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When Tech Woes Rain Down

The last week has been a tech nightmare.

My university switched its email/calendar provider in the middle of the semester and in the middle of the week. On Tuesday night, IT moved students, administrators, and faculty from Google Apps for Education to Microsoft Office 365. But the move to MS has been limited to email/calendar - for now. The rest of the band-aid comes off at some unspecified future date. After spending nearly a year communicating to the community that we're moving to Google Apps for Education (from a woefully outdated and undersupported local solution that many still used), the leadership changed course almost instantly.

Impact on me: At least 10 hours of lost productivity as I worked to re-cobble together a unified solution to bring my mail and calendaring together into my mail and calendar clients in a way that enables me to share my availability with my wife. Did I mention this happened in the middle of the week and in the middle of the term!

More important than the email/calendar insanity is the impact of the switch on my department's student learning and assessment plans. After embracing Google Apps (because we're a Google Apps university) and planning to launch a major ePortfolio initiative in Google Sites, the whiplash-quick pivot from Google left me holding a bag of, well, nothing. With a colleague requiring ePortfolio in our pilot course, I could NOT in good conscience move forward with a platform I knew would be deprecated once the MS migration was complete. (Goodbye Google Sites template for student ePortfolios!) Result: Two crazy days trying to decide on another solution.

Enter WordPress! After pricing a non-university hosting solution, I was able to work out an arrangement with the university to host student ePortfolios in a WordPress Network installation on site.  This is, frankly, the best solution for us because it keeps the project in a .edu domain, it is a platform with which I'm familiar, and it has real portability for students after they graduate. And WordPress is much more than a blog tool these days. We're implementing a full-on CMS.  The whole thing would be ideal, but our rollout timeline is, unfortunately, quite compressed since we have ePortfolio running in a class right now!

As if this weren't enough for a week, today I received a "vulnerable script" warning from my own web host. After some digging, it turns out that my archived WordPress-based course websites now need to be upgraded to close some security loopholes in 2.x versions of WordPress.  This looming upgrade headache and CSS update has me pondering the value of maintaining live, visible course archives in the first place. Nice.

Hopefully, this set of three significant headaches will mean the pox has moved on to someone else.