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May 10, 2010 | by  | in News |
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Computer Says No

Otago says no too

Otago students found themselves locked out of Blackboard after the University of Otago took action against students with unpaid debts, and a few other unfortunate souls who hadn’t done anything wrong.

The Blackboard blackout was the university’s response to rising numbers of students who have failed to pay monies owed. This includes those with unpaid library fines and Student Health bills that are overdue.

The cut-off severely affected students, with some unable to access Blackboard during labs, and others unable to complete assignments, resulting in a loss of credit.

Director of Academic Services John Price says “The university’s Fees Office has been sending communications (letters and emails) to the students who are debtors but in many cases there has been no response from the students concerned.”

This ‘advisement’ took the form of a slip inserted into letters demanding payment.

Critic learned that in some instances students did not receive the insert, and the cut-off came as a complete surprise.

More worryingly, there were reports that a computer ‘glitch’ resulted in some students being cut-off despite not owing money, or owing only inconsequential sums.

Critic was told that the glitch meant that those who had only small sums owing, below the demarcation line for the cut-off of services, were also barred from Blackboard.

The university will not say where they have drawn the line above which services were cut. The glitch was rectified, and those students who owed only small sums had their access reinstated.

OUSA attempted to get the university to reinstate access for all students for a week, to give people time to arrange payments. However, the university denied this request.

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