By Aletheia Meloncon
By Aletheia Meloncon
Trying to log on to Open Campus this spring was a nightmare for students and faculty when the Blackboard system that replaced Web/CT was unable to accommodate the large amount of users at the same time.
The Blackboard system that replaced Web/Ct was purchased more than a year ago according to Glen Brady, director of Open Campus for Riverside Community College District.
Portions of Blackboard were first used as Campus Addition Six in the winter session, a shorter term when a smaller amount of students would be using the system to make sure that all bugs would be identified and resolved.
Blackboard Systems hosts the actual online classes, as well as maintenance and oversight.
“The previous system was not going to be supported by Blackboard, and it covers all of what Web/CT did,” Brady said.
Brady explained that when the spring term started, the slow down was noticed in the first week, and even though they were in constant communication with Blackboard, time had elapsed once they identified that the problem was not within the infrastructure of the computers or the Internet. At the same time, many students were experiencing the frustration of not being able to log on, or the system was moving slowly during online assignments.
“It took some time to narrow it down, but the problem was that Blackboard’s System was not able to accommodate such a large capacity at the same time,” Brady said. “In others words, they did not have enough horses attached to pull the cart.”
These issues frustrated many students, who became discouraged and dropped their online classes.
This only added to the frustrations of instructors who were already under pressure about the fill ratio and retention. Instructors are advised of the importance of adding as many students as possible to keep enrollment up.
Diana Webster, Business Administrations instructor, had no problems using Blackboard System in the winter, but when spring semester started she encountered problems signing on, and slow lag times between screens.
Communicating with students was more difficult when e-mails could not be sent out to students advising them of the problems.
“It was awful and frustrating for students and instructors with the system not being able to handle the large capacity,” Webster said. “As an instructor you could not even email students to let them know we were having problems.”
Some students did not drop, and stuck it out.
Jessica Rouseh, a transfer student, was using Open Campus for the first time and experienced many problems; however, she needed to maintain her full-time status.
“It was very frustrating at the beginning with the assignments not loading and the screen going blank, but now it’s working alright,” she said. “My instructor has made adjustments for the class, and I need all my units.”
The problem was diagnosed by Kurt Faulknerloser, Program Developer for Open Campus, who provided the diagnostic information along with evidence to point out the problem.
According to Brady, this was an area that Blackboard Systems had not looked at in depth.
“Sixteen thousand students use the hybrid, Web-enhanced, and Tele-Web configurations, and their hardware was just not enough,” Brady said.
The Blackboard system is now operating normally. Initial changes were made by the second week of the spring term. Instructors now have to try and adjust for the work and time loss to students.
Webster credited the technicians for resolving the problem as quickly as possible.
“Our technicians were the supermen and women to get the problem fixed and now Blackboard is faster than a speeding bullet,” she said.
“It’s up to instructors now to make the adjustments,” Brady said.
Instructors have made adjustments with assignments and exams by extending due dates to accommodate students.
“I have extended assignments and exams due dates to accommodate my students,” Webster said.
RCC is not bound to Blackboard Systems for any amount of time, and other options are available for instructors to recommend.
“The Academic Senate has the option to look into systems that are robust enough to handle large institutions,” Brady said.