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Ohio State: High traffic volume causing Carmen woes

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Screen grab of Carmen frozen on a computer screen on Aug. 25. Credit: Courtesy of Madison Curtis

Screen grab of Carmen frozen on a computer screen on Aug. 24. Credit: Courtesy of Madison Curtis

Before callers were even connected to Ohio State’s Office of Distance Education and eLearning help line with questions about Carmen on Wednesday, they were given a warning.

“We are currently experiencing an issue with multiple services,” a voice message pre-emptively warned callers before connecting them to a support worker. “(Services include) Carmen, BuckeyeLink, the OSU home page, the PeopleSoft human resources system and the student information system.”

The message told callers that OSU was aware that pages were loading slowly or timing out, and that services would be restored as soon as possible.

Kate Keune, spokeswoman for ODEE, said that systems were up since Tuesday morning, saying that was when the majority of the lag was experienced. However, the message was still on the phone line as of close-of-business on Wednesday, and some professors reported problems Thursday.

This slowness was caused by the large volume of network traffic,” Keune said in an email. “We use load balancing to move traffic through our network and although we doubled our load balancing capacity from last year’s start of school, we quickly realized that was not sufficient.”

Keune said OSU is now running at quadruple the load balancing capacity than it was in Fall Semester 2015.

Issues with Carmen specifically are bothering some professors. Last year, Carmen was run through a platform from educational technology company D2L. Fall Semester 2016 is the first semester under a transition to a platform called Canvas, run by educational technology company Instructure.

“In addition to the start of term, we are also starting our first term with Carmen (Canvas) and adoption rates have been incredibly high. Over 1200 new courses have been added to Carmen (Canvas) in the last 48 hours,” Keune said.

Seventy percent of courses are on the Canvas version of Carmen now, Keune said, though some professors are using the old version of the website.

That high volume of course additions bogged down the website, Keune said.

Frederick Aldama, an English professor, said he didn’t have a class populate on Carmen until Thursday.

“It’s a course that relies pretty heavily on materials being accessible (on Carmen),” Aldama said.

He said he published the course on Carmen last week, calling the delay “cataclysmic.”

“There’s already enough anxiety and stress making sure the first day, or days, of class go well,” Aldama said. “That we didn’t have this ironed out before the beginning of the term is inexcusable.”

Aldama said that he didn’t blame the university information technology staff, whom he complimented, but took issue that more troubleshooting wasn’t done before the start of the semester.

A note on Carmen’s homepage, as of Thursday afternoon, reads, “Due to high volume this week, (course) enrollments, adds and drops may take up to 5 hours to process.”

Keune said the warning was published “just to be safe,” saying it should take two hours.

Correction, 8/25: A previous version of this article stated Frederick Aldama is a journalism professor. He is an English professor.

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