Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Los Rios Internet Access Down (Blackboard affected)

Following is a message from District IT regarding a loss of internet connectivity today. Until this issue is resolved, Blackboard is not accessible from off-campus.
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10/10/07 7:53 a.m.

Los Rios lost access to the internet this morning about 2 a.m. Los Rios is connected to the internet by CENIC (Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California).

CENIC leases a high speed circuit from ATT. The problem appears to be with the circuit provided by ATT. CENIC has been aware of the problem since early this morning and has been working with ATT to get it resolved. This circuit has gone out of service several times this year, and ATT does not seem to be able to decisively resolve the problem.

Los Rios has been working for several years to secure fiber optic cable to link our campuses together and to provide a redundant link to CENIC, eliminating the need for this problematic ATT circuit. The fiber for the connection to CENIC is in place and equipment has been ordered to bring it into service.

I apologize for the lack of service this morning. Our goal is to provide continuous high quality service throughout the network. Over the next two months, we hope to complete the fiber optic network project, providing improved protection against these kinds of outages.

Mick

Mick Holsclaw

Associate Vice Chancellor for IT

Los Rios Community College District

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Highlight of Urgent Message (posted below)

Dear Deans and Department Chairs,

All district faculty received the notice below regarding Blackboard (Bb). Please note that as the message (posted below) delineates, there are severe restrictions to Blackboard. I have highlighted a few important things you should be aware of and listed a process for contacting our Sac City Blackboard Team.

Highlights:

1. Bb not available for any users from 2 to 6 am everyday
2. Faculty will be blocked from importing package content (.zip file) and we currently have no solutions for this problem
3. Web-Enhanced Faculty are asked NOT to use Assessments e.g., Tests, Quizzes and Surveys (online and hybrid classes can continue to use assessments)
4. Some functions have been blocked from faculty and coordinators

Questions: Faculty have been asked to call their Coordinators for assistance. In order to create better communication between faculty and Melissa and Jory, please ask your faculty to use the following guidelines:

>>General questions and issues calls should be routed to
the Help Desk – 1-866-353-9451
>>To report network or server problems call the same Help Desk

>>When emailing Melissa regarding
using features in Bb
, be sure to use a detailed subject line e.g., “Blackboard Feature Help on ______ “
>>When emailing Jory regarding
missing content, course creation and enrollment
links your subject line should begin “Blackboard Course _________ “

>>For current status and known issues, watch and read our SCC Blackboard Blog at http://www.scc.losrios.edu/~bbsite/blog.html
This blog contains useful information as is always up-to-date.

Rhonda Rios Kravitz
Dean, Library Resources Division
558-2254

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URGENT Message re Fall 2007

URGENT Message to Blackboard Faculty for Fall 2007:

Background: Those faculty who use online testing know that there have been problems with this Blackboard feature for several years. Specifically, students have been “knocked out” of a quiz or test, meaning that they are unable to complete the exam unless the faculty resets their test. For the student this means they start over - sometimes multiple times. For faculty, this means resetting quizzes and possible compromise of the integrity of the testing process.

Over the years, we have identified things that students can do to minimize this risk (browsers, settings, actions during a test, etc.) and have communicated these to students and faculty.
We have also identified things that faculty can do when creating their tests to minimize these risks (details available in our training materials, etc.)
Despite these efforts, there have still been times when students were not able to complete an online test on the first attempt and some of these were due to system congestion issues because of Blackboard's poorly designed software.
Substantial increases in hardware over the years has not been able to reduce these occurrences to zero.

Between Spring and Summer, we undertook a massive cleanup of our system including a fresh install of the software and re-creation all courses from an archive to try to ensure these problems would not continue to occur.
· While this process did have many positive effects, Blackboard did not warn us that the archive and restore process with this version was NOT reliable.
· Because of this, some courses failed to restore at all and others had missing content.
· We became aware of these problems in early June and began communicating with faculty to get them to check their classes.
· Over the summer many missing classes and many with missing content have already been restored.
· This process may need to continue as faculty who have been away all summer locate problems in their courses just before the term starts.
· If you have not yet checked your Blackboard sites, please consult previous emails about how and what to look for in your classes.
· This course restoration process and other administrative processes severely tax the system and degrade performance for users (again due to inefficient software code).

Another cause for concern is that during the summer finals week, online testing problems became apparent at usage levels which are a small fraction of the average fall or spring semester usage.
During those times, students could not complete their exams and many faculty were unable to access the grade book.
These problems occurred when as few as 75 faculty and students have been using the system. (In a primary semester Los Rios accommodates 500 to 700 concurrent users during the more active parts of each day.)

In preparation for a fall semester where 7% more courses are scheduled to be taught as fully online courses, we have been forced to take action to ensure that Blackboard can function smoothly throughout the term. The actions items decided upon for Fall 2007 are detailed below.

ACTION ITEMS:

1) Blackboard coordinators are identifying and removing any unnecessary courses from the system – especially those with large numbers of questions pools and tests.
a) You may be contacted if you have multiple copies of your course in case you may not need them all this semester.
2) The Blackboard system will not be available from 2 am – 6 am every day in order for ALL course maintenance activities to occur during that time when users are not on the system.
a) That may mean that there will be a delay in getting courses restored, copied, etc. since these actions will now be queued and run overnight. If there is a backlog greater than the time available each night, then there could be longer delays in completing these tasks.
b) PLEASE let the coordinators know immediately what you need for Fall semester so that all of this work can be done this week BEFORE the term starts.
3) Some Blackboard functions have been blocked from faculty use to preserve good performance for all users.
a) Faculty cannot remove a quiz pool from the Pool Manager or a Test from the Test Manager. You CAN "undeploy" or remove an instance of a test from a content area and from the gradebook.
i) If you need to have quiz pools or tests removed altogether, provide the exact information to your college Blackboard coordinator.
b) Faculty cannot create an archive or export of their course.
i) If you need this, your coordinator can assist.
c) Faculty cannot import a package of course content into their existing class.
i) Contact your coordinator for assistance.
ii) You CAN import question pools into the pool manager.
4) We are now requesting cooperation from the faculty who teach web-enhanced classes in reducing the use of online testing. (Online and hybrid classes can continue to use online testing.)
a) If you can reasonably use an alternative face-to-face method for testing (or submitted projects rather than exams) without undue hardship, we are requesting that you do so.
b) Online instructors have no other options and we need to ensure that the testing feature is not overtaxed and is working satisfactorily for those classes who must use it.

The Blackboard coordinators and the District Office IT staff have put in many long hours to try to resolve these problems and will continue to do so. We are also trying to escalate the process for selecting another Learning Management System (LMS) and we are looking at other options to try to make sure that Blackboard will be reliable and available to all for whatever remaining time we have on that system. You will have lots of opportunities this semester to have input on the selection of another system so we hope you will be involved in that process.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Delete Old Tests & Pools by 8/22

Last spring semester we had to restrict the option for faculty to delete tests or pools. Before fall semester begins you have an opportunity to delete old tests or pools. This is a small window of time, and this action will take some time to complete. Be patient.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Bb Up for Faculty - Check Course List ASAP

Please read the following information carefully and check your Blackboard sites immediately.

1) Some Blackboard course sites were inadvertently removed from the system this summer. Please check on your Welcome screen and make sure all your courses your need for fall semester are listed. Missing courses can be restored from the May 30 archive if necessary. We need to know exactly which course site is missing, please use the online form to report missing Bb courses. You will need to report the course section number (5-digits) and specify the semester (spring/summer/fall) you last used the course.

2) SOME course archives did not install on the new system correctly and while the course and its folders are intact, some COURSE CONTENT is missing. Please check your courses and notify your college Blackboard administrator if any course content is missing. (In these cases, users have reported that when they log into their course, they see the same navigation structure that was set up previously, but when clicking on a course navigation link, the page displays “Folder empty.” Make sure to check this from the Control Panel, not just from the Course Menu buttons since content no longer available to students will only appear in the Control Panel view.

3) All content creation options do not all appear. Click on the Control Panel, then into any Content Area, if you see Learning Unit (instead of Test) across the top of that screen and do NOT see the pull-down menu on the upper right of the screen (where assignments and Turnitin assignments are created), let us know. This can easily be fixed. There is a link on the Help Tab to instructors for how to fix this problem.

4. Discussion board postings say "anonymous". If your discussion board postings say anonymous, then delete the entire board and recreate it. There is no other fix for this problem.

5) Announcements were removed from all courses and these will need to be recreated by instructors.

Downtime and maintenance schedule:

8/13/07 to 8/14/07
Faculty access to Bb, course recycle occurring, but access allowed for CRC Institute

8/13/07
First day for Faculty to access Blackboard (but be aware Student data deletions are in progress)

8/22/07
Begin linking Fall 2007 rosters to Blackboard course sites

8/25/07
Fall 2007 Semester (Saturday Classes) Start

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Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Reminder: last day to access Blackboard

Friday, August 10 is the last day for faculty to access Blackboard before the system is taken down for maintenance.
Access for faculty will be restored Thursday, August 16.

Do not wait until after August 10 to download your gradebook!  System administrators will NOT be able to retrieve it.

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Thursday, August 2, 2007

Check your Blackboard sites

Important for all faculty from Melissa Green & Jory Hadsell:

1) Some Blackboard course sites were inadvertently removed from the system this summer. Please check on your Welcome screen and make sure all your courses are there. These can be restored without problems from the May 30 archive but we need to know exactly which course site is missing. If an entire course is missing, contact your college Blackboard administrator for assistance. (Be sure your email includes "Blackboard Spring 07 Course MISSING" as the subject and complete details in the body of your message, your login id, the course name and course id. Let us know if you have an archive of the course stored locally as a .zip file.)

2) SOME course archives did not install on the new system correctly and while the course and its folders are intact, some course content is missing. Please check your courses and notify your college Blackboard administrator if any course content is missing. (In these cases, users have reported that when they log into their course, they see the same navigation structure that was set up previously, but when clicking on a course navigation link, the page displays “Folder empty.” Make sure to check this from the Control Panel, not just from the Course Menu buttons since content no longer available to students will only appear in the Control Panel view.

3) All content creation options do not all appear. Click on the Control Panel, then into any Content Area, if you see Learning Unit (instead of Test) across the top of that screen and do NOT see the pull-down menu on the upper right of the screen (where assignments and Turnitin assignments are created), let us know. This can easily be fixed. There is a link on the Help Tab to instructors for how to fix this problem.

4. Discussion board postings say "anonymous". If your discussion board postings say anonymous, then delete the entire board and recreate it. There is no other fix for this problem.

5) Announcements were removed from all courses and these will need to be recreated by instructors.

6) Now is the best time to plan your course backup strategy. Plan on keeping a copy of your content on your local computer on a weekly basis if not daily. Your students should also keep copies of their work before and after submitting it to you.

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Bb Server End/Start Semester Timeline

Summer to Fall Downtime Schedule:
  • 8/9/07-Summer’07 Semester ends
  • 8/10/07-Summer’07 Grades Due
  • 8/10/07-Last day for Faculty to access Blackboard server -- Be sure to download your gradebooks!
  • 8/11/07 to 8/12/07-Blackboard down for maintenance
  • 8/13/07 to 8/14/07-Course Recycle occurring, but access allowed for Faculty and CRC Institute
  • 8/13/07-First day for Faculty to access Blackboard (but be aware Student data deletions are in progress)
  • 8/22/07-Coordinators begin linking rosters to Blackboard course sites
  • 8/25/07-Fall 2007 Semester (Saturday Classes) Start

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