses or libraries. What’s more, internet traffic in the suburbs has gone up, while in cities it has dropped dramatically. The map below demonstrates the geographical changes in internet usage patterns in the San Francisco Bay Area between February 19th and March 18th. The red spots indicate a decrease in usage, and the greens ones an increase.

The kind of eLearning content consumed is also different. With more time on their hands, users tend to watch video materials and do it in one go rather than on the go. All of this adds up to one thing — a growing load on servers.

Heatmap of changes in Internet usage patternsChange in Internet usage patterns in the San Francisco Bay Area

What are the risks?

One of the main challenges for eLearning development is engagement. Even before the pandemic, research showed students were more likely to drop out when taught online, and technical problems don’t help matters. Traffic surges leading to slowdowns may make learners frustrated and even force them to abandon online content. Worse still, eLearning platforms based on outdated technologies could experience server outages and shutdowns.

Adding to the complexity, international students are spread all over the world. Some of them live in remote locations with poor network performance and lower bandwidth in the first place. And the longer the physical distance between the user and the server, the longer the response time, and the worse the eLearning experience.

What are the opportunities?

With the sudden spike in demand, online course development is being rediscovered. Schools and universities that have no mandatory standards for online education are now at the testing stage. Apart from homeschooling, self-learning is also on the rise among people of various ages. To satisfy the increased appetite for digital resources, many education companies are offering free solutions and investing in improving them. They understand that though the crisis will end, in many ways it could be a beginning.

How can online learning be improved?

How to optimize eLearning course content to meet the new challenges? Here are two main solutions to help you deliver rich media content with no loss in time or quality.

1. Use a CDN for a better eLearning experience

One way to improve speed and performance under increased pressure is to shorten the physical distance between the user and the hosting server. This can be done with a Content Delivery Network (CDN). In essence, a CDN is a group of geographically distributed servers that work together. By replicating data throughout the system, a CDN allows learners to access materials from the nearest location rather than connecting to the central origin server.

Apart from improving web performance, a Content Delivery Network takes the load off your server, resulting in cost savings. Here at Uploadcare, we go even further by reducing bandwidth through image optimization. In 2018, using Uploadcare’s CDN with integrated image processing instead of a traditional CDN allowed eCommerce platform Shogun to reduce their image bandwidth costs by up to 86%.

CDNs are crucial for delivering video content. Video streaming platforms rely on this technology for speeding up the transfer and minimizing any buffering. Streaming live video classes, as opposed to progressive downloads, puts even more pressure on servers. For enhanced performance, Uploadcare uses two leading CDNs that back each other up: Akamai and Amazon CloudFront. These networks, with servers in over 130 countries, are trusted by numerous platforms that provide live and on-demand high-quality videos.

A CDN can help you cope with spikes in internet traffic, but not every CDN will do that. To be able to handle an influx of users, the infrastructure needs to be adjusted in line with the load. Uploadcare automatically scales along with any increases in traffic with no need for action on your part.

2. Optimize eLearning courses with Adaptive Delivery

To avoid latency issues, it’s also important to optimize eLearning content itself. The materials should be quickly and easily accessible in any browser and on any type of device. Uploadcare has come up with technology that automatically adapts online content to user devices while maintaining the best visual quality.

Imagine creating high-resolution graphics with a lot of detail for your eLearning course. Without Adaptive Delivery, you’d need to resize the images yourself. On the one hand, you’d want clear and sharp pictures, but higher resolution means slower loading, especially on mobile devices. On the other hand, you’d rather avoid speeding up the response time at the expense of lowering the quality too much. With Uploadcare, you don’t need to guess — use the best quality images and they will be automatically adapted to the user context.

Adaptive Image Delivery provides a better user experience through faster page loads on any device. Along with an advanced CDN, it’s one of the integral parts of our solution for eLearning.

Bottom line

For eLearning developers, the current crisis is both a risk and an opportunity. The increased demand and changes in traffic patterns have put unprecedented pressure on online learning platforms. Luckily, there are technologies designed to solve these issues. By optimizing content with Adaptive Delivery and moving it closer to the user with a CDN, you will provide a smooth eLearning experience, even in these crazy times.

Infrastructure for user images, videos & documents