As schools in Mainland China have been temporarily closed due to the novel Coronavirus outbreak, many have been faced with the difficult challenge of moving the classroom online for teaching staff and families located both inside and outside of China.
In our continued effort to support your school community during this difficult time:
- Our customer success teams have been reaching out to schools to provide recommended practices
- Our Events & PD team have hosted a series of webinars and blog posts on managing remote classrooms
- Our Technical Operations team has been working to establish tunnels from our Beijing data center to Hong Kong in order to keep traffic flowing smoothly into and out of China
More recently from the beginning of this week, due to a network limitation in the international bandwidth in Amazon Web Services’ Beijing data center, we have heard from many of you that accessing your ManageBac account from outside of China has been difficult, often with slower upload speeds.
As a result of this, our Technical Operations team has been establishing multiple proxies in various data centers in China in order to try to improve the flow of network traffic through the Great Firewall.
We will be continuously monitoring the proxy traffic around the clock, and if you experience any performance degradation, please do not hesitate to contact us on WeChat or via our Support and Telephones.
Tel: +86 400 009 9225
Since the beginning of February, with a 2.35x higher server load, we have made the following improvements to our China network infrastructure:
- Additional Server Instances with Auto-Scaling: to automatically add server capacity during traffic spikes & high load
- Supporting Integration Partners: we have been working closely with our integration partners to establish & setup local servers (e.g. SMARTPREP, AssessPrep) including ICP license
- Background Processes: improving the throughput for coursework upload to Vantage Reader for annotations
For local Users accessing ManageBac domestically within China (behind the Great Firewall), you should:
- Experience faster speeds, greater system performance and reliability
- Integration services should be faster
For overseas Users accessing ManageBac outside of China (beyond the Great Firewall) with the addition of new proxy servers with dedicated international bandwidth, you should:
- Experience better connectivity with fewer intermittent performance issues
- Integration services should perform faster with improved file upload times
Why did we experience these connectivity issues when trying to access ManageBac China servers from outside of China?
In order to provide improved access from within China and to abide by local cyber security laws, we were the first learning platform provider to offer local Chinese hosting in August 2018.
As with other services such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Zoom, we did not anticipate a situation where a significant portion of our China school users would need to access ManageBac from outside of China – beyond the Great Firewall.
In response to this within two weeks, we setup site-to-site tunnels in order to improve international bandwidth, and we currently have expanded our proxy servers across three data centers to provide additional redundancy.
Despite the AWS China Beijing data center facing higher international bandwidth load, we have done our best to mitigate this impact.
What steps can your school take to ensure access & connectivity to ManageBac outside of China?
Consider using Reverse China VPN
- We have tested performance load and upload times in our global offices using publicly freely available VPNs. Using reverse IP locations based either in Hong Kong or China we have found improved performance speed and no time-outs for files as large as 30mb
- Our understanding is that using a VPN from outside of China does not provide any legal restriction, and thus you may wish to recommend one of the services included in the attached guide Accessing ManageBac from outside of China, which could be directly shared to users in your community
- Note: Performance may be improved, but this cannot be guaranteed, and may fluctuate depending on the VPN, the server location, or during peak and off-peak times of China internet access
- Performance during off peak hours in China will be more reliable than during peak hours. This is not in relation to ManageBac itself but the China internet infrastructure, thus a recommendation could be to ask your users to handle day-to-day requirements during peak hours, but limit downloads, uploads or submission of coursework of large files to outside of peak hours, if this is feasible.
Tools to Assist You in Effectively Managing Your Classes
It has been wonderful to see the creative ideas that have started to emerge from the many schools and educators impacted by the ongoing epidemic and forced remote learning. We have collated some of the best practices already in place at ManageBac schools conducting their classes online.
You can read and learn from the experiences of Changwai Bilingual School in Changzhou China, as we spoke with PYP Coordinator and Vice-Principal for Primary Theo Yan who shared CBS’s experiences of Using ManageBac in a Remote Learning Environment. Theo highlighted hosting online sessions via Zoom and best-practices to engage students, using creative naming formats to highlight key tasks on ManageBac, how using the PYP Next in-line planner has assisted the collaborative planning process, and tips on how they are engaging their parent community. We also wrote a blog on The Five Essential Questions You Need To Be Asking During A Global Outbreak Like Coronavirus where we discuss ways to find clarity and perspective in a difficult time and help your leadership team make the best possible decisions.
We have held a series of webinars collating experiences from other ManageBac schools globally, as more and more have had to consider how to approach remote learning. It’s clear that there is no one size fits all model, with region, student numbers, budgets and equipment available all impacting choices over which tool or combination of tools were the right fit. It is also a rapidly evolving process, as more providers are offering free trials and relaxed restrictions, such as Zoom lifting their record time limit, to provide for schools in need. You can find the English recording in the blog above, or view a Chinese version here.
On March 18th we will host The Coronavirus: Questions the Board and Management Need to be Considering, with presenters Michael Iannini, a consultant for the Council of International Schools, and Paul Smith, founder and CEO of the Future Directors Institute. We invite you to join the discussion in our interactive community webinars.
How can you contact us to report any performance issue?
Our China-based Account Managers and Asia-Pacific Customer Success team will be in touch with each and every one of our China schools in March, to assist you with identifying possible solutions for your schools, and to see how else we can be of assistance.
Schools in China can also contact Luke Harbour, our APAC Customer Success Manager, directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay informed with live updates and notifications:
Your school community can subscribe to the ManageBac status page, which is updated with live maintenance status, providing real-time updates on progress and downtime resolution. Metrics for all applications in the Faria product suite are housed here, along with being embedded within the ManageBac help centre directly to keep you informed.
These notices are provided 72-86 hrs in advance of any planned maintenance, deploying as a notice within ManageBac, added to our Blog, Twitter and WeChat, to achieve the widest possible reach, earliest notice possible, and minimal impact to our users. A reminder is issued 2 hrs prior to maintenance commencing, so you can wrap-up and save what you are currently working on.
We understand the concerns of your school community and thank you for your patience and understanding. Please contact the ManageBac Support team in English or Chinese if you require further assistance. Email & Phone support is provided 24hrs a day during the working week, with dedicated weekend support for urgent queries. Email us at email@example.com or submit a Support Request within ManageBac directly.