Daemen Students Can Finally Relax

Long awaited improvements to WebAdvisor are finally in effect

By Brittany Bandinelli

 

 

 

 

 

I’m sure if you’ve been a Daemen student long enough, you’ve had your fair share of ups and downs, (well, maybe mostly just downs), while using WebAdvisor, the college registration program.

 

I'm reminded of my most recent experience in November, in which I ritually prepared my laptop for the high-anxiety task of registering for classes.

 

I had everything prepared, all my classes properly advisor-approved, and reviewed carefully the amount of spaces left in each class I needed.   With almost every class necessary for my program, the stakes were high.  My biggest worry: a coveted spot in Dr. Nason-Churchill’s fanstasy literature class, with only eight out of 15 spots left at the end of senior registration.

 

But, I was prepared.  The clock struck midnight AND… frozen.  WHAT?! RELOAD!  RELOAD!  RELOAD!  WHY CAN’T I EVEN LOG IN???  I’M NEVER GOING TO GRADUATE ON TIME!  MOM, MY LIFE IS OVER!  RELOAD!

 

About 3 a.m. I gave up and resolved to try again later that day.  And everything turned out fine.

 

The same situation occurred again during both the sophomore and freshman registration days.  With so many students frustrated with WebAdvisor, chaos ensued.  Some students argued registration was unfair, seeing as many were unaware of the time WebAdvisor began working again, and therefore could not compete to get into desired classes and class sections.

 

So the general opinion seems to be the same: WebAdvisor sucks.  So bad, in fact, that a group of students were prompted to create and join a Facebook group named “Dear WebAdvisor, F*** YOU. Love, Daemen Students.”  The WebAdvisor crashes were devastating; more devastating than the epic Facebook freeze of 2010, and more annoying than Time Warner Cable not warning their customers when they are “running tests” and that your Internet won’t work for 2 hours.

 

But there is great news for the Daemen College community.  WebAdvisor Version 3.1 has undergone “massive change,” according to Brian Wilkins, Daemen’s Director of Information Resources Management (IRM).  Wilkins' job includes responsibility for maintaining the WebAdvisor program.

 

On Wednesday, Feb. 9, technicians from WebAdvisor’s software company, Datatel, came to work with Daemen’s IRM department to run stress tests on the system, using a server performer testing tool known as a jmeter. 

 

What students have experienced in the past is a massive overload on the multiple pricey servers already necessary to run WebAdvisor.  When hundreds of students are attempting to use WebAdvisor at the same time, the load on the program becomes too much to handle. 

In November, when WebAdvisor completely stopped responding, Wilkins said that the program had reached its “choke point.”  It was estimated that in the fall that 470 freshmen all tried to access WebAdvisor at the same time when it crashed.  Wilkins went on to explain that when, let’s say, 50 people clicked their mouse all at once, WebAdvisor “hit a wall” and that it “basically froze,” explaining why so many people were unable to register until the system recovered later that morning.

 

Wilkins likened the WebAdvisor problem to another situation that occurred at Target on Black Friday. The automatic doors accidently trapped one man from getting into the store, but the problem worsened as hundreds of other people behind the man were also trying to push their way into the store at the same time.  He explained that the problem was a lack of space, or memory in computer terms, and consequently “everything just gets stuck at the door.”

 

Ever since the last registration period, WebAdvisor has been revamped to reach its full potential.  Stress tests have been performed to see if the server could handle 50 users, 100 users, 200 users, 300 users, and even 900 users at one time.  In the 900-user test, the staff calculated a remarkable 80% success rate within a reasonable amount of time.  Response time has been decreased from 4.5 seconds/200 users to 1.9 seconds/200 users. 

 

With such great success rates and response times during the stress tests on WebAdvisor, Wilkins expressed optimism that the next registration period will go off without a hitch.  He explained that if every single computer on the campus were to access WebAdvisor at once, it could actually be successful within seconds thanks to the new improvements.

 

WebAdvisor takes great coordination on the behalf of the Registar, Student Accounts, and the IRM department.  Many administrators have wondered if the registration process was the correct one, and indeed the four-class seniority system is the best and fairest solution. 

Wilkins mentioned one big registration scheduling change: “Sophomore and freshman class registration won’t be happening at midnight.  We want to set it for 6 or 7 a.m.”  In making this change, Wilkins said that he and other offices could then be on campus to respond to any technical problems and also be able to address widespread student concern by e-mail in the case of an emergency.

 

With confirmation from Datatel that all possible improvements have been made, the IRM department has a positive attitude that registration will be better this semester.  “We are running smoothly on a 200 user stress test,” says Wilkins, “in December it was only 50.” 

 

As all us Daemen students know, the true test for WebAdvisor’s improvements will occur in April!    

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