Blackboard outage causes massive disruption

 
 

Blackboard services have been reinstated following a major disruption which occurred between the hours of 11am and 11pm on Tuesday 13th October. An unforeseen technical error resulted in a temporary loss of account information on Blackboard for the almost 10,000 UCD student users.

The outage was reported to the UCD IT Services helpdesk who immediately informed Blackboard management and posted service announcements for staff only. The fault was corrected by 5pm, but in order to facilitate a full restoration it was necessary to shut down the entire system between 7:00pm and 11:30pm. All student users were affected as a result of the restorative shutdown process.

Screen shot 2009-10-25 at 01.01.28IT Services distributed apologies to students the following day, explaining the outage. “IT Services apologises for any inconvenience experienced accessing Blackboard yesterday. Contrary to our information in the last communication, there was a further setback with the restoration work that took place. Our supplier, Blackboard, required a complete outage in order to ensure a full system restore.”

However, IT Services were unable to offer students an explanation for the outage during the blackout period. UCD staff received a circular email sent at approximately 5pm that day detailing the time of the outage as 11am. Staff were further informed that the Blackboard system, which is hosted in Washington DC, experienced technical difficulties affecting up to 10,000 student accounts.

The circular also stated, “We have been in constant communication with Blackboard in relation to this difficulty and the latest update received at time of issuing this email is that Blackboard access is now available for all students, however the course content of accounts that were affected will only be fully restored by 8pm this evening. No staff accounts have been affected by this issue.”

A spokesman for Blackboard stated that “Blackboard worked closely with UCD officials to identify and resolve the issue” and also commended IT services as being “instrumental in correcting the problem.” However, Blackboard refused to comment on what had initially caused the server to malfunction, despite providing technical details and information of the problem to IT Services. It is believed that human error was behind the outage in services.

UCD Students’ Union downplayed the impact of the outage upon students’ academic needs, stating “We received no complaints from students about the outage, probably due to the announcements that IT Services regularly made on their website.”

On a related matter, the anti-plagarism software SafeAssign also experienced technical difficulties on Friday 23rd October, however service was restored later in the day.

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