Sunday, October 26, 2014

Blackboard crash causes frustration

The Liberty University Information Technology Department works through issues to help students and faculty

network — Students and faculty are warned that IT is still working on the Blackboard problem. Screen shot

Network — Students and faculty are warned that IT is still working on the Blackboard problem. Screen shot

“Page not found.”

Since the beginning of the semester, many Liberty University students and faculty have experienced numerous problems with Blackboard, which result with this error screen, according to the Office of the Provost.

“We deeply regret the recent difficulties you’ve experienced and pledge to improve system performance,” Matthew Zealand, chief information officer for Liberty Information Services, wrote in an email to students and faculty. “Our goal is to provide you with the best academic experience possible.”

Many of the issues that have occurred include slow response time, overall system downtime and difficulty with uploading student assignments. Zealand explained the Information Technology (IT) Department increased its hours in order to find a solution to the issue.

According to Enterprise IT Communication Liaison Connie Allison, software and hardware engineers monitor Blackboard and its related systems 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year.

“Thus far, we have reworked thousands of lines of code, developed a new login page, increased server capacity, provided additional bandwidth and removed any possible bottlenecks identified,” Zealand said.

Allison explained that a service like Blackboard is incredibly complex and has many moving parts. Problems connecting to Blackboard might not have anything to do with the software. There are many variables in creating the connection, and if any one of them malfunctions, the whole system can appear to be broken.

“Accessing Blackboard is not a single step, but rather a series of highly integrated processes,” Allison said. “Often the issues have had nothing to do with Blackboard itself, but rather the authentication servers that allow students to log into Blackboard.”

Since students depend on Blackboard to upload and receive assignments, junior Trevena Palmer said the issues have actually made her appreciate the system.

“I only take a few residential courses, and the rest are online,” Palmer said. “I definitely depend on Blackboard to be up and ready when I am about to complete an assignment.”

Though the problems have occurred frequently during the past few weeks, the IT Department regularly communicates with the Office of the Provost, according to Zealand. Palmer said, though the problems have become an inconvenience for students, she appreciates the persistence of the school in finding a solution.

“We all know that things happen, and if it was up to them, they would fix the problem in a flash,” Palmer said. “I am grateful for a school that has an IT Department that cares enough to keep us updated with the progress of the system.”

Students with online classes were given extensions on their assignments as a result of the issues.

In an email sent to students and faculty, Zealand wrote that the teachers have helped keep the IT Department aware of the situation.

“Be encouraged that your professors have communicated your concerns to Academic Leadership, and we are taking immediate action to remedy these problems,” Zealand wrote.

Despite the inconsistency of Blackboard, the Office of the Provost continues to update the students and faculty with news on the issues through email and the HelpDesk Twitter and Facebook.

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