2020 Guide to Video Conferencing and eLearning for Texas Schools

2020 is a critical year for video conferencing adoption in public independent school districts, private and charter schools in Texas. Looking for an alternative to Zoom? Concerned about supporting blended learning? Our comprehensive guide aims to answer all questions and be a resource for education administration and IT professionals.

Panic Adoption of Video Conferencing in March 2020

School districts, colleges and universities across Texas are faced with challenging learning conditions in 2020. Many public and private schools were forced to adopt remote learning/video conferencing and virtual classroom technologies for the first time. Some solutions were quickly adopted, like Zoom before school administration realized the platform had security issues.

Preparing for the Future and Blended Learning

As back to school gets nearer, Texas is considering a blended learning environment with teachers and students in the classroom while many others stay at home. Remote learning could also be required into 2021 to prevent the spread of COVID-19. If you quickly chose a video conference solution back in March, realize there are better alternatives worth consideration. For this reason, we interviewed Ron Gill, SLED Specialist at 8×8 and asked all the common and difficult questions.

Full Video Interview with Ron Gill of 8X8

Frequently Asked Questions on 8×8 Meetings

c2mtech is a full-service telecommunications consultant and has worked with charter schools, private and public independent school districts throughout Texas. We captured the following questions from our clients and wanted to understand what was important in adoption of a video conference/virtual classroom/remote learning/meeting platform.

What Security Protocols Are Included with 8x8?
  • 8×8’s meeting platform offers compliance with HIPPA, PCI, FERPA etc.
  • From a technical standpoint, 8×8 is FISMA Complaint (FEDERAL Level of Compliance), and has achieved several more specific certifications as well.

(Alkein) 8×8 enforces a security first culture from the most senior levels, with a former Presidential cyber advisor and now NATO cyber advisor on the board of the company. 8×8 has dedicated security staff within a CISO’s team; who perform Penetration Testing, Security Code and Architectural reviews, as well as operating 8×8’s SIEM. The 8×8 Engineering and Operations teams implement security at code and network levels who receive extensive initial and ongoing training. 8×8 ensures that the minimum standards are certified, which would include PCI, HIPAA, CPNI, (SOC I ) Type 2, SSAE 16, ISO 9001, 14001, 27001, 22301, RMADS or the in-country equivalents. There are many more certifications held by the various data centers in use, but these are considered the most important. Certificates can be provided on request.

Hardened Software

• DDOS Protected Network
• Endpoint Authentication
• Protected from “Man in the Middle” Attacks
• Phones Have Factory Installed Device Certificate
• https Secure Provisioning
• Data in Motion and Data at Rest
• Encryption SRTP/TLS
• Transport Layer Security (TLS)
•Secure Real-time Transport Protocol (SRTP)
•Encrypted configuration files
•Shipped with X.509 certificate installed
•Digest authentication
•Password login
•Support for URL syntax with password for boot server
•HTTPS secure provisioning
•Support for signed software executables

Is 8x8 an alternative and replacement to Zoom? Our district is concerned about “Zoom Bombing” or our district has banned use of the platform.

Absolutely!

8×8 has implemented a number of security measures to protect meetings – Random Meeting Name Generator (trillions of possible combinations), Participants passcodes (6-8 characters) and randomized Sequence URLs making meetings unique, and harder to guess when using “vanity names”.

(Alkein) 8×8 Video Meetings, Powered by Jitsi, is a battle-hardened technology that has been built from the ground up with security, privacy, and compliance in mind. The product includes key features like strong end to end encryption, randomized meeting names and password protection. The product continues to show it’s resilience even to the known exploits menacing other industry products today.

Does 8X8 offer additional features that can support distance learning?

It’s not just about the classroom, but also business communications. 8X8 allows for dialogue to your teachers/colleagues/parents etc. via a private business number creates efficient communication options, while protecting the privacy of the teachers and administrators. Additionally, this communication, including SMS messages, are all later searchable, archivable and available to administrators.

(Alkein) 8×8 Video Meetings is the leading open source video communications platform. This audio/video bridge is leveraged in the 8×8 X Series offering. 8×8 Video Meetings are designed to run thousands of video streams from a single instance. This infrastructure horizontally scales using the public cloud allowing for unlimited concurrency in each zone and is 100 percent standards compliant using technologies like WebRTC. Current usage is 48 million minutes / month and growing. Thus, that usage is absolutely in-line with our offering. Each X Series X2 license allows each user to have their own 100 participant audio/video conference bridge (Personalized virtual rooms) as well as live-streaming (webinar) to unlimited number of participants. Additionally, there is a free offering of this service on https://8×8.vc. 8×8 Video Meetings include the ability to share content, perform remote desktop control, record meetings and have PSTN numbers in 56 countries. There is also in-room offering for conference rooms leveraging standard hardware that is easy to deploy and manage.

How does the platform compare to WebEx, Microsoft Teams or Google Meet?

8×8’s Meetings was originally part of our VoIP platform and was not offered separately prior to this year. Gartner has rated 8×8 a “leader” in UCaaS since it began measuring Unified Communications, 8 years in a row. Our Gartner rating includes the video meetings platform. We anticipate our video conferencing solution to be measured separately in the next Gartner release. There are several publications comparing our solutions very favorably to those listed, but none from Gartner at this time.

How can 8X8 integrate with existing VoIP, conferencing and classroom technologies?

8×8 Meetings offers open API integration. We have, for example with WeSchool in Italy, provided their LMS system with Video integration into our LMS systems. We are working with several others to make 8×8 Video conferencing the embedded video solution of choice as well.

What are the classroom IT requirements for 8X8? We are concerned about network bandwidth and latency at our school.

8X8 Meetings is a cloud solution, so devices when connected at home are not routed back to the schools infrastructure. So there is no added demand when students are connecting remotely. However, when in the classroom using video conferencing, there is a lightweight bandwidth element depending on the quality of the video you are wanting to have. Below are more specific requirements.

Voice UCaaS and CCaaS:

  • G711 Codec: 90 kbps symmetric/call
  • G722 Codec: 90 kbps symmetric/call
  • G729 Codec: 35 kbps symmetric/call
  • CCaaS add an additional 30kbps symmetric/call

Video Meetings Upstream:

  • Up to 3Mbps for video
  • 40kbps for audio

Video Meetings Downstream:

  • 2.5 Mbps for “On Stage” video in high quality
  • At least 500kbps for one incoming stream at the lowest quality
  • 200kbps per thumbnail stream (excluding on-stage)
  • 40kbps for audio

Downstream max bandwidth in a conference of n people would be 2.5Mbps + (n-2)*200kbps + 40kbps. Please make sure you have 50% of your available bandwidth free to accommodate any spike in usage. Always assume that at least 35% of your users are on call at any time. However, depending on your company’s use case, you may have a higher percentage.

Contact Us for Quotes and Questions

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