Monday, 17 March 2014

Life on the front-line with the Learning Technologies Team Support Desk

Spring has sprung
Phew - got through it - the ever busy start of a new semester is behind us (just).
The Spring semester brings different problems than the Autumn. September brings a new influx of students and a number of new staff with no knowledge of MOLE.  By February things have settled down and MOLE newbies are a little more comfortable using the software.  And just when you think the dust has settled….many students decide to stir things up a little and change courses.  No problem - this is an automated affair via the ‘Add/Drop’ process which updates a student’s registration record which in turn fires through the changes to MOLE and gives the students access to their new courses.  Only sometimes things don’t go quite to plan and we have just had one such occasion. Lots of students contacted us to ask why their changes were not reflected in MOLE.  We ended up adding them manually to their new courses and hopefully not many were inconvenienced for very long. Investigations showed that a problem with the computer script designed to run the automated process was causing a blip and this was then quickly rectified.

Removing Students from Courses?
Talking of adding students to courses, we are often asked why Course Instructors can add but not remove them from their courses. The reason is that removing a student from a course also removes the students’ submitted work from that course and this is irreversible. Simply re-adding the student does not retrieve their work and so deleting a student in error could be potentially disastrous. To avoid this situation, the facility to remove students has been disabled to Course Instructors. Instead, they should either change the status of the student to 'Unavailable' or send a request to us to remove the student on their behalf - but only if it’s absolutely certain no work has been submitted or that any submitted work is no longer required. This situation also applies where Course Instructors have accidentally added other staff members as students rather than an intended teaching role.

Internet Explorer 11
If you use IE11 to access MOLE, you may have been experiencing problems just recently where a message appears on screen saying IE11 is no longer working and you come to a crashing halt.  This has been caused by a Microsoft update issued in the middle of February which MOLE doesn't seem to like.  Earlier versions of Internet Explorer are not affected. Blackboard are aware of this and are working on a fix but in the meantime it may be better to use a different web browser such as Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox when accessing MOLE.

Other known issues
MOLE Performance
Following some hardware changes, the problems we experienced for several weeks at the end of 2013 have so far not resurfaced on the same scale in 2014.  However we are not complacent and ask that if you do encounter any MOLE slowness, please let us know immediately and remember to tell us which MOLE server you are connected to (this is displayed on the top of every MOLE page)  as this will help us to identify the cause of the problem.  Contact us at

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