Friday, September 30, 2005

Results of the meetings of the DDLC Commissions

The following letter and attachment were sent to Vice Chancellor, Academic Services & Research Monty Sullivan from John A. Downey, Ed. D. Chairperson of the VCCS Distance and Distributed Learning Committee. These were the results of the two day DDLC meeting (Sept. 26-27) that I attend in Charlottesville on behave of TNCC.


As you are aware, the VCCS Distance and Distributed Learning Committee met earlier this week in Charlottesville. The main focus of the meeting was to examine the issues outlined in the DDLC position paper that was recently endorsed by ASAC. You’ll recall that in the position paper, the DDLC membership made a commitment to provide leadership in addressing the issues that were outlined in the paper. I am very pleased to report that the DDLC made significant progress in that regard. Attached please find a memorandum that summarizes the actions voted upon by the DDLC membership. The memo outlines the process we used to identify the major issues articulated in the position paper and to the recommendations we are making to address those issues.

Specifically, the memo documents several specific recommendations of the DDLC concerning:

1) The advisory role of DDLC in the governance process of the VCCS, relative to Technology Council and ASAC.

2) A process for examining requests from colleges for the VCCS to purchase enterprise software.

3) Suggestions for improving inter-collegiate cooperation in promoting distance learning program partnerships.

4) Suggestions for a process for addressing academic issues associated with Blackboard Community and Content Systems.

5) Identification of recommended functionality for the VCCS portal, regardless of the technology used to create the portal.

As always, on behalf of the entire DDLC, I’d like to express my appreciation to you and Neil for the structure you have created to ensure that an academic perspective is heard in regard to the use of technology to support instruction and instructional support in the VCCS. It was extremely helpful to have staff from both the Academic Services & Research and the Information Technology Services departments of the VCCS. The DDLC remains committed to contributing to the efforts Neil and you have made to ensure that everyone works together toward the same objective to advance the Chancellor’s goals as expressed in Dateline 2009.

I look forward to hearing from you after you have had sufficient time to work with Neil to respond to these recommendations made by the DDLC in the attached memo.



John A. Downey, Ed. D.
Chairperson of the VCCS Distance and Distributed Learning Committee
Vice President for Instruction and Student Services
Blue Ridge Community College
Post Office Box 80
Weyers Cave, VA 24486

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Explaination of Last Week's Problem

Posted on Tuesday, September 27, 2005 - 1:05 pm:

Here is more information as promised on the condition that happened last week where students were temporarily disabled in Blackboard:

Short Answer
The students were temporarily disabled; all of their data was/is completely intact.

Long answer

The process that loads users into Blackboard is called the snapshot process. Essentially, it is a two-step process. Step one is generating flat files of user data from DS2 and PeopleSoft, and step 2 is to load those files into Blackboard.

When the data files are loaded into Blackboard, there are two methods available; snapshot mode and manual mode. Snapshot mode will do one of three things:

1. Add users to Blackboard who are in the snapshot files but not in Blackboard.
2. Modify users in Blackboard with data from the snapshot files.
3. Disable users in Blackboard who are not in the snapshot file.

Manual mode snapshots only do two things:

1. Add users to Blackboard who are in the snapshot files but not in Blackboard.
2. Modify users in Blackboard with data from the snapshot files.

Until Thursday 9/22, we were running the snapshots in snapshot mode. We would only put students in the file that had recent enrollments. Because only students with recent enrollments were put in the file, students who had gone a while without enrollments became disabled. This is why if a student completely dropped all classes, and essentially had no more enrollments, they would get disabled from Blackboard.

At about midnight Wed. night/Thursday morning, an Oracle database link stopped functioning. When the snapshot process ran, it could not contact the PeopleSoft database, and essentially the snapshot file was created without any students in it. Because we were running snapshot mode snapshots, all the students were disabled.

What we did to fix it:

1. We went straight to the database and re-enabled all students account directly. This is just a flag in the database, and as soon as we had realized what had happened, we ran that update against Blackboard.
2. We changed the snapshot process from “snapshot” mode to “manual” mode. With this change, students will no longer ever get disabled---even if they drop all of their courses.

Matt Lawson
Information Technology Services
Virginia Community College System


Friday, September 23, 2005

Scheduled to begin Monday, September 26, at 7:00 a.m.

Scheduled to begin Monday, September 26, at 7:00 a.m.

Required Password changes.

Attached (pdf) is a document on how the VCCS will be proceeding in terms of dealing with default passwords.

Problem: After a user resets their passwords; when they next log in to myVCCS, they are able to see their tools list, but clicking on "Blackboard" fails to log them in. If they enter their login information twice more do they get in (once at, and again at the "login failed" page on

Resolution: The sequence to resolve the cookie problem is to go to Blackboard first and be logged out, then go to My VCCS and try single sign on. What happens is that the (logged out) session_id cookie on Blackboard conflicts with the (valid) session_id cookie from My VCCS.

About NEW passwords: The new passwords must not be all numbers. If users changed their passwords, kept them all numbers, without adding a letter, the system will not verify them. Also it is my understanding that there is a cutoff of 10 spaces for a password. If the student puts in more than 10 they may not realize it is truncated and then will not enter it in correctly.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Security Issue

From: []
Sent: Wed 9/21/2005 5:12 PMTo:
Subject: All students and faculty

The following two messages were received 9/22 and 9/21 (reverse order). Please encourage your students to change their password from their birthdate to a secure password. If they have trouble doing this refer them to TNCC Client Services - (825-2709). Faculty Should also change their password if they are still using their birthday.

Thank you,

Students and Faculty,The Virginia Community College System is currently engaged in a process of strengthening the security of its enterpriseapplications (Blackboard, email, SIS, etc.). An integral partof this process is ensuring that users of these systems do not continue to use the default passwords that are initially provided.

Over the next several days a series of steps will be taken to remind users of the need to change default passwords. Soon, default passwords will no longer be allowed beyond the initial login. If you have not already done so, please change your password. Links to the password change function are provided at the login pages of enterprise applications.

Virginia Community College System
Information Technology Services

Posted on Wednesday, September 21, 2005 - 4:52 pm:

The following message was sent out today at 3:42 p.m.
From: Neil Matkin [] Sent: Wednesday, September 21, 2005 3:42 PM To: Glenn DuBois; dlist_vccs_presidents; dlist_vccs_technology_council; dlist_system_office_cabinet Cc: dlist_vccs_presidents_secretaries; Susan Hayden; Ralph Lucia; James Davis; John Brilliant Subject: Security Issue


I have been on the telephone with a reporter from the Roanoke Times this afternoon and an issue has arisen that is about to appear in print in that paper. I request your immediate attention to this security related issue.


In the last few months the ITS office and College IT offices have upgraded PeopleSoft SIS, Blackboard, and student e-mail systems. In conjunction with these upgrades, a new directory services application was initiated. Directory Services version 2 enabled all VCCS students to access student systems through a single sign on. The default password that has been used is the student's birthday. Students have the option of changing the password, however, today 74% of all students HAVE NOT CHANGED THE PASSWORD. Members of the Technology Council and John Brilliant, Internal Auditor, will recall past discussions dating back to March 2005 relating to default passwords for students and the need to move away from student birth dates. Plans to move away from birth dates have been underway for some time. Directory Services 2 has code in place that allows the VCCS to plug this hole and remove the threat.


During the last year, a particular web site has become increasingly popular among students. Known as the FACE BOOK, this website gives students the opportunity to link to friends and meet people at our colleges and other colleges and universities throughout the state, nation, and world. Participants in the FACE BOOK record various biographic information INCLUDING THEIR BIRTH DATES to share with other members. The end result is that subscribers to the FACE BOOK could easily use the birth date data and access student accounts not belonging the them. Although we are not aware of a single instance where this has happened, the newspaper reporter that called today has been in conversation with at least one VCCS student relating to this issue. The minute this article hits the newsstands, we have a major problem in that students who subscribe to FACE BOOK may have easy access to our student systems.

Steps Taken Earlier Today by the ITS Office:

PHASE1: ITS has already made the following changes to encourage users to create secure passwords. Login screens of enterprise applications will include instructions and a link to the change password feature of my.vccs.
This will include:

Email (Mirapoint)
Email (AtMail)
SIS Blackboard 6
Blackboard 5

Below is the message students will see:

Default passwords are not secure. If you are still using the default password initially provided to you, please go to the Change Password page.

Users using a default password in my.vccs will see the following:
Warning: Default passwords are not secure. Please Change Your Password.

NOTE: In addition, a broadcast email to ALL STUDENTS will go out before 5 p.m. this afternoon advising students to change their passwords and provide a link to do so.

Steps Colleges Should Take Immediately:

PHASE 1 Recommended for Colleges

It is recommended that colleges immediately begin to review the instructions they provide to students regarding default passwords. In a quick survey of what various colleges are doing, weve noticed that Blue Ridge and John Tyler are doing an excellent job in this regard (there may be others as well).

Colleges may wish to begin to explore the help desk staffing changes that will be required to support the next phases of this process. Every change to enterprise applications has the potential to generate increased call volume and support requests. The move away from default passwords will also generate more requests for password resets.

Next Steps:

Attached please find a Word document which details additional implementation phases to ensure that our systems are operating in the most secure manner possible. I have asked my assistant, Sally Love, to schedule a conference call at 1 p.m. Friday, September 23, 2005 for Technology Council members or other college staff to discuss these next steps and would appreciate it if a representative from each college can be available. Sally will send out dial in instructions. Please have appropriate staff review the attached document in order to provide feedback as we move forward quickly to address this issue.

Please e-mail or call with questions or concerns
Many thanks,

David Carter-Tod
ITS - Client Services Virginia Community College System


Tuesday, September 13, 2005

A Note from the new "kid" :-)

Salutations! I am Jan Klingberg, Thomas Nelson’s newest Instructional Designer. Some of you may know me as “Ruth Smith’s Clone” or “Ruth Smith II”. (*grin*) I come to you from Old Dominion University’s Darden College of Education, where I teach interactive, project-based online courses as adjunct faculty. I also have 20 years experience teaching computer courses for the Norfolk Public Schools.

As Instructional Designer, I will provide an array of workshops and training sessions for Thomas Nelson’s faculty and staff. Consultations are available for individuals or groups on any instructional technology need. I have used Blackboard 6 extensively, and look forward to helping our faculty employ sound instructional design principals while providing a technologically advanced, easily-accessible and world class education for our students. I am here to help faculty utilize available technology at Thomas Nelson Community College to add a compelling “third dimension” to their instruction.

To contact me for assistance in planning and implementing the integration of technology into your instruction here at Thomas Nelson, please do so in any of the following ways. I am delighted to be at TNCC, and look forward to working with you at the workshops listed below, and in the future.

Blackboard 5 Restoration Info

Posted on Tuesday, September 13, 2005 - 9:45 am:

The following message was sent to Tech Council, Academic VPs and CSLS initially yesterday evening and with a url correction this morning:
The Blackboard 5 URL be available again to users at 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday, September 13, 2005. We have substantially restored all missing files, but it is possible that there may be some that are still missing in some courses. The restore process has been done incrementally going back a few months at a time, and is in its final stages. Any missing files should be restored in the next few days. Thank you for your patience during this outage. VCCS ITS Client Services Email - mailto:CSsupport@vccs.eduPhone - (804) 423-6757 Fax - (540) 591-5871.

David Carter-Tod ITS -
Client Services Virginia Community College System