Overview

Learn.UQ (Blackboard), UQ's Learning Management System (LMS), must occasionally be made unavailable while ITS performs essential maintenance within the LMS itself, or on peripheral systems.  

These periods of unavailability are referred to as maintenance outages and the periods of time specified for these outages are referred to as a maintenance window.

These planned maintenance outages ensure that we can provide a secure and reliable online environment, maximising system availability. Without planned maintenance outages the LMS is at risk of unexpected outages and/or security breaches.

All outage windows are notified in advance on the ITS Service status page and the Spotlight section on the Blackboard Welcome page. There are three types of maintenance windows: fixed maintenance; major upgrades; special maintenance.

Major Upgrade Windows

In the middle of each year, and at the end of each year, the University's Learning Management System (Learn.UQ) may be unavailable for critical maintenance or upgrades. These windows are essential for a robust secure system. The mid-year maintenance typically occurs in the week after the Semester 1 results are published (at the end of the second week after exams finish), subject to approvals. Occasionally maintenance will occur over the Christmas break. This maintenance is usually unavoidable as keeping pace with security upgrades is a condition of our contract with the vendor, as well as an UQ IT security requirement. The process for date selection is as follows:

  • Using the principles explained on this page the Elearning team in ITaLI selects the lowest possible impact dates for the proposed maintenance.
  • The proposed maintenance dates are advertised in the Elearning Update newsletter to all coordinators and related professional staff for two months, asking for feedback. The proposed dates are also included in the Spotlight module on the Welcome page of Blackboard.
  • The feedback and the dates and provided to the PVC(T&L) for consideration.
  • If approved the maintenance dates are advertised in each Elearning Update newsletter leading up the work, as well as on the Spotlight module on the Welcome page of Blackboard, and at the Elearning Operational Forum and reported to the Teaching and Learning committee. All communications link back to a web page that explains the upgrade and includes all aspects of the consultation process and lists all the communications.

Fixed Maintenance Windows - Saturday Mornings

The DVC(A) has endorsed a standing maintenance window on Saturday mornings from 5:00AM to 9:00AM except a) during the week before O-week, or during O-week, or weeks 1 or 2 of a semester, and b) in the two weeks immediately before exams (week13 and revision week), or during the 2 weeks of exams. The maintenance window is required because regular patching and updates will further enhance the stability of what is a critical corporate system, and Saturday morning is the lowest point for Learn.UQ usage in the week. 

Special Maintenance Windows

Other Maintenance Windows are required for specific critical or emergency maintenance. These periods are negotiated as required and communicated to users. 

Maintenance Window Selection

Care is taken to minimise disruption caused by these outages. Unfortunately all possible windows have some level of impact, and therefore the dates of lowest impact are sought by ITaLI and ITS.

Impacts considered include: teaching periods; pre exam study; exams; post-exam marking; pre-supplementary exam study; supplementary-exams; post supplementary exam marking; special semesters (e.g. School of Medicine and CPD); pre-semester course preparation periods.

    Main Learn.UQ Upgrade Date Selection

    • The period of least disruption to the University is sought. Unfortunately there is no window that will not be inconvenient to one of the many stakeholder groups.
    • A large range of impacts are considered including: teaching periods; pre exam study; exams; post-exam marking; post marking results and feedback posting (and impact on supplimentary exam applications); pre-supplementary exam study period; supplementary-exam period; post supplementary exam marking; special teaching periods (e.g. School of Medicine and CPD); pre-semester course preparation periods.
    • Dates are proposed six months in advance and feedback is collected and considered carefully.
    • Post upgrade feedback is collected and considered carefully.
    • The lowest usage weeks are a) the weeks after Semester 1 marking week and b) Christmas week.  

    Preferred Maintenance Window Selection

    The current preferred maintenance window is Saturday morning as explained above. Below are the issues considered for selection of the preferred maintenance window.

    Advantages of Saturday morning

    • Saturday morning is the equal lowest usage point of the week (with Sunday morning)
    • Sunday is available as a buffer to fix problems arising from Saturday without impacting Monday.
    • The window only goes to 9:00AM (although some changes may require longer)
    • Echo recordings will still work even during maintenance (recordings store on the capture devices and load up when the server is available). Only echo views are affected.
    • Sunday afternoon experiences much higher usage than Saturday afternoons (for overruns)

    Advantages of Sunday window

    • Saturday is listed in the calendar as a teaching day
    • Sunday morning is equal lowest usage point of the week (with Sat morning)