Nationwide zoom outage prevents students from attending classes

Community members of the University of Iowa share their experiences of the nationwide zoom outage that prevented students from attending their classes.


Tate Hildyard

University of Iowa freshman Alexa Cohen completes work for an online class outside the Blank Honers Center on their first day of the new semester on Monday, August 24th, 2020. Despite the pandemic, campus remains open and some classes are still being held in person.

Molly Kresse, News Reporter

With 72 percent of University of Iowa undergraduate classes being held virtually due to COVID-19, a nationwide outage of video conferencing software Zoom hindered the first day of fall instruction on Monday.

Iowa Technology Services posted a message on its website around 9 a.m. stating that Zoom was experiencing nationwide issues, and that the web login for the site was down.

UI professor Debra Trusty emailed students in her lecture Monday morning asking them to download the physical Zoom app associated with the university, which was still functional.

Trusty said quick decisions and immediate changes have become the norm for instructors over the summer.

“Most instructors have had to adapt on a regular basis, so you just accept it at this point, drink some more coffee, and start over,” she said. “It has been a rocky first day back, but I was expecting it. In fact, I thought it would be UICapture or ICON to crash, since there have been hiccups all weekend. I didn’t think it would be Zoom – but, like everything, you roll with it and adapt.”

ITS informed students at 2:12pm that the issues with Zoom had been fixed. UI Director of Media Relations Anne Bassett described the outage as “unfortunate and difficult”.

Bassett said though the start of the first day of classes was unexpected, she is confident that ITS will be working diligently to provide services to students.

“ITS is always concerned with any outage to its services, but this was obviously more concerning than most, given that it was the first day of classes and that so many courses are dependent upon Zoom,” Basset said in an email to *The Daily Iowan*. “The first steps were to determine the scope of the outage and who/what was impacted. Once ITS realized it was a nationwide outage, it focused on communication.”

Bassett said ITS also communicated with other schools in the Big 10 about how they were working to fix the issue.

UI senior Mandy Archer, majoring in journalism and mass communication, said the Zoom issue caused them to miss their Journalistic Reporting and Writing lecture this morning, a key class for the major.

When the initial zoom meeting failed, their instructor asked the class to wait until 9:35 a.m. to see if the technology would work.

“It came to that time so I stopped trying, and I had to sit in the [Adler] Journalism Building and wait for my other classes and I didn’t have anything to do,” Archer said. “I got to my next class and I guess my next lecture was working, and everyone else had notes and things, but I didn’t wait past that 9:35 time, so I did not get on to that.”

Bassett said Zoom was able to handle demands in the spring as colleges moved online, and should be able to handle responsiveness in the fall semester, as well.

“As this morning’s outage demonstrates, ITS never knows when systems may have problems,” Bassett said in her email. “Over the summer, faculty and staff worked continuously to improve their skills and understanding and to implement best practices and uses of many online tools for teaching, including Zoom.

Bassett said students have gained a better understanding of these tools as well.

“We expect their experiences this fall to be much richer than they were the second half of the spring semester.”