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Online class providers rush to prepare for possible DMV school closures due to coronavirus

Online lesson providers prepare for COVID-19 school closures and unprecedented ramp up of services.

WASHINGTON — If entire school districts shut down because of coronavirus -- as is happening internationally -- online classroom providers will face enormous pressure when thousands of students in each district need to access lessons all at the same time.

"We’re a company of right around 1,200 folks and a very large percentage of that, around a good 40% of that organization is dedicated towards our customer success. That’s support folks. That’s teachers who can help other teachers," Instructure Chief Customer Experience Officer Melissa Loble said.

Many D.C. area school districts contract out their entire online class services to the Instructure company. That company runs an online platform familiar to some families: Canvas. The Canvas online student platform relies on Amazon Web Services to keep it running.

Credit: Instructure
Students using the Canvas online class system by Instructure

"In partnering together, we're ready to be able to ramp up quickly from a technology perspective as well as a support perspective," added Loble.

Credit: Instructure
Instructure HQ in Salt Lake City

Calls to school districts around the DC metro area show public schools in DC, Alexandria, Arlington and Montgomery counties all rely on Canvas. 

Credit: WUSA
School districts using Canvas online lesson system

Public schools in Fairfax and Loudoun counties rely on competing platform Blackboard.

"We've been working with K-12 districts who use our emergency mass notification services to support them as they prepare for this," said Blackboard's Senior Director of Product Management Brent Mundy.

RELATED: 3 students at Baltimore school sent home early after possible indirect contact with coronavirus

Nobody wants a repeat of the troubled October 2013 online rollout of Healthcare.gov. People signing up for healthcare faced long waits and outages.

When asked what Instructure is doing to avoid possible crashes, Loble explained.

"That’s technology folks that can quickly ramp up environments and help schools be able to transition into that home. So we’re really dedicated to this and have a strong customer success team ready to go and preparing for this."

RELATED: Coronavirus prep: DC Public Schools suspend all international travel

Credit: Instructure
Instructure tech support in Salt Lake City

If these online class systems work as planned, parents facing the fear and disruption of closed schools will be able to rely on continuing their child’s education. If these systems crash, families could be left frustrated and isolated at home. For now, it comes down to the trust that these companies are prepared.

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