Three Blackboard Patches

Band Aid PatchThis is one of those probably-more-technical-information-than-you-want-to-know posts, but here goes.

We had Blackboard down for about an hour this morning to apply three separate patches.  One was a minor annoyance, and two had workarounds in place, but we judged it important enough to take action even before the end of the semester, especially at 6AM on a Tuesday.  Friday would have been better, because there are still quite a few people using Blackboard at 6AM on a Tuesday, but staff schedules matter too, and because we had reached a mature but not critical point in the semester we decided to go ahead and perform the patches.

Firstly, we applied a patch from Blackboard that fixes the “Access Denied” error messages that had occurred to a few  users when taking tests.  It was an error that had a low incidence, but especially annoying to those affected.  Since we could fix it, and since successful student assessment is obviously very important, we did so.  (This is not to say that affected individuals could not successfully complete their assessments prior to the patch.  We worked with everyone affected, and all successfully completed their tests.  It was just an annoyance).

Secondly, since the release of OS X 10.6 on the Mac platform users of Safari and Firefox have been unable to open PDF documents uploaded as files in Blackboard.  Those PDFs uploaded as attachments to an item were not affected.  All semester we have had a workaround in place.  It involved installing a third-party add-in from Schubert-it.  (An add-in I rather like, and have kept).  Whenever we have to resort to recommending third-party add-ins, however, it complicates matters, and puts hurdles in the way of student (not to mention professor) success.  We have now fixed the problem, and the add-in is no longer required (though can be kept if you like it).

Finally, Kelly Falcone recently discovered that the mashup tool was not working except when you search on a full URL.  That is now fixed, and you can search on keywords, tags, or URLs and will get results.  Thanks Kelly.

Here’s hoping no further patches will be required until after the end of the semester.  We know of no other issues that will require it at this time.