‘Timing is not always great for technology:’ Statewide online education system crashes on 1st day of classes

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The company that provides a cloud-based program used by thousands of students and teachers in North Carolina for online learning is investigating why it crashed Monday on the first day of school, state education leaders say.

NCEdCloud, the portal for students and educators to access other programs used by school districts beginning the academic year with remote instruction due to the coronavirus pandemic, was down for roughly 90 minutes, state Department of Public Instruction officials said.

The department said in a statement issued at about 11:30 a.m. that the vendor of the NCEdCloud service confirmed the “degradation in service,” and that company would “provide an explanation of the root cause once it has identified the source.”

Vanessa Wrenn, the director of digital teaching and learning for DPI, told CBS 17 News in an email that the portal was “slow to login (sic) in the beginning” and “eventually users were timing out.” By late morning, the service had been restored.

Gavin McKelvey — chief marketing officer for the vendor, Houston-based Identity Automation — told CBS 17 News that DPI asked the company to redirect media inquiries back to the state agency.

Noah Garrett, a spokesman for MCNC — the Triangle-based technology company that hosts the DPI’s NCEdCloud portal — also referred questions about the outage from CBS 17 News to DPI.

Marlo Gaddis, the chief technology officer for the Wake County Public School System, said the outage “wasn’t a widespread problem” for her district. She didn’t know what might have caused the outage, wondered if it might have been a traffic issue but declined to speculate further.

“The joy of technology is it’s great when it works, not so great when it doesn’t,” Gaddis said. “We all experience outages at times. And so unfortunately, timing is not always great for technology when this happens.”

Just before 9:30 a.m., Moore County Schools confirmed issues with NCEdCloud are making it difficult for students to use the system or even log in. Durham Public Schools confirmed issues as well.

NCEdCloud is used to access PowerSchool and Canvas.

Nearly every school in all K-12 districts began classes Monday. Under Gov. Roy Cooper’s plan, school boards could start the year with full remote learning, hold in-person instruction with strict social distancing or provide a mix.

Districts and charter schools that teach about two-thirds of the 1.5 million public school students chose the full-remote option for now, according to data from the Department of Public Instruction.

Schools were closed in March amid the pandemic and never reopened this past year.

School districts are expanding their online instruction. More than half of Wake County’s school enrollment signed up for the district’s “virtual academy.”

However, the State Board of Education declined last week to increase enrollment for two virtual charter schools.

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