Root cause of Connect's slowdowns unknown

It can seem as though Connect is never working when you need it to. Problems with the site have been as disruptive as ever as UBC Connect completely shut down on September 14 and has been experiencing intermittent distributions since then.

According to Jennifer Burns, Chief Information Officer for UBC, solving the problems is not that simple. 

“We have a lot of control over network, over firewalls, over servers and the other infrastructure components that the application rests on,” said Burns. “But when we start to get into the actual software code or how the application runs, then that is something that Blackboard [Learn, the service provider], has to address.”

According to the Academic Director for the Centre of Teaching, Learning and Technology Simon Bates, an applications team has been able to mitigate issues and decrease problems although they have yet to find the root cause. 

“It’s not immediately apparent what specifically is causing the slowdowns. We’ve made a number of changes to try to address the symptoms, but we realize we're not able at this point to detect the cause,” confirmed Burns. 

For some students though, the dissatisfaction with Connect is not just about the recent service delays.

“Connect is garbage. It’s just not a very good user interface. I found it really difficult to learn,” said Tessa Grogan, a second year undeclared arts student. “And for some reason, I hadn’t even heard of it before I came to UBC. So the first time I ever had an assignment, I came to class and my friend asked if I did the homework and I said, ‘What homework?’”

However, we may not be using the system that much longer. According to Bates, UBC has a licence with Blackboard Learn up until 2019. “We are actively beginning to think about what happens after that license period expires.” 

Bates said that the complex mechanisms involved in running, hosting and supporting a system makes the process of switching to a new system a slower one. But by the end of the next calendar year, “the university will have to take a decision on what they’re going to do beyond the end of that licensing period.”

In the meantime, Burns suggests avoiding “the really peak high periods [such as the] start of class and 8 p.m. at night … Even if the system [is] not having any issues, those are still difficult times and they may normally see lots of load, so it’s a good idea to try to plan around that.”