The new normal for instructional delivery amidst COVID-19 is the use of virtual learning in K-12 and higher education. The start of the new term for much of the education world experienced a rocky reopening as the popular Zoom conferencing platform crashed for users across the globe on the morning of Monday, August 24th.
Zoom was reported to have been down for five hours, during crucial times needed for educational activities at schools and colleges. The Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported that Zoom outages were recorded around “7:40 a.m. ET Monday” and that “numbers of reported outages dropped from nearly 17,000 to less than 3,000 reports of Zoom outages.” Zoom usage has increased with the pandemic affecting many institutions, and users have climbed to 300 million worldwide. With widespread use of Zoom it was shocking to hear of a global crash of the platform that schools, educators, parents, and universities have planned daily instruction and meetings around.
Fortunately, by early Monday afternoon Zoom’s team had worked to fix the outage. Zoom tweeted from it’s account, “Everything should be working properly now! We are continuing to monitor the situation. Thank you for all of your patience and our sincere apologies for disrupting your day.”
Although the abrupt glitch in service was fixed, it caused some educators to cancel classes or to seek an alternative plan for meeting with students.
According to Inside Higher Ed, some universities are working to have a contingency plan for when Zoom is not working. Noel Wong, Chief Information Officer and VP of Information Technology at Tulane University uses Microsoft Teams during outages.
The University of Dayton is prepared to use Google Meet when Zoom is down. According to the university’s Chief Information Officer and Associate Provost Thomas Skill, “It’s a Google Apps campus, which means the university could pivot to using Google Meet if Zoom went down for a substantial period of time. The e-learning team would send instructions to faculty on how to use the new platform.”
Another institution with a plan to switch to a different platform when Zoom fails is Sinclair Community College in Ohio. Cathy Peterson, Chief of Public Information at the college stated their back up plan includes, “ … other online meeting platforms, like Microsoft Teams or Virtual Classroom, or pre-produced materials, or a combination.”
Online learning is so crucial at this time that K-12 schools, parents, and universities don’t want to lose connectivity for students. Institutions will have to work with internet providers and their learning technology teams to find what works best and troubleshoot on days when even the best platform like Zoom is not at its best.
Are schools and higher education too dependent on Zoom? What are the most viable alternatives? Comment below.