Students across the U.S. ran into computer glitches Tuesday as they began the school year with online instruction at home because of the coronavirus, adding to the list of problems that have thrust many a harried parent into the role of teacher’s aide and tech support person.
The online learning platform Blackboard, which provides technology for 70 of the nation’s 100 biggest districts and serves more than 20 million U.S. students from kindergarten through 12th grade, reported that websites for one of its learning products were failing to load or were loading slowly, and users were unable to register on the first day of school.
A Blackboard spokesperson said the problems with the company’s website content management system occurred because of a big morning surge in online traffic. D’Anthony White said the system was restored by about 1:15 p.m. and the company was working on refining its approach to prevent further problems. He apologized for the disruption.
“While we planned for a surge in traffic greater than a typical back-to-school period, the patterns of usage exceeded what we anticipated,” White wrote in an email to The Associated Press.
Florida’s largest school district, in Miami-Dade County, had assured parents that it had consolidated different programs into one platform that would be easier to navigate. But software glitches and cyberattacks disrupted the first week of the new school year that started Aug. 31.
A high school student was arrested and accused of orchestrating a series of network outages. School administrators believe other people may be doing the same.
Christy Rodriguez, 36, said her third- and fourth-grade boys’ classes struggled with connection problems during the first week of school.
“Four full days were lost,” she said. “Either somebody is not able to go on, or the screen goes blank, or the teacher can’t hear the kids, so the teacher then just logs off and then sends a message to the parents.”
Rodriguez said she has been forced to work until late at night because her children need help fixing connection problems.
“The teachers are frustrated. The kids are frustrated. I hope that they soon open up schools,” she said.
Another parent, Alessandra Martinez, said her 7-year-old son has struggled with logins, passwords, and connection problems. He had a meltdown Friday when he was moved to a smaller breakout group but didn’t see the teacher and didn’t know what he was supposed to be doing.
“At their age, everything is amplified, and it feels like a big deal,” Martinez said.
Martinez said she was against the school district using a product commonly employed by parents who home-school.
“This is a home-schooling program, but for parents who are working from home and have multiple children, it is a bit overwhelming,” she said. “We have this set up as a one-size-fits-all, and it doesn’t work for everybody.”
In Hartford, where the start of the school year was pushed back to Wednesday, parents were upset at what they called the last-minute notice of the delay. They noted that officials knew about the problem since the weekend.
Kate Court said her 13-year-old son was already dressed and ready to go to the bus stop when she learned of the postponement. The shipping warehouse employee counted herself lucky that her mother could watch over the teen and his younger brother so she didn’t have to miss work.
“This is crazy,” Court said. “We’re looking for normalcy again, whatever that may be.”
Computer glitches disrupt classes as schools return online