ELMS website outages during prime -time study hours throughout the past week have left many students frustrated, and although officials attempted to determine and resolve the problem yesterday morning, it is still unclear whether the glitches will persist.
Division of Information Technology officials said they could not confirm why the university’s Enterprise Learning Management System, powered by Blackboard at two data centers in Virginia, has been experiencing interruptions, primarily between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. Blackboard engineers attributed the interruptions to database issues they are currently trying to resolve, Communications and Marketing Director Phyllis Dickerson Johnson wrote in an email.
“Unfortunately, this was an unplanned outage, so we weren’t able to make any prior notifications,” Johnson wrote. “Our ELMS, powered by Blackboard, has not experienced a service disruption of this kind for about two years.”
Blackboard engineers were notified of the first service interruption on the evening of Sept. 23 and began trying to identify and resolve the issues, Johnson said. However, problems with logging in and loading pages remained, and students continued to face periodic outages and glitches on the evenings of Sept. 30 through Oct. 2.
“There is no excuse for ELMS to be down, especially after it was down a few days ago,” said sophomore criminology and criminal justice major Ben Sandberg.
Although the university has utilized Blackboard for several years, officials decided to transition from Blackboard to Canvas, a cloud-based learning-management platform, before these incidents. Cloud-based services often better accommodate a varied number of users at any given time, which would avoid a great number of service interruptions, Johnson said.
“We are hopeful that transitioning to Canvas in January 2013 will alleviate some of these service interruptions,” she wrote.
Blackboard held a scheduled emergency server maintenance yesterday morning at about 2 a.m. to attempt to resolve the website’s issues. However, students said they were wary of whether the server maintenance will permanently fix the glitches, since the first attempt hadn’t yielded any positive results.
“They will continue to reassure us that it will be fixed, but I’m pretty sure that it will get worse before it gets better,” said Sonny Maeng, a junior business and psychology major.
Because ELMS hasn’t experienced such a widespread problem for a few years, many students were caught off-guard by the continuation of the outage from night to night. Some also said the timing was especially unfortunate, as many students are preparing for midterm exams.
“I was hit blindsided by it,” said Sandberg. “If I had known, I would have downloaded [course documents] to my computer beforehand.”
Because ELMS is an integral part of student learning, where professors upload course documents, assign online homework and provide lecture slides, students were quick to notice the problems the site was experiencing. Many students were forced to adjust their study schedules to accommodate the sporadic windows where ELMS was running properly.
“The fact that it happens means that someone, much like myself, will have to stay up later until the outage is over to do an assignment,” Maeng said.
Johnson said students should immediately contact ELMS support or call OIT when the system malfunctions to expedite service restoration.
“When we become aware of sustained service disruptions, we usually alert faculty members as soon as possible,” she wrote.