Published on August 25th, 2020 📆 | 8289 Views ⚑0
Technology troubles mark return to school in remote learning age
A half-hour before his class began Monday morning at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Joe Engleman noticed problems when he tried connecting with his students on Zoom.
Engleman, a 28-year-old graduate teaching assistant, then suggested the class try meeting on Blackboard Connect.
But minutes later, that learning management system shut out Engleman too. Because he was unable to hold class, Engleman had to delay formal instruction until Wednesday.
As UIC, other universities and many suburban schools marked the first day of the school year Monday with mostly online classes, many students and teachers dealt with similar challenges due to technical glitches with Blackboard and Zoom’s partial outages across the country between about 8 a.m. and noon.
“One of the most challenging things is that folks are ready to get started today,” said Engleman, of Noble Square. “It’s like we’re building the plane midair, how we think about what college is looking like.”
Scott Grunow, an English instructor at UIC, got shut out of Blackboard between his two morning classes. He was able to log back in just 10 minutes before his second class and teach. Still, it was an example of the “general disruptiveness” of trying to teach and learn during a pandemic, said Grunow.
“Some of them [freshman], this is their first college class ever,” Grunow said. “It’s extremely disconcerting.”
Kristi Leach’s professor at UIC postponed the first day of online classes because of issues with Blackboard. Leach, of Avondale, wondered how the makeup class would fit into her schedule.
“I imagine the schedule I laid out for myself for the week is going to have to change,” said Leach, a 41-year-old undergraduate majoring in sociology.
In some suburban school districts, like Glenbrook High School District 225, students were asked to participate in class via Google Meet when officials realized Zoom wasn’t working, said R.J. Gravel, assistant superintendent for business services.
Classes were shifted to Google Meet or BigBlueButton before first period at the Skokie-based Niles Township High School District 219, said district spokesman Jim Szczepaniak.
“Like it or not, everyone is realizing we have to be flexible,” Szczepaniak said. “Things are going to be changing all the time. How do we deal with that and keep our students engaged?”
But while many struggled with Zoom Monday, some had no problem logging on to the app. At the northwest suburban Township High School District 211, every student and teacher has been given an iPad with the Zoom app installed. For them, Monday was just “business mostly as usual,” said district spokesman Tom Petersen.