The Portal on Sunday

As many of you know, many students who logged in to the Portal early on Sunday, April 6, couldn’t find their course websites.

The Portal (known to some as Blackboard) was actually functioning perfectly. Unfortunately a glitch on another system was responsible for the ‘absent’ courses. Once the Portal support team figured that out, we worked with the owners of that other system, and applied a fix so that students could access their course sites. Most, if not all, students should have had their access restored by 15:00 yesterday.

This week has been an excellent example of how small things can have a big effect on our lives, and how interconnected our systems and lives have become. We couldn’t think of a worse time for glitches – the week before exams – but it’s also important to understand that with complex, interconnected systems, glitches do happen.

While we are very sorry students and instructors were affected this week, I am very grateful to all our support staff who moved quickly to resolve problems, and take comfort in knowing that our main educational environment, the Portal itself, has been well during this important and busy time.

Thank you for your understanding.

Exchange Service Update


From: Avi Hyman, Director, ACT
Date: April 4, 2014: 00:20
Re: Update on Exchange Issue on April 3

First, I want to thank everyone in the community who participated in troubleshooting the earlier Exchange issue. I also want to thank those who helped with patron communications. It was, as usual, a community effort.

As of this writing, the system continues to be operating normally. ITS staff have been following up on earlier diagnostics as part of a post-incident review, and will continue their efforts in that regard.

If you, or your patrons, again experience difficulties, do not hesitate to let us know through the usual channels and Help Desks.

Portal Update: April 3, 2014


April 3, 2014

Re: Portal Status Update

From:  Avi Hyman, Director, ACT

As many of you will note, the Portal returned to improved service after 01:00 this morning thanks to the efforts of our extended team.

We are now pursuing a strong hypothesis that the load on a particular piece of software was the cause of the sluggishness experienced yesterday.

Please note that our Learning Portal is a doorway to many different, increasingly interconnected pieces of software, from many different vendors. It is incorrect to equate the Portal only with software from Blackboard, although we do use many key products from that company. Our current hypothesis involves a piece of software not from Blackboard.

You will note that I am using the word hypothesis on purpose. Our team is working full out to continue to isolate the issues and fix them so that the use of the Portal can continue as needed. This is a high priority for us, especially at this time of year.

Our tests, and reports from various departments tell us that people can effectively use the Portal as I write this. We are committed to making sure that continues. If you have any problems, please contact the support team at

More updates will be provided as additional information is made available.

April 2, 2014 – Portal Sluggish


Re: Portal Status
Date: April 2, 2014
Time: 6:00 pm
From: Avi Hyman, Director, Academic & Collaborative Technologies

As you may know, the Portal has been very sluggish today.

First and foremost, I would like to apologize for any disruption to people’s work that has occurred as a result of the problems, especially at this time of year.

We are currently experiencing an unprecedented increase in the use of Portal services. We have determined that additional resources are needed to improve the situation and address this increased demand. Our team has made this matter its top priority and are committed to making sure services are working.

While services are not technically ‘down,’ the sluggishness means that services may become unresponsive at times, including access to Blackboard course websites, access to Turnitin services, access to quizzing and collaboration tools, and access to Course Evaluations, etc.

Ongoing updates will be available at:

Thank you for your patience.

Portal Upgrade May 10, 2014

The Portal will be upgraded to the most recent version of the Blackboard Learn software on May 10th and 11th, 2014. The new version will include a number of new features as well as enhancements to existing tools and capabilities. Additional information will be shared as documentation is completed over the upcoming weeks. 
Please note that the Portal will be unavailable while the maintenance is being performed.

For more information and updates, please continue to visit:

Long Absence

This semester has flown by very quickly and we’ve been busy with many things, and I keep forgetting to update my blog. Terrible really. I’ll try to get back to it with more timely and relevant entries. Sorry for the long absences.