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Technical problems plague U of A's online learning portal on first day of fall semester

Students were unable to access the University of Alberta’s online portal, eClass, for several hours Tuesday morning, while the system malfunctioned and sent out error messages.

Students hope glitch isn’t indicative of future online learning experience

The University of Alberta's online learning system, eClass, malfunctioned for several hours on the first day of the fall semester. (David Bajer/CBC)

Students were unable to access the University of Alberta's online portal, eClass, for several hours Tuesday morning, while the system malfunctioned and sent out error messages.

Cavan Chong, an animal health student at the U of A, wasn't able to access his first class of the semester when he logged on to the portal in the morning. 

"It's a pandemic, I get that, everyone has to adjust. But it's tough dealing with this," Chong told CBC News. 

With every course of program now online, Chong anticipated some hiccups but said the experience is still disappointing. 

"I kind of expected it, but then at the same time, these kinds of issues shouldn't be expected of a major university."

The system began experiencing an outage around 10:10 a.m. and access to eClass was restored two hours later, said the U of A on its website. 

"This first day of online classes was not the experience we wanted to deliver for our students and apologize for any distress that this may have caused," Steven Dew, the U of A's provost and vice-president of academic, said in a statement.

"Students who may have experienced delays should rest assured that they will be able to access the materials that they need from today's classes."

Dew did not specify what caused the issues.

Cavan Chong received this error message when he attempted to log into the U of A's eClass portal on Tuesday. (Cavan Chong)

Students rely on the online learning portal to access class content and resources, attend online lectures, submit assignments and receive grades.

Being unable to access such a key tool has an impact on learning, said Rowan Ley, a vice-president with the U of A's Students' Union. 

"It's obviously very frustrating when you're a student who is paying tuition that is being considerably increased, and not only are you online, the online learning doesn't even work," Ley said.

Students can forgive some technical glitches, but the university must act to prevent such issues in the future, he said.

"If it happens once and lessons are learned, that's OK. If it happens twice, then students start to have a problem and question the value of their money."  

Chong hopes the university will be more proactive when it comes to communicating with students who are learning from home.

"I think even sending out a message would help a lot of students settle their confusion," he said. "Communication is so important."

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