Scriba Disaster: Sakai-based LMS for UC Davis is down with no plans for recovery

In what might shape up as one of the worst LMS outages in recent history, UC Davis has been working without an LMS for the past week and does not expect their vendor to fix the problems before the end of the term. UC Davis uses a version of Sakai hosted by the LMS remnants of rSmart. In 2013 rSmart sold it’s Sakai-supporting LMS business to Asahi Net International, and in 2015 a private equity firm – Vert Capital – bought ANI and renamed it Scriba. Scriba hosts the Sakai LMS for UC Davis which has branded it as SmartSite.

UC Davis is on the quarter system, with the last week of class next week (May 31) and finals the week of June 6. A few months ago UC Davis announced their intention to migrate to Canvas as their LMS. SmartSite subsequently went down on May 19th, and all signs are pointed to a complete and final outage. Scriba will not answer the phones (you get a message that the mailbox is full), and UC Davis staff are making a heroic attempt to in-house recreate LMS tools and even to recover grades that had been entered on SmartSite.

UC Davis staff have replaced the portal with a page telling faculty some methods to replace the LMS or go to Canvas early.


There is no expectation for a repair by the vendor.

On May 24th the UC Davis internal team sent this message to faculty and staff:

We are working on extracting data from the SmartSite database. Our priority is to retrieve gradebook data for this quarter, and to make that information available to instructors as soon as possible. We are providing support for faculty to use alternatives to manage course materials for the rest of the quarter.

This, folks, is a disaster. There is an interesting angle here in that Sakai is open source yet data is not easily recoverable. We will share more here at e-Literate as we find out new information.

Update: Removed Buzzfeed post as unverified and not necessary for story.

Update: Clarified that no expectation of repair by the vendor and that branding comes from UCD. Also adding the update from evening of May 26th.

Progress continues on the Web interface to access grades. We expect that it will be available Friday (May 27).

In addition, we have had a team working to build a local instance of SmartSite. This evening, the campus is completing internal testing on this limited version. A small group of selected faculty members will begin testing this version Friday morning. Depending on their results, we anticipate having this version available to spring 2016 instructors of record over the weekend. All of the content faculty have in SmartSite should be available to them.

Please note that students will not have SmartSite access. While our goal remains to restore full access, this initial limited, local instance will only have capacity to support faculty access.

Update: See this post for update on what happened and unconfirmed restoration of the system.

I’ve been told by two sources that the UC Davis LMS outage I described in this post may be over, and the SmartSite LMS is back online (SmartSite is UC Davis’ implementation of Sakai, hosted by Scriba). I would like to update what we know about the overall situation while we wait for additional confirmation. The following is based on my conversations with a Scriba inside source who asked to remain anonymous, a student at UC Davis, the LISTedTECH team whose database powers our new LMS subscription service, some commenters from the blog post, and a more thorough review of the UC Davis IT status site. And I should point out that UC Davis team has done an excellent job in communications – timely messages with no defensiveness, and full transparency.

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About Phil Hill

Phil is a consultant and industry analyst covering the educational technology market primarily for higher education. He has written for e-Literate since Aug 2011. For a more complete biography, view his profile page.
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