How to Make the Most of Zoom when You Have Low Bandwidth


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You also don’t need the internet to talk to a tutor. You can talk to them by phone.

Whether you make the appointment by calling or through our website, we can set it up so you can call your tutor rather than connect by Zoom. Just let us know when you make the appointment (include it in the appointment notes along with your phone number).

This can happen if you do a number of Zoom sessions in a row or many other things are going on on your computer at the same time.

One sign that this is happening is that it takes forever for you to join in the first place--like, so long that you actually think that it’s not joining at all--but it is actually just doing so very slowly. 

The solution for this is easy--just restart your computer.

Zoom feels like one, coherent experience, but it is actually made up of a number of streams of information that all join together. 

You can reduce or eliminate many of these streams at any time so that you can free up bandwidth so that the stream that you need the most will work for you.

Here is a list of the most important streams, which are covered in the following sections:

Audio (Sound) Moderate amount of bandwidth

Video (Picture) Lots of bandwidth

Screen Sharing (Optional) Lots of bandwidth

Remote Control (Optional) Even more bandwidth

Virtual Background (Optional) Small amount of bandwidth (unless it is moving)

Chat (Optional) Small amount of bandwidth

Audio is one of the easiest streams to eliminate from your internet bandwidth. In order to do so, you can join the audio portion of the Zoom meeting by phone.

Joining the audio by phone does take a little work at the beginning of each session. Once you have it set up, though, using your phone feels just like using computer audio, except that the sound is often better quality.

If you use your phone to dial into the session for the audio, you will leave all the rest of your available internet bandwidth for other things. You will be much less likely to lose the session partway through, and if you are using video, the quality of your image will likely be better. 

Joining with phone audio also eliminates that weird, frustrating robot-speak that happens when your bandwidth is low.

It also means that if your WiFi goes down and you lose the video connection, you will still have the audio connection and will be able to talk to the other person to let them know what is going on.

You can use either a cell phone or a landline. If you use a VOIP service, though, that won’t help at all, because it will still use up internet bandwidth.

When you join a Zoom session, instead of automatically clicking the default for audio, which is a blue button that says Join with Computer Audio, click the light gray tab on the upper left that says “Phone Call.” Zoom windows for joining audio by phone with arrows showing the phone call tab and then also the phone number to dialSometimes, in order to help Zoom understand that your audio and video go together, you need to enter a code into your phone after joining. If this is the case, the message about the code will appear right above the Country/Region menu on the Phone Call tab in the Join Audio window. 

Video takes up a LOT of bandwidth. More than audio. But you do not need a webcam to participate in Zoom. Many people use Zoom without one.

If you have a webcam, it is very easy to turn the video on and off. Simply click on the video button that is a part of the tools at the bottom or top of your Zoom window. 

Image of Zoom Video Button On and Off

Being able to see and communicate with someone using video over Zoom is a nice way to make human connections, especially when you are social distancing. Because of this, you might consider having your video on at the beginning and end when you are saying hello and goodbye, but having the video off when you need your screen to do other things--especially when you screen share.

Screen sharing is something that writing tutors will often ask you to do in a tutoring session. They can walk you through how to do it. If you have your paper or the assignment instructions up on your computer, screen sharing makes it possible for both of you to look at your paper or your instructions together.

However, screen sharing takes up about the same amount of bandwidth as video does, so if you are using video while you screen share, that will take double the amount of bandwidth. This crashes many people’s connection to Zoom. This is why it often makes sense to turn off your video when you go to share your screen.

Fortunately, you can change the settings in Zoom (in order to reduce the number of frames per second that the screenshare uses) which will make your share a little choppy, but it will keep you from crashing Zoom. Your tutor can talk you through how to change your settings from inside the Zoom session to make this possible.

If screen sharing in Zoom is not possible for you, you can still share your documents with your tutor in Google Drive. Please share your work from the Google Drive associated with your campus account and send any shares or links to your tutor’s campus email.

Once you have shared your screen with a tutor, you will have the option to give the tutor remote control of the part that you have shared. This can be really helpful because then the tutor can point to specific things in your paper and show you where resources are.

HOWEVER, remote control takes a ton of bandwidth. It take twice as much as just screen sharing on its own. For this reason, it may make sense to change the screen share settings (in order to reduce the number of frames per second on your screen share) which will also reduce the bandwidth used by the remote control function.

Again, your tutor can walk you through how to change these settings, but if you would like to do it on your own before your session, click here to watch a short video.

Virtual backgrounds are fun, and they can be a good way to preserve some privacy about your living space.

Static (still) virtual backgrounds take very little bandwidth, especially compared to how much bandwidth video takes. They are unlikely to change the performance of your Zoom.

However, a moving background takes up much more bandwidth, so if you are using one and you are having problems, try switching to a static background and see if that helps.

Chat takes up hardly any bandwidth.

If you are having problems with your audio and/or video, try chatting your tutor.

This is what the chat button will look like in Zoom: Chat Button in Zoom

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