The University of Colorado’s faculty and administration is discussing options for improving their online learning system after recent outages kept students from completing assignments.

The system, Desire2Learn (also known as D2L), has been unreliable this semester. The company’s attempt to upgrade caused several outages over the past three weeks, affecting hundreds of institutions worldwide. Last week, an outage left students and faculty without access to the site for nearly three days.

The problem was fixed and all customers were up and running by Friday, said Virginia Jamieson, D2L’s senior director of corporate communications, in an email Monday. Jamieson was not available for further comment on Monday.

Greg Stauffer, spokesman for CU’s Office of Information Technology, said CU is collecting feedback from faculty and students and considered options as the campus looks to improve online learning.

Campus officials are discussing whether to stick with their current contract with D2L (which includes an annual fee of $654,000), move the hosting on-site or consider another option, Stauffer said.

“The CU-Boulder campus is evaluating options to ensure our collaborative learning system is the reliable anchor of the online learning tools that meet the teaching, learning, research and service mission of this campus,” Stauffer said.

“D2L is not the only choice on the table, and nothing is off the table moving forward.”

Geoffrey Rubinstein, CU’s director of independent learning, said since most online classes are run through D2L, the recent outage delayed several assignments.

“It’s a big deal for us when it’s out for days at a time,” Rubinstein said. “Students were not able to get into their D2L classes at all for two and a half days, but we had everything backed up and were prepared for it.”

Despite the recent complications, Rubinstein said D2L’s previous reputation and efforts to upgrade left him optimistic about the future of the system.

“It’s a solid company, and they hadn’t had any problems when we first met them,” Rubinstein said. “I think a lot of institutions discovered D2L at the same time, so I think they weren’t quite ready for the explosive growth that came, and now I think they’re playing catch up, frankly.”

Assistant Professor Julie Lundquist created a website last week to post the syllabus and notes from her classes while the system was down, but she wasn’t able to use the discussion feature or post grades for her students through the new site.

“I really like that I can securely communicate grades through D2L, which I can not do through a regular website,” Lundquist said.

Luckily, her classes were small enough that the outages didn’t cause much of a disturbance, she said, but another outage could change her attitude about the site.

“If this happens again this week, while the students are preparing for an exam or have projects due during an outage, it would be a lot more problematic,” Lundquist said.

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