MLS troubles put students in limbo

MyLearningSpace (MLS), the online learning system at Wilfrid Laurier University that houses the majority of the institution’s courses, lecture notes, assignment guidelines and assignment submission boxes experienced an immense system failure throughout this past week.

Crashes, slow load times and website time-outs plagued the system, resulting in many students reacting angrily on social media. 
“The first thing that happened to us was that it was getting slow, and that’s when the whole thing started to unravel,” expressed Sandy Hughes, director: teaching support services.

On Jan. 29, the system began experiencing slowness and eventually reached system failure. Virginia Jamieson, senior director of corporate communications at Desire2Learn, the host server of MyLearningSpace, explained that the company is still doing diagnostics to find out what happened.

“We haven’t released to the public yet the actual details,” she said.

Laurier was not aware of the data migration Desire2Learn was completing last week, because the university did not anticipate the outage. The school was not the only one affected by this failure; 25 per cent of Desire2Learn’s customers, including the University of Waterloo, were affected. Desire2Learn did keep customers up-to-date on the outage through their Twitter and Facebook accounts, and also released of a letter from their CEO.

“All affected Desire2Learn sites are now fully functional. We understand your frustration and anger. We will do better,” Desire2Learn tweeted on Friday. Students took to social network sites to express their anger, and sometimes amusement, with the continuous faulting system.

Monica Geary, a first-year student, expressed that the situation was extremely annoying and made students’ workload more stressful.

“Most professors use MLS, it’s the only outlet for communication,” she said. Geary has a class that requires a quiz to be completed every Sunday night, and she was not able to access the information and readings online until Friday. Unfortunately, her quiz was not pushed back.

Scott Ramsay, chair of the biology department, explained that he extended his deadlines for his classes. “You can’t penalize the students for an external problem that’s happening with the service provider,” he said.

Ken Boyd, director: ITC solutions at Laurier expressed that the school has a strong relationship with Desire2Learn.

“They are a very good partner of ours, but they are a young company, we are helping them as much as they are helping us,” he said.

“Once they start to make the change, they’re in it, until it finishes,” explained Boyd with regards to the data migration. “They can’t stop, they can’t back out because they have to preserve the quality of the information other student records could be at risk.”

However, Jamieson ensured The Cord that Desire2Learn had addressed the issues as quickly as possible.

“We can say that we have, through all of our resources, fixed the issue as quickly as possible, and by the end of the week, all the customers were back up and running. We want to make sure that when are able to say that it is not going to happen again that we feel 100 per cent to back that up,” said Jamieson.

At the beginning of this week, MyLearningSpace was still experiencing slowness, which was attributed to a more specific issue with Laurier’s system.

“They had moved us to another server, I believe, and something wasn’t quite right with that one so they took us off of there,” Hughes discussed.

As of Tuesday morning, the Laurier campus was still experiencing technical issues, but that was not related to Desire2Learn.

“The problem was that our Internet pipe got completely saturated,” Boyd explained. “This problem was due to the Internet activity, which is through Orion [the internet provider]. We live in a connected world with partnerships with other firms. ”

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