Biology senior Celeste Aguilar had taken a break from homework Jan. 31 when at about 6 p.m. she received texts from her physics group chat asking if Blackboard was working. When she logged in to check, all of her classes were missing except for the required COVID-19 training.
“I was honestly freaking out at first cause I was like, ‘Did I just get dropped from all my classes?’” Aguilar said.
Aguilar was one of the many students enrolled at Texas A&M University-San Antonio who were impacted by the Blackboard outage.
Chief Information Officer Bill Griffenberg said the issue was caused during a manual process when running the COVID-19 training, which students were required to take before the semester began to access their classes in Blackboard. An incorrect selection in the process was accidentally clicked, making it look like all students, about 6,800 according to senior communications manager Chris Belcher, had not completed their training.
Information Technology Services treated the problem as a critical outage to resolve the issue.
“Trying to find that the one little drop-down menu was the actual issue isn’t as easy as it may seem,” Griffenberg said in a Microsoft Teams interview Feb. 4.
ITS has now implemented a new procedure to prevent the issue from happening again. This consisted of adding two checkpoints; one before information is loaded and after to confirm.
However, Aguilar said she thinks it’s possible that an issue with Blackboard could happen in the future.
“It’s technology,” Aguilar said. “Stuff happens, so as long as it gets fixed.”
Griffenberg said no information in Blackboard such as homework was lost; it was in the system but students could not view it. The issue did not affect faculty’s access to Blackboard classes.
Once Aguilar saw that it was affecting other students, she figured it was an IT issue.
She said she had a tedious assignment due that night and feared she would not get the assignment done and would fail.
Cecilia Espitia, director of distance learning and instructional technology, sent an email to students at 8:02 p.m. notifying them that ITS was made aware of the issue around 4 p.m. and was working to resolve it. Griffenberg said ITS responded to every student who contacted them either by phone or email.
The issue was resolved at about 8:30 p.m.
Griffenberg said emails were sent to the president and vice president of the Faculty Senate to make them aware of the issue, as well as the provost of the university, President Cynthia Teniente-Matson and the chief financial officer.
Aguilar said her professors were understanding of the situation and gave students a one-day extension for any assignments due that night.
“We’re all human, and one person made a mistake,” Griffenberg said. “It was that simple.”