Nov 072007
 
Authors: Elden T. Holldorf

The technological playing field known as RamCT, where CSU students and faculty communicate online, continues to be scrutinized by users since the online program debuted at beginning of the semester.

In their list of woes, students and professors cite the system’s slow responsiveness, irksome glitches, poor integration and recurrent down time as areas with room for improvement. But those behind the scene at RamCT say that such concerns have been addressed and glitches are an inevitable part of moving forward.

Discontent with the system during this semester has prompted some users to discontinue using it indefinitely. One professor plans to use a Google page next semester for the online portion of his class.

“Rather than trying to endure the problems with the system, I may have to scale down the online component of my course, but it would be a place where students can get the necessary key files,” said Michael Roloff, a political science professor at CSU.

Roloff said he thinks the system is incredibly difficult to use and functions, such as the grade book, are not always available.

“I spend four times as much time on RamCT as I did on WebCT. The biggest thing is, it’s harder to serve my students,” Roloff said.

RamCT is the successor to WebCT.

Meghan Callahan, a sophomore political science major, says there’s a stark difference between the two systems.

“(RamCT) is down so often and they have a lot of bugs they need to work out, it’s not as reliable as WebCT, but at least you can change the colors,” she said.

A university-wide update was posted Wednesday to notify the campus about the measures that have been taken to better the system and fix the problems so far. Melody Brake, associate director of RamCT, said the update served more than one purpose.

“The purpose of the update is two-fold. We want to let people know that we have addressed the issues and make known to them what those improvements are,” Brake said.

Because RamCT is a new system, Brake says it’s inevitable that problems will arise.

“Glitches are a part of moving forward,” Brake said.

When an individual logs onto RamCT, he is directed by a load balancer to one of six servers, where that his session would begin. These servers communicate with the back-end Oracle database, retrieving and sending information between the two.

At the beginning of the semester, RamCT used only three servers, which caused the system’s problems.

“We found that three was insufficient for the loads we experience,” said Brake. “Have you ever tried fitting 14 people in a 10-passanger van?”

A fourth server was added Sept. 19, a fifth Sept. 28, and a sixth Oct. 4. Brake says the system has not been down since the fourth server was added.

In addition, patches were also installed to stabilize the system and prevent any future crashes. Overall, performance of the system was enhanced by adjusting the database’s settings and rescheduling its jobs to off-hours.

Staff writer Elden Holldorf can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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