The Impact of Distance Learning on Video Uploads

A first grader watching a class video as part of distance learning.

“Good morning, first graders,” the teacher says with enthusiasm. “Today is word-problem Thursday, so I have a fun word problem for you to solve.” It’s the third day of distance learning for her school, and her assignment is getting delivered through a pre-recorded video. “Please pause the video now to give yourself time to solve the problem,” she says after explaining the question. 

Remote learning situations such as this are playing out around the world to stem the spread of COVID-19, and with many classrooms turning to asynchronous teaching methodologies, the usage of video to communicate lessons is significantly on the rise.

A screenshot of video uploads to Blackbaud's education management solutions.

Blackbaud’s education management solutions received 5,479 video uploads last month, and as of 6:30 a.m. on March 23, 2020, usage has increased 313 percent with 22,615 videos already this month. With many K–12 private schools coming off spring break over the next two weeks, usage will continue to grow. 

Like our first-grade word problem, seeing these statistics may give you pause. Are Blackbaud’s education management solutions equipped to handle this type of volume?

“Our system for processing video within the education management solutions automatically scales up and down to meet demand,” said Doug Smart, senior manager of operations engineering for Blackbaud K–12. “We’re closely monitoring the system, and we haven’t seen any abnormal performance due to the hike in volume.”

Here’s how the system works: When our first-grade teacher submits her video within Blackbaud Learning Management SystemTM, the file gets validated to make sure it’s free of malware and under the 1GB maximum size. Upon passing inspection, the video transfers to Amazon Web Services (AWS) for transcoding into different size renditions for playback on various devices and connection speeds. 

After the transcoding is complete, the video is stored in the cloud for playback via AWS’s content delivery network (CDN). While AWS is highly regarded for its nearly unlimited scale and outstanding performance, the transcoding process is asynchronous, so our teacher will see a “processing” status until the video is ready for viewing. The processing time varies depending on the size of the video and the number of videos in the queue. 

Since most teachers are creating short lesson plan videos, the processing time for that aspect is minimal. However, to account for the high volume in the queue, teachers are best served by recording and uploading their videos in advance and then setting the publish date and time to coincide with when the videos should become available to students.

“We couldn’t have planned for a global pandemic,” Smart said, “but we did plan for handling high volumes of video uploads and playback. As a result, we’re in a good position to support distance learning.”


About the Author

Daren Worcester

Daren Worcester has been a member of the Blackbaud K-12 team for 17 years, assisting hundreds of independent schools through a variety of website development roles. A former copywriter and a published author with an appetite for SEO, Daren currently serves as the senior content marketing manager for K-12.

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