It has been a full quarter since Sinclair Community College upgraded the Angel Learning system. Though things did not run as smoothly as initially hoped, the experience for students and faculty seems to have improved, according to Director of Research, Analytics and Systems Development Mike Burns.
Student and faculty experience
Business Management major Doug Thompson said he hasn’t experienced any bugs since he started attending Sinclair last fall. He keeps school files on the Angel file system.
“It helps me out a lot,” Thompson said. “With everything else I’ve got going on, it keeps me on schedule.”
Mental Health Technology major James Calvin agrees. He’s heard some classmates say they’ve had problems accessing quizzes, but Calvin said he’s only had a couple e-mails dropped.
“I got no complaints other than it acts quirky sometimes,” Calvin said.
Student Jordan Hager has also experienced dropped e-mails. Most involved getting information or assignments to her teachers, but she expressed no complaints.
“I haven’t really had any problems,” Hager said.
Dr. Robert Leonard, who teaches both campus and online Communication classes, said it’s not uncommon for a small number of students to have occasional problems.
“I don’t know to what extent that was Angel’s issue or Internet connection issue or operator error,” Leonard said. “But I do know that they do exist, problems that is, and sometimes that causes us to have to adjust due dates or extend test time or something to that effect, but that’s the nature of online.”
Why Angel goes offline
Angel goes offline for regularly scheduled software updates about once a month, according to Burns. He also said the system can go down because of “hot fixes” to software bugs or because of component failure.
“Angel is a very complex hardware and software environment,” Burns said in an e-mail. “There are file servers, database servers, web servers, load balancers, network switches, etc. A failure in any one of these components can have the potential to make the entire system unavailable. Each of these systems has a backup component, but when the first level fails, it may take time to bring the backup component into operation.”
Burns said recovery time depends on what component has failed. For example, he said Web servers appear to recover quickly because there are 34 Web servers in the system, but file servers can take hours to recover because of the amount of information that has to be restored to backup systems. Any time Angel goes down for a repair, Burns said a notice would be posted on My.Sinclair.
Winter quarter bugs
Burns said some difficulties with Angel last quarter were partly due to two software bugs relating to file names and user recognition.
“The student and faculty experience at the beginning of Spring quarter has been much smoother than the experience at the beginning of Winter quarter,” Burns said. “Help desk calls related to Angel are averaging about 10 per day now, compared with 50 or 60 per day at the beginning of Winter quarter.”
Angel Learning, the software writing company, has since sent corrections, according to Burns. He thinks more improvements could be made.
“Angel Learning needs to identify software bugs and correct them,” Burns said. “In addition, Angel Learning needs to certify that their product functions seamlessly with Microsoft Internet Explorer version 8 in native mode.”