Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Blackboard problems quickly resolved

Students and faculty began to notice widespread issues with Blackboard, a website where teachers can post syllabi and assignments, among other class-related media, earlier this month, as small problems turned into a catastrophe.

Suffolk apparently tried to update its Blackboard service package on Christmas Day. Suffolk’s Chief Information Officer Tom Lynch said that the school’s information technology department had experienced problems since then.

“Blackboard is a hosted service, so Suffolk’s IT doesn’t run it … Blackboard Company provides the service and they’re responsible for maintenance and upgrades,” Lynch explained. Blackboard does have its own helpdesk, though, which assisted Suffolk IT in the past few weeks.

Suffolk began experiencing small, random issues after the update was completed.

Smaller issues became larger problems Jan. 16, one day after Suffolk IT held a teleconference with a Blackboard VP to discuss the upgrade issues.

“We started getting hundreds of hotline calls saying that hundreds of courses were disabled and that course data was missing” from the Blackboard website, Lynch said.

“Blackboard restored courses within a couple of hours [of the initial reports of failure], but the site wasn’t complete,” said Lynch. “That meant that newly registered students couldn’t access courses. Meanwhile, students were submitting assignments, faculty were uploading assignments, and then we had to look at what was lost in the data gap.” Blackboard was able to recover most of what was lost in that gap.

“There were a total of 90 help desk tickets over the course of the whole incident, which have almost all been resolved,” said Lynch. Within a few days, Blackboard restored things and Suffolk IT staff began to help faculty restore things missing from their courses.

When Lynch asked non-Suffolk Blackboard users, none said that they had experienced any issues similar to what Suffolk experienced. Blackboard later confirmed the problem was localized to Suffolk and that they had not previously experienced the same problems Suffolk had after Jan. 16.

However, many clients were unable to use the collaboration module, an application on Blackboard that provides chat sessions and video feed for online courses, cancelling online classes.

“Except for two, [all the issues] we know about, we’ve fixed … if there was a really widespread issue [still remaining], we would know about it.”

“Overall, I think Blackboard has been run pretty well,” said Lynch, who has about a decade’s worth of experience with Blackboard, first at Worcester Polytechnic Institute before joining Suffolk seven months ago.

Lynch said that Suffolk began using Blackboard around 2000, when it became one of the first schools to have an online MBA program.

“Blackboard is actually a conglomerate of several companies they’ve bought, which is a challenge for them … when [employees at companies] don’t necessarily communicate very well with Blackboard Learn.”

Regarding the issues with Blackboard, Lynch said, “Suffolk IT is very sorry about this incident, but we’ve escalated these issues to the highest levels of the company.”

Lynch and the IT staff have talked to the president of Blackboard Company who “promised to improve communication inside his company and to focus on quality assurance.”

“The president of Blackboard is going to come here and meet some senior members of the administration within the next month. We’re also going to look at what their future product plans are.”

Lynch hopes that faculty and students who have future issues with Blackboard will seek help from IT.

“Part of the vision I’ve tried to carry into this job is something I call ‘continuous customer delight.’ I want the students, the faculty, and the administration to be delighted with our IT services,” Lynch said. “I want things to work and I want people to be happy” with the technology available to them.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Sam Humphrey, Newsroom Manager
From starting as a staff writer to helping edit and manage the entire paper, Sam has seen every side of the Journal there is. He covered protests, changes in the school's administration, and local political events on Suffolk's campus and across the city. He graduated from the Sawyer Business School in May 2017 but his favorite memories of Suffolk are from his four years on the paper.

Comments (0)

All The Suffolk Journal Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Activate Search
Blackboard problems quickly resolved