Office of Councillor Jeff Leiper, Kitchissippi Ward, Ottawa | (613) 580-2485  |
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Swim lesson registration frustrations

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For years, parents have dreaded signing their kids up for swimming lessons. The existing system is slow and incapable of easily handling the volume of people registering when that opens. Starting last night and into this morning, I've received and seen multiple reports about the time and effort spent on trying to get the kids into aquatics programs.

The problem last night was two-fold and more complicated that the usual frustrations. First, it was the last time our old CLASS registration system will be used - and many of us are familiar with the frustration of that system. But, at the same time, there was also a more general website disruption that prevented many people from even navigating to the registration system at all. Some people who had direct links to the registration system were able to navigate directly through, and the City published that link through social media when the web site went down. But many were unaware of the workaround, and had to wait for the website to come back online before beginning the registration system with the frustration that involved. As described to me by staff:

"Those regular and returning clients who saved links to the registration page were able to access the site and register for their courses. However many would have encountered wait times. Licencing for the current CLASS system has a limit of 450 connection at one time, and demand for access was exceeded during the peak. Overall availability is dependent on how quickly clients, who were connected to the site, registered, paid and signed off the site. Last night, servers were still at capacity at 11 pm. Clients accessing through multiple devices (although understandable given the frustration levels) also exacerbated the issue."

Replacing the CLASS registration system has been a priority for the City and for Council. There have been starts and stops, but last night the system was used for the last time, as was described to us earlier this year. Its replacement to a modern registration system without limits on concurrent connections will happen this fall, finally, as scheduled.

In response to my questions, staff have told me the following:

"The CLASS system was still in use for last night’s registration – which has been targeted as the final time this registration will be used for the City of Ottawa. In Q4 2022, the City will launch the new cloud-based registration system, powered by ACTIVENet.

"The new planned system is now in use in other municipalities, and it is similar to other online shopping and reservation systems. This more client-centric site will allow users to search for activities and sort by location, times, dates, and age groups. It allows users to create a wish list prior to the registration date, where preferred activities can be easily retrieved. Customers will no longer need to consult a print or electronic guide to find activities or courses and manually record course numbers.

"The City had planned to have the new system in place in 2021. However, pandemic-related shutdowns and impacts to the workforce were experienced on a national and global scale which delayed the vendor in providing ample resources and expertise to develop a system that met the City’s specifications and client need; in particular stronger support for bilingualism and accessibility. We reviewed the timeline and delays and briefed the committee at the ITSC held in May 2022."

I asked our staff whether the increased volume of users on the site there to register for lessons was likely to have caused the larger web site shut down. I have been told the following:

"The current web hosting provider has been hosting since August 2019. The provider has experienced two pre-pandemic (routine) registrations without incident. In other words, higher traffic to the site due to registration did not cause serious complications or disruptions to the overall website availability in the past.

"The City’s IT department are continuing to work with the provider to determine the root cause of the disruption. There was an increase in volume of 17 per cent for the first two hours of registration, which is between 9 and 11 pm., however this should not have compromised the service."

They added:

"The City’s IT department is reviewing the services that are currently in place with the hosting provider, seeking assurances that their response is in line with their Service Agreement. We will be vigorously pursuing this to determine root cause and ensure that this does not happen again. Please note that the length of the outage was just over three hours with full restoration at 11 pm. City staff worked with the provider to investigate the problem to develop and implement a resolution plan. During this time, despite being down, the registration system was open and available, albeit under stress."

To make a long story short, last night residents experienced the usual frustrations with a system that is to be imminently replaced, and many couldn't reach because the website was experiencing a disruption. The Information Technology sub-Committee of which I am chair was briefed on the use of the old system for one more round last May, and everyone at the City will be glad when it is finally replaced. My commitment is to follow up with the City on the website outage to ensure that they're taking appropriate action to ensure that doesn't happen again.

I'm sorry for what residents experienced last night. The necessary steps are underway to ensure it doesn't happen again. I'm proud of the work our IT team does at the City and issues like these overshadow the great work they do.


Posted August 9, 2022