DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Building new infrastructure to handle remote learning for thousands of students is no easy task for school districts. They have to prepare for everything from network outages to malicious hacking incidents.
Monday marked the first day of virtual school for many students across North Texas.
“Very different than what we’re used to,” North Garland High School principal Michael Arreola.
He says things are now running smoothly after a large numbers of students had difficulty connecting to their remote classrooms Monday morning. About 5,000 complaint calls overloaded the district’s phone system.
“The rest of the week our attendance continued to increase,” Arreola said. “I think all the preparation we put into being great resources for our teachers and students and parents really paid off in the end.”
Dallas ISD is paying attention to the challenges other districts face as it prepares to deploy thousands of devices before school starts fully online on Sept. 8.
“This spring was more like a preseason warmup,” said Marlon Shears, DISD’s deputy chief technology officer. “This is the real games, so it’s all hands on deck.”
The district’s network is monitored 24/7 and has multiple data centers and a cloud-based system to minimize the risk of a potential outage. Front line help desk technicians will be able to troubleshoot and resolve about 70% of calls from students and parents.
“We’ll be shifting resources around to make sure we can support the online model and address the issues expeditiously so students can continue learning,” Shears said.
Districts have to worry not just about the reliability of their online learning platforms, but potential breaches as well. Cyber security experts expect to see an increase in hackers targeting virtual school systems.
“For the school, there’s a huge risk of loss of data, loss of ability to provide e-learning capabilities due to an outage,” said Quentin Rhoads-Herrera with the CRITICALSTART cyber security firm.
Shears says Dallas ISD tries to take proactive security measures to guard against hackers.
“You have to be a pessimist when it comes to this technology, and you have to think about everything that could go wrong and might go wrong, because it will,” he said.
Parents should prepare for potential tech problems too. It’s a good idea to help your student log on and get comfortable with their device before the first day of classes.
If there’s a problem, reach out to your district for support as soon as possible.