Blackboard Update Friday, April 23, 3:00 p.m.

Since upgrading to the new server early Tuesday morning, the Blackboard (Bb) system has needed to be restarted at least once each day. The most recent restart occurred Thursday evening at 8:30pm and, at that time, new configuration changes were applied to the system as recommended by Blackboard Inc, our software provider. In monitoring the system for the past 16 hours, we have noticed that the system has been running more efficiently than previously observed. While this is a positive sign, it is not proof that the problems have been resolved, so we will continue to actively monitor the Bb system around the clock.

Blackboard Inc. has continued to assist the University in trying to resolve the problem with their software. In fact, Blackboard has assigned three additional technical resources to assist us. In the past week, we have learned that other Universities have encountered issues with Bb in the recent past and their symptoms have been similar to ours. Blackboard assisted these Universities in resolving their problems but the path to resolution took time. The complexity of the Bb system makes it challenging for Blackboard to easily pinpoint the root cause of their software failures.

For the rest of the Spring term, faculty and students will continue to use the current Bb installation. However, a contingency plan is being prepared for the Summer term if problems persist throughout the last two weeks of the Spring term. This contingency plan for the summer calls for Blackboard Inc. to host our Bb system at their hosting facility using their hardware and their technical staff to install and support the system. If we move in this direction, all course content for summer courses will be migrated to the Blackboard hosting facility. IT will work closely with Blackboard to make this transition as transparent as possible so that our faculty and students can easily access their course information. We will keep you apprised of the status of the contingency plan and will provide detailed instruction for our faculty and students so everyone is well prepared for their summer course activities.

Whether the system is hosted here at SJU or at the Blackboard facility for the summer term, our faculty and students will continue to use the 7.3 version (i.e. our current version) of the Bb system. The Bb 9 system just cannot be fully implemented by the time summer classes begin on May 10. But, by June 15, the new version of Bb, 9.1, will be made available to faculty so that they can begin preparing their course sites for the Fall term. Bb 9 will be fully launched for all faculty and students at the start of the Fall term and, at this time, the plan is to host Bb 9 using our campus facilities.

As mentioned earlier, we will continue to monitor the system 24-hours a day and will restart the system as soon as a problem occurs to minimize downtime.

Thank you for your continued patience.

Blackboard Update: Monday April 19th, 5pm

Today, Information Technology (IT) met with academic administrators to assess the current state of the Blackboard (Bb) system and to determine next steps in stabilizing the system. A decision was made to move forward with the plan to establish a fresh installation of the Bb environment on a newer, faster server. This approach was recommended by Blackboard Inc, our software provider, for several reasons including to create a clean software environment, to rule out any possible hardware issues and to take advantage of improved performance in running Bb on a new server. One of Blackboard systems engineers is now on campus assisting IT with the migration effort.

If all goes well with final testing this afternoon, IT will take the Bb system down tonight at midnight and begin the transition to the new server. The Bb system will be unavailable from 12:00 a.m. – 6:00 a.m. Tuesday (tomorrow) morning in order to complete the migration. If we find that further testing is required before moving to the new server, IT will let you know of this change of plan and will reschedule the cutover for another day this week.

We hope that this change will stabilize the Bb Learning Management system for the Spring and Summer terms. Thank you for your continued patience and support throughout this process.

The Latest News on Blackboard

Since our last Blackboard communication, Information Technology (IT) has applied a software patch (April 14 at 3:15am) and made Bb configuration changes (April 15 at 3:45pm) based on recommendations from Blackboard Inc., our software provider.  Despite the changes, the Bb system remains unstable and it has had to be restarted on three occasions in the past 35 hours.  With each failure, IT provides Blackboard with the relevant data for their system analysis.   

It should be noted that IT has received reports from faculty and students who have encountered problems using the Bb discussion board even when the Bb system is responsive.  IT is working with these users to better understand what they are experiencing. 

In addition to troubleshooting the problems with the Bb system, IT continues to prepare a fresh release of the current Bb environment (version 7) on a new server.   By early next week, the new server should be fully configured and ready for deployment.  If Bb problems persist, then IT will likely migrate our user community to the new server for the end of the Spring and Summer terms. 

Over the summer, the Bb system will be updated to the latest version of the software (i.e. version 9) and our faculty will build their Fall 2010 courses using Bb 9.  Students will begin using this new version of Bb at the start of the Fall term. 

In the meantime, IT will continue to monitor the system and respond to system failures as quickly as possible.

If you have further questions, please contact the Helpdesk at x2920.

Intermittent Internet Problems-Monday, April 12.

On the evening of Monday, April 12 between 7:00PM and 8:45PM, the
university network periodically lost connectivity with the Internet.  
Upon detection, we immediately notified our Internet Service Provider
(ISP) of the problem and have been informed that a wide area has been
affected.  Our ISP continues to work on the problem, and while they do,
intermittent outages may persist.  These outages will affect all types
of communication between the university and external users and sites.  
As we learn more, we will share that information with the university

We apologize for this interruption.

Thank you.