Phil Hill reports on the Scriba Disaster: Sakai-based LMS for UC Davis is down with no plans for recovery:
In what might shape up as one of the worst LMS outages in recent history, UC Davis has been working without an LMS for the past week and does not expect their vendor to fix the problems before the end of the term. UC Davis uses a version of Sakai hosted by the LMS remnants of rSmart. In 2013 rSmart sold it’s Sakai-supporting LMS business to Asahi Net International, and in 2015 a private equity firm – Vert Capital – bought ANI and renamed it Scriba. Scriba brands the Sakai LMS for UC Davis as SmartSite.
UC Davis is on the quarter system, with the last week of class next week (May 31) and finals the week of June 6. A few months ago UC Davis announced their intention to migrate to Canvas as their LMS. SmartSite subsequently went down on May 19th, and all signs are pointed to a complete and final outage. Scriba will not answer the phones (you get a message that the mailbox is full), and UC Davis staff are making a heroic attempt to in-house recreate LMS tools and even to recover grades that had been entered on SmartSite.
At this point, they’re working on a temporary fix that will permit only instructors (not students) to access their LMS information for the end of the semester.
Friends, I feel pretty vindicated for continuing to be committed to face-to-face teaching and to taking my classes last semester off the radar. I’d been thinking about it while on sabbatical the previous academic year, and decided that I’d pull the plug last semester. I only used our BlackBoard/Canvas systems very lightly–I never entered grades into it, and only used it to share copies of assigned articles, primary sources, assignments, and the syllabus.
In both of my classes last term, we met face-to-face three times a week and had our discussions there, so I never used the discussion boards. Our library still hosts an e-reserve platform, where students can get copies of book chapters or other articles that aren’t available online otherwise. And I’ve just described how useless and exploitative the plagiarism detection software is. Fortunately for me, my students were up for the adventure of going completely stealth; their only question was how I might communicate with them if they needed an electronic copy of the syllabus, or if there were a snow day.
I said I’d email them, which was how I would have reached them regardless of any LMS. They seemed happy with the plan, and said that it worked well at the end of the term.
As I’ve recently proclaimed, software works for me; I don’t work for it. I am sorry for all of the UC Davis faculty whose quarter’s worth of work has been stymied by this massive failure of their garbage LMS. But rest assured: the more dependent we and our students become on this software, the more this kind of thing will happen.
It’s a good feeling to know that my work is securely backed up by my human brain and some reliable, old 1980s technologies (MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and email). Sure, those information storage technologies can fail at any time, but the solutions for recovery are a lot closer to hand for us as teachers. And the beauty part is that it’s mine, all mine!