A student information system built around PeopleSoft Inc.'s applications crashed earlier this month at the University of Massachusetts, causing serious disruptions for thousands of students and forcing the school's IT staffers to limit the use of a new software portal. The system crash occurred Sept. 7 at the main UMass campus in Amherst, and university spokesman Ed Blaguszewski said there are still periods when the student administration applications are bogged down. IT workers continue to troubleshoot the system in an effort to fully resolve the problems, he added.
UMass is the second university to be waylaid by glitches in PeopleSoft installations at the start of the new school year. The University of Indiana disclosed earlier this month that problems on a PeopleSoft rollout there had temporarily left as many as 3,000 students without access to promised financial aid.
At UMass, the applications automate tasks such as registration, financial aid services and preparation of class schedules. Blaguszewski said the problems arose after the school replaced a homegrown, Web-based front-end application with PeopleSoft's portal software in July.
Some initial bugs were worked out during testing, and the new, more user-friendly portal went live in time for the start of classes in early September. At first, the system's overall performance was satisfactory, despite slowdowns at times, Blaguszewski said. But then the system crashed, and end-user access remained slow and intermittent after it was restored.
That resulted in "significant confusion, frustration and inconvenience across campus" when classes began on Sept. 8, Blaguszewski said. Some students didn't know where their classes were being held. Others were unable to add or drop classes. The problems prompted school officials to use e-mail blasts and post more data online to provide information to students.
According to Blaguszewski, the UMass IT staff worked around the clock to fix the problems, with help from a third-party consultant and PeopleSoft employees. As part of an interim work-around, IT made configuration changes and staggered portal usage by user type, requiring students and faculty members to log on at different times to prevent another crash.
"The university community now has full access to the system, and we will monitor performance closely," Blaguszewski said, adding that the cause of the system crash is still unknown. He noted that the school's database of student information remains intact.
PeopleSoft spokesman Steve Swasey said the problems weren't caused by the company's software and declined to comment further on the situation at UMass.
Lori Goss, education and government marketing director at PeopleSoft, also declined to comment about the problems during an interview at the software vendor's Connect 2004 conference in San Francisco. -- Computerworld (US)
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