A forced migration to Blackboard servers causes problems with online classes across campus.
“The Blackboard issues were completely out of our control, we’re at the mercy of Blackboard on that,” said John Brennan, the college’s new chief information officer.
According to Brennan, the Blackboard servers used to be hosted on campus in the data center located in Higbee. Whenever there was an issue, IT employees had easy access to the servers to find a solution.
“Blackboard told us that if we wanted to keep getting updates, which is important because things break all the time and you have to make patches and security updates, we needed to migrate into their software as a service,” said Brennan. “It was definitely a forced migration… They were essentially like, ‘Hey, nice learning management system you got there. It would be a shame if something happened to it.’”
Blackboard would host the platform from their data center and manage all of the problems and necessary fixes. This migration would free up college ITS personnel to focus on technology on campus, such as the Wi-Fi upgrades and Windows 10 updates.
Once the migration was complete, however, Blackboard made some changes that were not advertised to the college. When ITS started feeding the files into the Blackboard server before the start of the semester, they corrupted the database.
The system was configured in such a way that when it saw a record it did not recognize, including classes and student enrollment in online classes, that record was dropped.
“It has been a daily communication with Blackboard, and communication is phrasing it very lightly,” said Brennan.
All of this happened on the Friday before classes started. The first day of school, the problems with Blackboard still had not been resolved.
Though it wasn’t essential that ITS make the move to Blackboard servers at the exact time they did, they would have had to replace all the servers on campus. The upgrade would have cost $250,000 as opposed to the $100,000 it took to migrate.
There has been some talk about transferring the college courses from Blackboard to another course platform, such as Moodle or Canvas. However, this migration would take a couple years of planning and research, including testing from all faculty members on an enormous scale, and would have to be planned for a summer break.
“It’s a very heavy lift to get onto one of those other companies once you’re entrenched in a vendor, and I feel like Blackboard knows that. They use that ‘Where else are you going to go?’ kind of mentality,” said Brennan.