First day of online learning hit by major problems

Operators of Scotland's national digital learning platform blame UK-wide technical problems

Henry Hepburn

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Teachers and school staff from across Scotland have faced major problems with online-learning platforms as most pupils made their belated return from the Christmas holidays today.

There were complaints of problems that extended throughout local authorities, with particular difficulties for pupils attempting to download learning materials.

The problems largely related to Glow, Scotland's digital learning platform, and the Microsoft Teams "collaborative workspace" that it relies upon.

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In a tweet this lunchtime, Glow said: "Microsoft are experiencing issues with the Teams service across the UK this morning. This is not exclusive to the Glow platform and we are in contact with Microsoft to ensure these issues are resolved ASAP. Please see our service status page for updates:".

One teacher replied: "All our dept are having issues on Microsoft Teams. None of our pupils can access the materials uploaded".

Coronavirus: Technical problems as schools switch to online learning

Another responded that "I guess this is what happens when the whole of the UK are doing online learning".

And one teacher likened the situation to staff having put all the schoolwork into a filing cabinet, but the key to the cabinet not working.

One teacher contacted Tes Scotland to say that: "Teams has crashed throughout Scotland. Those accessing Teams through Glow have no access to [Microsoft] OneDrive and cannot upload assignments for pupils to complete. Day one of 'online learning' and we are all at sea. This is not a problem for Teams in general...but the version hosted on Glow by EdScot [Education Scotland]."

The teacher said it "clearly has not been stress-tested for online learning by EdScot".

Another teacher told Tes Scotland that the day had been a "nightmare", adding: "They told teachers to be ready for online learning, and we were, but if the platform we're supposed to be working on isn't functioning, what are we supposed to do?

"And it won't be anyone from Glow who'll field all the messages and phone calls from frustrated parents  it'll be teachers."

Not everyone had such a frustrating day. One teacher, for example, tweeted: "Well. Two live lessons so far today. First ever. Doubled up classes so 50-plus students each time. Thank goodness for home tech: one screen to present [PowerPoint], one screen to reply to chat messages and phone to reply to channel messages. Whilst also talking through activities, etc. Enjoyed it."

Another told Tes Scotland that pupils at their secondary school  which had access to Google learning platforms – were doing much better this time around, in "stark contrast" to the problems they faced in the first lockdown. 

At the Scottish government's daily coronavirus briefing, first minister Nicola Sturgeon said she did not “underestimate how difficult [today] is both from an educational perspective and for young people”.

She thanked pupils, saying: “You are having the toughest of times, but you are coping with it extremely well, so thank you for that.”

Ms Sturgeon added it would also be “difficult” for parents juggling working with homeschooling, as she stressed: “We all want schools back to normal just as soon as it is safe and possible to do that.

Getting schools back to normal remains a priority for us.”

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Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn is the news editor for Tes Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Henry_Hepburn

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