Remote learning even more remote as online education system crashes on NC's first day of school

Posted August 17, 2020 9:34 a.m. EDT
Updated August 17, 2020 7:38 p.m. EDT

— A statewide online education system that students and teachers use for online learning went down Monday on the first day of school in North Carolina, with many districts holding only remote classes because of the coronavirus pandemic.

NCEdCloud experienced technical issues for a few hours, returning to service by 11 a.m.

The state Department of Public Instruction said Monday afternoon that the vendor that created NCEdCloud, Identity Automation, was still investigating the outage so it wouldn't happen again.

Identity Automation referred all questions to DPI.

Not all districts were impacted by this crash.

A spokeswoman from the Wake County Public School System said the district didn't experience any issues, but Durham Public Schools did report having problems.

NCEdCloud runs both Powerschool, which is used to maintain student records, including attendance, course registration and student transcripts, as well as Canvas, one of the primary online learning platforms school districts are using this fall.

Jessica Wilson said the experience gave her daughter, who was starting kindergarten on Monday, a horrible first impression of school.

"I told her, 'Hey, we’re going to school,' and I put her in front of the computer, and she’s like, 'This is not school,'" Wilson said. "I definitely feel like her education will be affected this year. I have a feeling she’ll have to do kindergarten again."

Heather Swofford said her ninth- and third-graders also had problems because of the NCEdCloud crash.

"It was a little crazy this morning trying to get everything connected,” Swofford said.

Her two children didn’t get their schedules until the last minute, and they had audio and other technical problems all morning, which ended at 10:30 a.m. without much learning.

"I think it’s definitely going to be a mess,” she said. “It’s going to be very hard for [my third-grader] to stay focused and engaged and interested while he’s just sitting in his room the entire day.”

Some users were still reporting issues on social media hours after the school day began.

DPI suggested that users clear their internet cookies and their cache or try a different browser altogether if login issues continue.

NCEdCloud was launched a decade ago as part of the Race to the Top initiative for public schools. The state has paid Identity Automation $5.6 million since 2016 to maintain it.

According to the company's website, it provides service to 11 other K-12 school systems in addition to DPI, including Chicago Public Schools and the Austin Independent School District in Texas. Schools in most of the other states haven't started class yet.

Wake County schools has its own separate deal with Identity Automation.

A fact sheet shows the system routinely handled 231 million logins in 2018, boasting uptime reliability 99.998 percent.

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