Can You Hear Me? Dealing with Connectivity Problems in the Virtual Classroom

Teaching a virtual course requires a good internet connection. Without generally reliable data transfer, the learning experience will be inferior. But even if the instructor’s connection is good, it is rarely 100% reliable. In a larger class, there is always someone without reliable internet.

While improved internet infrastructure will help over time, instructors can also deal with connectivity problems right now. Here I distinguish possible approaches by whether it is the instructor’s or the students’ connection that is weak.

If the instructor’s own connection is weak, an obvious first step is to cut off video. While this is not ideal for the students, it can work as a stopgap measure until connectivity improves.

Another solution is to speak slowly and ask students to note in the chat window if they have difficulty understanding. Here using the chat window is better than asking students to speak up, as that reduces the psychological hesitation to interrupt the lecture.

If a student’s connection is weak, recording the lecture is an obvious solution. A student who has difficulty following the lecture can watch it later, and participate in the discussion by submitting a short written comment and any questions they have.

If the student’s input is needed at the time, the chat window is a natural solution. The instructor can respond to questions and comments both in the chat window and by speaking.

About the Author

Johannes Urpelainen is the Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Professor and Director of Energy, Resources and Environment at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (Washington DC, USA). He is the Founding Director of the Initiative for Sustainable Energy Policy (ISEP). He serves as a senior advisor for ViaX Online Education, a a Beijing-based learning and education company.


Johannes Urpelainen works as a senior advisor for ViaX Online Education. The views presented in this blog are the author’s alone.