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‘Is Carmen for the future?’ University Senate discusses possible replacement

The OSU University Senate meets in Drinko Hall on Nov. 20. From left: Steve Huefner, Michael Drake, Tim Gerber. Credit: Amanda Etchison / Senior Lantern reporter

The OSU University Senate meets in Drinko Hall on Nov. 20. From left: Steve Huefner, Michael Drake, Tim Gerber.
Credit: Amanda Etchison / Senior Lantern reporter

University officials are looking into finding a possible alternative to Carmen.

A committee made up of more than 50 faculty and student members is set to meet early next year to discuss the possibility of switching to a new system other than Carmen. The committee will present its findings in May, Mike Hofherr, vice president and chief information officer, said at a University Senate meeting on Thursday afternoon.

“We have an evaluation committee that is slated to kick off in January,” he said. “They will have five months to decide what other products (besides Carmen) are out there.”

But a complete changeover would not be instantaneous. If the committee recommends adopting a new product, the process could take anywhere from 14 to 24 months, Hofherr said.

Carmen, which is used for file sharing, quizzes and grade postings between professors and students, is Ohio State’s rebranded version of Desire2Learn, a data-driven integrated learning platform.

The discussion of Carmen at the meeting was in direct response to a recent outage of the website, said Tim Gerber, secretary of University Senate and professor in the School of Music. He did say, however, that the committee was set to look at alternatives before the outage.

The website was taken offline Nov. 9 after a routine expansion of storage space on the website encountered an error. The website remained offline for six days — causing many professors to reschedule course deadlines — and interrupted students’ studies.

The database — which stores a significant amount of course materials, including grades, quizzes, announcements and discussions — was not affected by the outage, but the file server that stores all uploaded files was.

The ODEE website said that files uploaded before Nov. 3 were recovered, however, files uploaded in Carmen’s dropbox, content, news or discussions between Nov. 3-8 might be missing.

Hofherr said he and his team decided to make the update to Carmen that ultimately caused the error after realizing that the amount of data stored was reaching the critical storage limit of the website.

“We ate up more (storage space) than we estimated,” he said. “That storage tripped a capacity limit. We should have known what the cap was. There was a hidden cap of 16 terabytes. So we were going over that cap of 16 terabytes.”

At the time of the update, Carmen had 14.6 terabytes of stored data, Hofherr said.

The limited storage capacity of Carmen is something the committee will consider when looking at alternative products, Hofherr added. The website hosts approximately 6,700 active courses and more than 22 million files are stored in the Carmen system.

“Storage is a problem. The size of Carmen is a problem and it is something that we all need to start to address,” Hofherr said. “If this continues, at some point Carmen is going to be 28 terabytes (or) 50 terabytes and if this happens again, then the backup will take longer.”

Joseph Steinmetz, executive vice president and provost, also spoke at the University Senate meeting about the future of Carmen.

“These are all things that I think we need to look at,” he said. “How we deliver instruction, how we handle storage and the larger issues like, ‘Is Carmen for the future?’”

Hofherr said while the team has assembled a potential “roadmap” that details steps to enhance Carmen’s infrastructure and reliability, switching to a new system will be further discussed following the review committee’s report in May.

“All of this has been on our roadmap because we bought Carmen about 7 or 8 years ago,” he said. “It is about time that we re-evaluate the marketplace.”

Correction Nov. 21, 2014

An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Carmen is OSU’s rebranded version of BrightSpace when in fact, Carmen is a rebranded version of Desire2Learn. BrightSpace is another product of Desire2Learn. An earlier version of this story also incorrectly said at the time of an update, Carmen had 18.6 terabytes of stored data when in fact, there were 14.6 terabytes of data.

One comment

  1. We don’t need a new system, we just need you all to not cause Carmen to crash through negligence (i.e. not paying %150 for an extra terabyte of space)

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