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The Daily Illini

Broken Compass leaves students, teachers without direction

By Kiyoshi Martinez

The University’s online Illinois Compass service went offline late Monday morning, leaving students and faculty from approximately 1,100 classes without access to their course grades, assignments and materials.

According to Lanny Arvan, Assistant CIO for Educational Technologies at Campus Information Technologies and Educational Services, technicians are working to bring Compass back online after installing new equipment.

“We understand the displacement we’re causing for the community,” Arvan said. “We need to learn from this experience.”

Students and faculty use Compass substantially, with nearly 1,100 University classes placing a request for course Web sites this semester, Arvan said. There are more than 73,000 users within the system; however, many of those users are duplicates of students enrolled in more than one class that uses the online service.

The downtime for Compass affected due dates for homework for some instructors, such as Steve Hall, University lecturer and director of Advertising Career Services. Hall experienced some inconveniences with the online service for his Introduction to Advertising class, which has 664 enrolled students.

“I had to extend an assignment so students could access (it),” Hall said. “I was impacted a little bit, nothing major.”

On the opposite end, student users were unable to access their instructor’s lecture notes, homework and online announcements. Sue Roy, sophomore in LAS, has four classes that use the Compass online interface.

“I usually check it in the afternoon to see what teachers have posted,” Roy said.

The Compass Web site went offline at approximately 10:30 a.m. Monday, and technicians first attempted to reboot the server. Monday evening, while rebooting the database server used for the Web site, technicians discovered that specific hardware had failed and needed to be replaced.

As of press time, Arvan said new equipment was being introduced and a re-installation of the front-end of the Compass service was underway.

“Hopefully, the server will be working soon,” Arvan said. “The technicians are working very hard on this right now.”

Currently, the exact cause of the hardware failure is unknown and will be addressed in a post-mortem evaluation of the downtime, but the current priorities are to resume service to the campus, Arvan said.

The Illinois Compass online service comes from the Lynnfield, Mass., vendor WebCT, Inc. and their software WebCT Vista. In June 2003, the University selected WebCT Vista’s software to be customized for the Illinois Compass academic enterprise system and streamline online course materials.

“The reason for doing this was that we were in multiple systems,” Arvan said. “We were looking for the most efficient way to handle that growth.”

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