The Queensland Education Department’s website crashes as thousands of students start their first day learning from home.

April 20, 2020 18:26:19
The Queensland Education Department’s website has crashed this morning as thousands of students start their first day learning from home.
Key points:

  • Several schools emailed parents about online access problems
  • The crash was due to an “unprecedented” amount of traffic, the Education Department says
  • Only children of essential workers and at-risk students are to attend school

Only the children of essential workers and students deemed vulnerable are expected at school, with all others to study online from home.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she would be looking into the website crash.
“I think we’ve always said there was going to be some teething issues,” she said.
“Probably it’s been overwhelmed by the number of people who are logging on.”
Department expected ‘some bumps and challenges’
Education department director-general Tony Cook has since said in a statement this afternoon its website received an “unprecedented amount of traffic on the first morning of Term 2”.
“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 timeout for some users and in some cases, the inability to log on to some sites.”
Mr Cook thanked parents and teachers “for their patience and understanding this morning”.
“This type of learning-at-home model has never been implemented on a scale like this before and we will continue to monitor the performance of our systems,” he said.
“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.”
He said the department would take further action 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,” Mr Cook said.
‘Pretty frustrated’
In Far North Queensland, Tully High School Year 7 student Sophie Johnson could not access her school’s online learning portal this morning after the website crashed.
“I feel pretty frustrated because I wanted to get [my work] done altogether in one day so I don’t have to do it later,” Sophie said.
Her mother, Peta Johnson, said it was not good enough.
“The Government has had four weeks to prepare for this day and within 15 minutes of logging on that’s the end of it,” Ms Johnson said.
“The anticipation was there, [Sophie] was very excited to start back at school today.”
State and private schools have emailed parents to advise them of the outage.
St Benedict’s College at North Lakes said Brisbane Catholic Education was working on fixing the issue.
“Internet issues are occurring across the state. We are doing all we can do onsite, however this is causing issues for both teachers and students,” the school’s email said.
“It is likely that Office 365 services including SharePoint, Teams and OneNote have been affected, resulting in intermittent services. Brisbane Catholic Education are working on solutions.”
Kenmore State High School sent an email to some students advising there was a statewide issue with OneNote.
“I’m sure you’re all aware that there are some problems with OneNote at the moment. It seems to be overloaded across the state … give it a few minutes and try again.
“Fingers crossed it will resolve itself soon.”
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Some schools organised paper packs
Mother of five, Vicky Howman, has two sons at primary school and two in high school, all studying from home.
She said Ipswich North State School had done everything it could to prepare her two youngest boys, Ethan (Year 3) and Anthony (Year 6), to learn at home.
She said the school organised physical school work on paper to ease the transition.
“We currently don’t have to get online at this stage.
“The first two weeks are a trial for us, that is why the teachers have organised the packs, so there is not so much mayhem to try and get online and do the online learning,” Ms Howman said.
“They have put everything in the packs that follow the curriculum so we are pretty lucky in that sense.”
She said a timetable was provided to guide learning for the first days, complete with “brain breaks” so the boys could have a snack and recharge.
She said she was hopeful the Department of Education would be able to rectify online issues.
“The Education Department is doing the best they can to ensure they can provide the resources.
“I don’t know how far it will take us and how long it will go for. I am hopeful they will be able to get it up and working.”
Ms Howman said she was initially overwhelmed at the thought of having to teach four of her children at home.
“It is pretty scary … and I was thinking, ‘how is this going to work, what am I going to do, will I be able to support them, will have support from our teachers?’.
“The older boys set up is a bit different so they will have to teach themselves a bit more, my focus is to support them where I can.
“My oldest son is in Year 11 this year [and] there are some exams and assessments under the ATAR system I am not familiar with.
“It would have to come from the teacher or Education Department directly to assist them and ensure them they can move forward and get the marks they need in Year 12.”
Independent schools offer choice
Some independent schools, including Australian Industry Trade College (AITC), gave families the choice on whether their children could continue physically attending classes.
About 20 per cent of the school’s senior students arrived this morning at the AITC campus at Robina on the Gold Coast.
Executive principal Mark Hands said students from Years 10 to 12 would be using the online curriculum whether at home or school.
“We’ve provided the same technology, the same teaching resources, the same learning resources to the young people, whether they’re here at the campus, or whether they’re at home,” he said.
“I think the biggest challenge is helping parents understand it’ll be okay. Obviously there’s a lot of anxiety out there in terms of, ‘can our school do it?’,” Mr Hands said.
Year 11 AITC student Elke Exarhos chose to attend school today to avoid distractions at home.
“It’s different to see the campus so empty,” she said.
“I know that I learn in a better way at school in a classroom.
“I find that I personally get really distracted at home, I can’t focus, I lose concentration,” she said.
‘Failure to prepare’
Queensland Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington said it was understandable parents were angry.
“Labor have had weeks to prepare for online learning and they’ve failed at the first hurdle, it is no wonder that parents are so angry and frustrated at Annastacia Palaszczuk today,” she said.
“They’ve been forced to work from home whilst home-schooling their children and now the website has crashed.
“Saying it’s teething problems is a poor excuse, this is a failure to prepare.”
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First posted
April 20, 2020 10:28:24
stories from Queensland