Office of the Superintendent

Technology Readiness: Upload/Download Speeds and Recommendations

Tuesday, October 29, 2013, 2:53 pm

Since the technology needs of schools can be very different, there isn’t an easy catch all number that is a "good" download/upload speed. We agree with the State Educational Technology Directors’ Association (SETDA) that one way to estimate what your teachers and students can do with the internet (and thus whether you can meet digital learning goals) is using a per-user bandwidth.

Per-user bandwidth can be calculated by taking the maximum connection size (or the maximum available bandwidth if you're evaluating the classroom connection) which is in Mbps, multiplying by 1000 to get Kbps, and dividing by the number of student and staff members using the connection.

Although SETDA recommends that schools have 100 kbps per student and staff member for a technology rich environment that uses 1:1 or lots of online tools, which is a good target number for schools to strive for, this per user bandwidth isn't necessarily what every school needs to meet their current goals. In their report "The Broadband Imperative" they lay out a number of per-student bandwidth targets for varying levels of technology use.

The list below is from “The Broadband Imperative” report.  It gives some sample activities and recommended download speeds.  This is useful information to discuss real network demands with Internet service providers and to identify the range of activities that may be taking place in your schools now.

Sample Broadband Requirements (Download Only) for Various Activities

The list below identifies the typical broadband speeds required for the seamless integration of activities that support student learning experiences.  In this chart the speeds are indicated per-user based on the trends indicated in the above section.

Recommended Download Speeds

Email and Web Browsing - 500 Kbps

Download a 1 MB digital book in 5.3 seconds - 1.5 Mbps

Online Learning - 250 Kbps

HD-quality Video Streaming - 4 Mbps

Skype Group-Video Session, 7+ - 8 Mbps

Download a 6144 MB Movie in 8 minutes - 100 Mbps

Current Generation Multiple-Choice Assessments - 64 Kbps/student

Using the recommended download speed listed above for “Current Generation Multiple Choice Assessment” with a lab of 30 computers, a connection speed for the computer lab with these computers would require 1.92 Mbps.  If we look at the recommended specifications for the Smarter Balanced Assessments, our next generation assessment system,  the download demand is actually less than the current generation examples of multiple choice assessments (30 computers, connection speed of 50 Kbps/student = 1.67 Mbps).  Smarter Balanced assessments are the least demanding in terms of per-user bandwidth.

This has been an important design criterion in the delivery design process. The code and methods used will render assessment items and handle student interactions in a manner that intentionally minimizes the amount of information that has to travel over the internet to the server and back to the student computer.

Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC)

20 Kbps/student minimum

50 Kbps/student recommended

 We hope this helps answer some questions about why School Speed Test data is useful and valuable to our state. Feel free to reach out with questions or visit the OPI Tech Readiness Web page for more resources.

Dennis Parman, Deputy Superintendent, OPI,
Judy Snow, Assessment Director, OPI,
Colet Bartow, Technology Readiness Coordinator, OPI,


For more information, contact Colet Bartow, 406-444-3583