Scramble to prevent repeat of homeschool fail
THE Queensland Government's online learning system crashed before the first day of school even started yesterday, with officials blaming the blunder on unprecedented traffic.
Education authorities were last night scrambling to prevent a repeat of the system failure today, attempting to ensure the learning platform could cope with the demand of hundreds of thousands of students logging in.
But Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington slammed the Government, accusing it of failing at the first hurdle and saying it had had weeks to prepare.
"Saying it's teething problems is a poor excuse; this is a failure to prepare," she said.
The Education Department's Learning at Home website and The Learning Place both crashed before 9am due to the reportedly overloaded network and with the site accessible before midday.
It caused havoc for parents and students trying to navigate learning materials from home on the first day of five weeks of remote-learning, sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Students attempting to access the sites yesterday received error messages reading: "this site can't be reached. The connection was reset", "Sorry, Something went wrong,", and "The server is busy now. Try again later."
Department of Education director-general of Tony Cook said the website had received an "unprecedented amount of traffic" on the first morning of term two.
"Our servers received more than 1.8 million hits in less than half an hour as Queensland families started using the Department's new learning-at-home model," he said.
"This significant web traffic caused the department's website to time out for some users and in some cases, the inability to log on to some sites."
He said that learning at home had never been implemented on a scale like it was yesterday and Education Queensland would continue to monitor the performance of systems, taking action overnight.
"The department is working with its IT delivery partners to make sure that we continue to monitor and respond to these new levels of demand on the department's IT network," Mr Cook said.
"While the department had already taken steps to prepare for new levels of anticipated demand, we are taking further actions overnight to support the delivery of learning at home.
"We knew there might be some bumps and challenges along this journey, particularly this week as we start working in these new ways."
It is also understood that there were technology glitches with Microsoft Office Teams among Brisbane Catholic Education schools as students tried to gain access.
At St Patrick's College at Shorncliffe students were unable to access their first Tutor Group, a parent told The Courier-Mail, and the school informed parents there were IT issues with their "REALM" digital platform.
When directed to download student planners, one parent on social media said the solution was "a nice idea, if you can access the site to see the work" but "There is no access at all."
A Brisbane Catholic Education statement said some students were unable to access online learning resources, caused by an issue outside of its control.
"We have been working with our online partners to ensure that access will be consistent," the statement said.
It comes amid mounting pressure for parents, who are working at home, to be able to send their children to school.
Just 12 per cent of Queensland's more than 850,000-strong student population attended state schools yesterday - slightly more than authorities' expectations that there would be less than 100,000.
But they too were also unable to learn online, facing the same technical issues their peers were battling at home.
"The students that are working from school are experiencing the same difficulty," an email sent to Rainworth State School parents yesterday said.
It follows Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk's remarks on Sunday that day one of term "would be confusing" while Education Minister Grace Grace pre-empted there would be "teething problems".
Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington said angry parents reached out to her yesterday.
"From day one, the LNP called for more devices and better internet connections to ensure no child missed out on their education," she said.
"Parents have every right to be angry and frustrated at Annastacia Palaszczuk today."
Queensland Teachers Union president Kevin Bates said none of the technology issues came as a surprise, with the problems "talked about for some time".
He said the same issues were reported in Victorian schools where "online learning was impossible" at first but by the second and third day of term the issues were rectified.
"There's no doubt that the situation will get better and what we can't have is a scenario where the absolute health and safety of school (staff and students) is thrown out the window because there was an issue with the IT on a single day," he said.
"We can't make a judgment on what the next five weeks will be like based on today (yesterday), we need the community's backing to keep everyone safe.
"We will pick up again tomorrow and teachers will continue to support students."
Despite online learning platforms crashing, Indooroopilly State High School teacher Kate Vale said she was excited to deliver her social sciences classes online.
"I've made my fair share of videos, quizzes and collaborative groups for them to work together and ask questions," she said
"It is difficult not seeing them (students) face-to-face, but we're doing the best we can to support them learning at home."
Originally published as Scramble to prevent repeat of homeschool fail