August 28, 2008

Add/Drop Jams PeopleSoft Server

Print More

“It was a nightmare,” Ryan Fan ’10 remarked, referring to yesterday morning’s frustrating and stressful beginning to the fall semester’s Add/Drop period. Just like last April, when Student Center crashed on the first day of CoursEnroll, students were confronted by a faulty program yesterday with extremely slow, and often completely stagnant, performance.
Student Center is the University’s new PeopleSoft replacement for Just The Facts, and is intended to be a smoother vehicle through which students can add and drop classes from their schedules.
According to David Yeh, vice president for Student and Academic Services, “In the course of the morning, performance degraded to a point where students effectively were not able to access Add/Drop.”
Problems surfaced right from the beginning of Add/Drop, according to the Cornell Information Technologies website, when Student Center and Faculty Center self-service applications developed severe performance issues. According to CIT, these problems impacted all students participating.
According to Yeh, however, the problems yesterday and the issue in April 2008 appear unrelated.
In April, the problem was fixed after the first day of CoursEnroll and Student Center continued to run smoothly throughout the remainder of the semester and summer sessions.
However, CIT and the Office of the University Registrar are still unsure of the reason behind the system’s current failure.
Yeh stated in an e-mail, “CIT and the OUR continue to analyze the many components of our set-up to ascertain the root cause of the performance problem.” Cornell also has the assistance of Oracle, the company that owns PeopleSoft.
Students and faculty alike suffered greatly as a result of Student Center’s failure to function properly.
Many faculty members had problems accessing class lists, and faculty advisors received numerous complaints from their advisees.
Prof. Ross Brann, near eastern studies, explained, “What could be more disruptive — when the University is poised to begin the academic year — than to have the system that enrolls students not working properly?”
Dr. James Maas teaches Psych1101: Introduction to Psychology, a course that seats 1,326 students. He said that this semester, however, the class is “oversold.”
According to Maas, by the time the add/drop process was halted for the PSYCH 101, the course was overbooked by 50-100 students, not counting the student drops from the class.
“The fact that the system got bogged down created some high anxiety, so I probably got around 200 e-mails saying ‘Help! I can’t get in!’”
Maas added, “We have a problem which has been exacerbated by the computer glitches.”
The frustrating lack of access to the Student Center software also angered students.
Justin Granstein ’10 said, “The program should be able to accommodate everyone. It shouldn’t crash after a minute and a half.”
After hearing horror stories from his roommates, Ryan Fan ’10 did not try the system until 11:30 a.m., but he still could not log in.
After spending about two and a half hours adding and dropping classes, Fan said, “I’m not really computer savvy,” and that the program “was not at all [user]-friendly.”
Sarah Hamshari ’11 was also frustrated by the ineffective PeopleSoft program.
“I tried at 8:30 a.m., and 9:00 a.m., 10:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.,” she said, but “it was really time consuming and slow.” Hamshari could not finish her Add/Drop until 12:45 p.m.
Students were also confused regarding the timing of the opening of Add/Drop. The OUR website states that Add/Drop was set to begin at 10:00 a.m, but other sources gave other times.
Granstein was frustrated because after requesting a more specific time from the registrar, he was told that they would not disclose the exact time that Add/Drop would begin so that the system would not crash.
In response to a question about the timing of Add/Drop, Yeh explained, “Add/Drop access was opened by 10:00 a.m. as noted in an e-mail to students and on various information channels. Many students were encouraged by their friends to go into Add/Drop at the traditional time of 6:30 a.m. even though it was not opened.”
Yeh also warns students to “take heed to ‘Holds.’” They should make sure to take care of outstanding financial obligations, before the end of the third week of classes, in order to ensure the ability to complete enrollment.
As of now, Yeh stated that “Access into is normal, and there is no apparent degradation of performance. We will continue to monitor performance with CIT.”
“We all truly regret that students’ experiences this morning did not meet their’s or our high expectations,” Yeh stated in an e-mail. “While considerable testing of load, functionality and performance was completed over several weeks and many person-hours of analysis and planning, we too are disappointed with this experience.”