Missouri State University

Missouri State selects AppDynamics to monitor Blackboard Learning Management System

Missouri State University is the second largest university in the state of Missouri with more than 20,000 students across six academic colleges, one school of agriculture and one graduate college. They leverage the Blackboard Learning Management System to allow thousands of higher education, K-12, professional, corporate and government organizations to extend teaching and learning online, facilitate campus commerce and security, and communicate more effectively with their communities. Missouri State University relies on Blackboard to support both online and offline courses, making the application's performance critical to 21st century learning at the university.

Challenge: Needed visibility into performance problems

Mike McManus, Enterprise Systems Administrator at Missouri State University, was responsible for the care and management of the Blackboard application at the university. Missouri State used this content management system to handle all course-related materials. Instructors posted syllabi, assignments and classroom announcements on Blackboard. In addition, homework was submitted and assessments were made through Blackboard.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5fLncmaMX4&feature=youtu.be&list=PLbH8EadIRdvKXUuJDsTJLwybnw95WyrUK
“Some of the challenges that we had with Blackboard were in reference to a primary set of monitors that we were recommended to watch,” said McManus. “But when they went askew, we'd have no idea what was going on.” 

“When we'd encounter a performance issue, I would see my indicators max out—and then within 3-4 minutes I'd start to get calls,” McManus continued. “I only knew that something was causing a performance hit on the system, but I had no idea where the problem was.” With no visibility into the root cause of problems, McManus couldn't provide answers on why the application wasn't performing, let alone fix those issues quickly.

Enhanced monitoring with a cost-effective solution

“I've been looking at tools for a couple years to try to enhance the monitors I had in place, and I wasn't able to find anything that was even close to being cost-effective,” said McManus. 

Then he read an article about the AppDynamics solution and decided to check it out. “So I went to the website and started looking at it,” said McManus. “I used the trial version and saw how easy it was to use and actually put on our test system.”

I would definitely recommend AppDynamics to anyone who is responsible for administering Blackboard Learning Management System.

“Using the AppDynamics platform, I can look at the individual nodes in the cluster,” described McManus. “When one of them starts to experience performance issues, I can proactively take it out of the cluster and look at what's going on.”

Gained 24/7 visibility into application performance

McManus found the monitoring capability of the AppDynamics solution to be extremely useful. “I always have it up on my desktop, and it's always on one of my monitors that's off to the side, usually the side where people can look at it as they go by my office,” he said.

I used the trial version and saw how easy it was to use and actually put on our test system.

McManus also used the data gathered by the AppDynamics solution to document system performance at all hours. “So while I can watch it during the day, the solution really comes into play at night or early in the morning if I get a call from someone who says ‘Blackboard wasn't working at 2:00 in the morning—I had students who were having problems,'” said McManus. “I can go back and show proof.” Sometimes a user or browser error affected responsiveness, and McManus was now able to distinguish between system and end-user problems with the AppDynamics solution. 

“I would definitely recommend AppDynamics to anyone who is responsible for administering Blackboard Learning Management System,” advised McManus. “It'll definitely make your life much easier.”