WebCT fails students

WebCT, Laurier’s online learning network, was not functioning for the first few days of classes; this was a result of a problem within the communications banner.

The cause is not related to the serious problems that were faced by students and staff last year, which saw WebCT crash on Nov. 1, leaving it out of commission for 10 days.

“Last year it crashed; it stopped working. We could not figure out the problem,” said assistant vice-president: academic Tom Buckley. “[This year] the system was purposely taken offline to extend the maintenance window once we discovered the problem.”

Buckley went on to explain that last year the root of the problem was the hardware that WebCT was loaded on, which is not the case this year.

He explained that if a student switches from class A to class B, class B will not show up on his or her WebCT account.

Also if a professor made a last minute decision to use WebCT for their course, the students registered in the class would be unable to access it through their account.

“I realize [WebCT] is not accessible to students; this is not an acceptable situation from my perspective. I have conveyed that to our vendors,” said Buckley.

Since he started in his position on June 1, Buckley has been very aware of the problems WebCT caused last year; therefore it has been high on his agenda of things to fix.

Over the course of the summer, Buckley’s team completely re-engineered the hardware system, including the database server (where all the course information is stored) and the application layer (where students and faculty communicate).

“A project plan was built and testing of this was completed late last week,” said Buckley.

“The environment that we had created and tested caused a problem … we are still investigating.”

He continued, saying that at the request of the vendors, the window of maintenance was extended in order to allow them to troubleshoot the problem.

The vendors have acknowledged the problem within their organization and worked on the problem.

After being inaccessible since Monday on early Wednesday morning WebCT appeared to be functioning normally.