Monday, September 24, 2007

Blackboard service interruption - Sunday 9/23

There was a failure of the Los Rios bridge/bandwidth shaper just inside
the CENIC router yesterday morning (Sunday 9/23) at approximately 11:30
AM. It was restored to service at approximately 5:45 PM. During this
period Internet services to/from Los Rios were down. Problem diagnosis
and service improvement analysis is continuing.

This failure directly affected access to the Blackboard system, and we have
received reports that it was down as late as 7:00 pm on Sunday.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Overnight Power Outage at District Office

There was a power outage at the District Office overnight that affected nearly all Los Rios systems, including Blackboard.  Students may report problems accessing the system during the early morning hours while it was down.  This was not a Blackboard problem, but a district-wide outage of all computer systems.  Access to Blackboard was restored early this morning.  For more information on the outage and affected systems, please see today’s e-mail sent to all exchange users from Steve Bowles, IT Director.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

LMS Evaluation Team Volunteers Needed

Interested SCC Nominees Need to Volunteer for the Learning Management System Evaluation Team.

Over 450 Sacramento City course sections with over 14,200 student enrollments use the Blackboard Academic System in support of online, hybrid and web-enhanced classes - currently, 109 online sections have 4100+ enrollments.

Every computing system should have periodic review with consideration for growth or alternative approaches. The Los Rios District has begun the evaluation of Blackboard and other alternative LMS options. This detailed review is motivated by dissatisfaction from some of our experienced faculty teaching online and hybrid courses and student frustration.

The LMS Evaluation Team, assisted by District Office Information Technology staff, will work through October and November. At this time, meetings are planned on Fridays with additional time required to complete the evaluation tasks. Participating faculty will need to make a commitment to evaluate all options and attend all meetings.

The evaluation team will recommend renewal of the Blackboard Academic System contract or select an alternative LMS product. Part of the evaluation is to consider how current course content will be copied to a new system and if publisher content will be available. The final report and recommendation from this team will be forwarded to the district-wide Educational Technology Committee and then to Chancellor Harris for action.

Yes, this is a fast-track project and an important opportunity for you to actively influence the next Los Rios learning management system.

Faculty who do not serve on the LMS Evaluation Team will have opportunities to view demonstration course sites for each product and to submit feedback to the team.

Interested faculty should contact Linda Stroh as an SCC nominee. The list of nominees from all four colleges will be reviewed and appointments made in consultation with campus Academic Senate Presidents.

Partial list of Learning Management Systems for review include the following (links are to the product descriptions): Blackboard, ANGEL, Desire2Learn, Sakai and Moodle.

Watch for the SCC LMS Features Survey to distinguish between courses requiring LMS features and courses that want to deliver content online.

(Announcement previewed by the SCC Academic Senate on September 18, 2007 and SCC Information Technology Committee on September 14, 2007)

-- Melissa Green Instructional Development Coordinator
-- Jory Hadsell, Distance Education Coordinator

Monday, September 10, 2007

Where do "saved" posts go in the discussion board?

Question from a faculty member:

> Do you know where documents go if a student hits "save" in blackboard?

More of you are asking this lately, so I thought I would share the information here.

Yes, we do know where these posts go!  This is very confusing for students, and why I always advise against doing a Save in the DB.  (Use a word processor and save it locally—it’s a better, safer computing practice.)

To find the “saved” post:

The student has to change their view of the discussion board.  The default view shows only published posts.  Inside the DB forum, the student will need to click the drop down menu next to "Display" and change it from "published" to "Show All" and then click the "Go" button.  This will display their "saved" or "unpublished" posts.  

BEWARE--the next time the student opens the "saved" or "unpublished" post, they will only have the option to publish or cancel.  In other words, the post can only be saved once before it must be published.

Hopefully this is helpful as you get these questions from your students.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Problems accessing the discussion board

Some faculty have reported that when navigating their Bb course sites, they receive a “cannot find this page” error when clicking on the links to the discussion board.  We are researching this issue.  There is a background process that runs inside of Blackboard that is “sticking” and causing this problem.  Our district Server Administrator has reset this problem and it appears to have gone away for the time being.  As it is reported again, we will attempt to take the same action.  We also have an open ticket with Blackboard, which has already been escalated, and we hope to have more news on this topic soon.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Email Challenges & Network Conflicts

All Los Rios Computer Users,

As you are probably painfully aware, our Los Rios Windows’ infrastructure has been having difficulty over the past few days. This problem has unfortunately manifested itself in periods when users and servers can not authenticate successfully and are therefore not allowed their rightful service. This has also resulted in outages of Outlook Web Access, Exchange and various other Windows-based services. At this point the underlying problem appears to be resolved but due to the nebulous nature of the problem we not ready to guarantee that all symptoms of this problem are gone. We will be watching closely for the next day or two to confirm that all symptoms of this problem have been eliminated. Please report any new occurrences of this problem to the Help Desk.

A more technical explanation of the problem (if interested): the Los Rios Windows infrastructure is composed of a network of users, workstations, applications, servers, and controllers that use a distributed directory service (Active Directory) to manage the security between all Windows devices and objects. This security mechanism is time-sensitive and requires that all Windows servers and controllers share a consistent and accurate Time source. Unfortunately, one of the primary controllers in the Los Rios network obtained a “bad” Time source yesterday morning (Tuesday) at approximately 8:30 AM. This “bad” time-stamp was then rapidly propagated across the Los Rios Windows’ infrastructure resulting in sporadic authentication problems and Windows’ service outages.

Though this problem was recognized within minutes of its first occurrence, due to the distributed nature the Windows’ infrastructure (directory, controllers, servers, etc.) it was very difficult to find and correct all objects with Time-stamps. At several times over the past two days the problem was believed to have been resolved, only to see it reappear in a different branch of the Los Rios network. At this time, neither our District Office Windows’ Administrators nor Microsoft Technical Support can see any further evidence of Time-stamp problems. We will be monitoring the Windows systems very closely over the next several hours.


Thank you for your patience during this difficult period.

Brian Roach
Director, Technical Services
Los Rios Community College District

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Gradebook Issues

If instructors are experiencing problems with viewing your Gradebook in Bb in the spreadsheet view, try using the Gradebook Views > View Grades by Item instead.

When you contact the Help Desk to report Gradebook issues, tell them if you had used the Upload from Excel option on the Gradebook Spreadsheet view. I have read a few reports that sometimes uploading a column of grades has created display problems. Remember to keep a hard copy of your graded activities throughout the semester. Each time you post grades to Bb, download the gradebook as an Excel file and keep these copies for the semester. Destroy all extra copies after you have submitted final grades.