The video conferencing app that most schools relied upon earlier this year to offer online classrooms before the summer break went down yesterday. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, most schools across America are offering hybrid virtual/in-person classrooms for the fall semester. Schools are reopening their fall semesters this month and the next.
Yesterday, Zoom users were unable to access webinars and classrooms starting at about 9:00 a.m. eastern time. At least one state, Georgia, was having its first day of classes on Monday. Larger school districts like New York City will not start the new school session until after Labor Day.
The Zoom service wasn’t restored until about 11:00 a.m. However, reports of users unable to use the service continued throughout the rest of the morning.
In addition to school online sessions not accessible for the start of the school semester for some students, the outage affected other users of virtual meetings like court hearings. It is unknown how many users were affected but it is likely that it was in the millions.
In addition to Zoom there are other virtual meeting apps that businesses and schools are using for online meetings and instruction.
Most states have mandated that the fall schedule offer hybrid classrooms. For the most part, the school districts must offer in-person teaching and online teaching. Parents are generally allowed to choose which model they want to use.
It remains unclear what percentage of students will be taking online classes and how many will be in classrooms this semester.
However, the Zoom outage yesterday shows that schools are reopening on a house of cards, one that can collapse at any moment.
In addition to technology outages, the school districts and the parents of school age children are having to react to fluid and changing public policy as Covid-19 continues to disrupt daily life.
This is in addition to adapting to the changing landscape of the work life after the pandemic.
Technology administrators look at the reliability of their infrastructure in terms of a single-point of failure. A single-point of failure is a piece of hardware or software that can bring the entire system down if it fails.
Technology experts try to minimize the number of single-point of failures in their systems.
In the case of the fall semester for school age children, there are multiple single-point of failures across the school systems.
The first is the technology. This can be the virtual meeting software or the internet connection to the school. If either of these fail, the virtual classroom comes to a screeching halt.
Likewise, if a Covid-19 infection is identified in one or more students, the result is a classroom and possibly a school quarantined putting further stress on the system. Numerous outbreaks would force school districts to rethink their in-person classes.
What Americans are facing today is a school crisis that is a single-point of failure away from collapse.