by ABIGAIL SLAUGHTER
On March 29, Self-Service Banner, a software that provides students the ability to register online for courses, experienced a two-hour outage during course registration. This period of downtime was the first of its kind in 2022, impacting some students’ ability to register for their fall 2022 semester classes.
“The Banner problems that occurred March 29 were not specific to registration. There was an overall system problem that affected all Banner processes,” said Ben Kjar, associate director of Enterprise Application Services, which helps manage Banner and its interfaces. “Banner is typically a stable system and the problem on March 29 was the first of its kind to occur in 2022.”
Many of the students affected were rising seniors, who were locked out of Banner and could not register for the classes they needed to graduate.
“Students, faculty and staff began experiencing problems accessing Banner between 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.,” said Hall Cheshire, the chief information officer who is responsible for the strategy, implementation and management of technology at UMW. “The downtime affected any student with earned hours between 60 – 89.99.”
Emily Gurney, a junior math major, tried to register for classes at 8 a.m. to no avail. It took her a total of three hours to complete course registration.
“At first, I was able to put in all my classes and it looked like it was going to work,” said Gurney. After first attempting to register, her screen went blank and did not allow her to continue.
Gurney had an 8 a.m. class that day, which she missed in order to figure out how to get all of the classes and resolve the technical difficulties preventing her from doing so. She repeatedly tried logging out and logging back into Banner, having the same outcome.
Although Gurney’s screen simply went blank, other students affected by the shutdown received this error message: “A server call failed with error code ‘SyntaxError: Unexpected token u in JSON at position 0’. You may need to reload the page to continue.”
“I just started to log out for a few minutes and just wait patiently,” said Gurney. She completed registration at 11 a.m. that same day.
Many UMW students were not sure why the site was not allowing them to complete the registration process, with some thinking that the outage was caused by high volumes of traffic on Banner and others wondering if their hold had been lifted off of their account.
At 8 a.m., Enterprise Application Services was alerted that there was a problem with class registration through Banner.
“The IT Department immediately contacted Ellucian, the company that hosts Banner, to work together to troubleshoot and resolve the problem,” said Cheshire.
Julian Burke, a junior biomedical science major, tried to register for classes at 8 a.m. as well. After waiting for approximately 10 minutes for the time ticket to go away, he selected all of his classes but ran into problems.
“The classes I chose were not processing,” said Burke. Banner would not complete the registration process, leaving him with a loading screen that would not go away.
After attempting to log into Banner again during his 10 a.m. class, Burke discovered the function had been restored to Banner, so he logged back in to try and register again.
“I was able to get all the classes I needed within seconds,” he said.
Although this particular instance of downtime is the first of its kind, Banner has experienced technical difficulties in the past. To date, the Banner page on the UMW website still advises site visitors to clear their cache and quit their browser before logging into Banner from when the old Banner hyperlink broke earlier in the spring semester.
At 9:52 a.m. that day, Edward Gray, Co-Manager of IT Support Services at UMW, sent out an email to students and faculty saying that they were aware of Banner’s unresponsiveness.
“They should have the system back up and stable shortly. Once the system comes back up, you may need to clear your browser history to resolve any residual issues,” said Gray in the March 29 email.
Gray sent an update at 11:26 a.m., stating that Banner should be functional again and telling students to try clearing their browser history prior to contacting the Help Desk.
Course registration is no longer separated into hourly time slots, which previously consisted of smaller groups of students registering for class. Currently, fewer time slots are utilized, forcing larger groups of students to register at the same time.
After the issue was resolved, rising seniors were able to register.
“In the math major, there’s a number theory class, and I tried to take it last fall and it filled up,” said Gurney. “[The class] did end up filling up later on Tuesday, so I’m really grateful I ended up getting it.”