Thursday, 8 December 2011

SafeAssign not Returning Plagiarism Score Reports

We have received notification from Blackboard that the SafeAssign plagiarism software has had a technical problem and was taken offline to be reconfigured.  The service is now backup and running, but a large backlog of submission has occurred.

This means that if you have had or have due, student submissions, the plagiarism reports will not be produced as quickly as normal, we have had some reports taking over 24 hours at present.

Unfortunately there isn't anything that can be done to speed up the process, we just need to wait for the reports to arrive.

Sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.


I have just received more detail from Blackboard:
SafeAssign is experiencing regular delays due to load on the system. In one sense, the cause of these delays is quite simple: the rate of papers being submitted exceeding the speed with which SafeAssign can process papers. Submissions go into a queue, and are processed in a first-in, first-out order. When the submissions are entering the queue faster than they are processed, a backlog builds up. Normally, SafeAssign catches up on that backlog when the submission rate drops below the processing rate. However, because of record high usage we've been pretty consistently running over capacity 24 hours a day for several weeks now (except for the Thanksgiving weekend). So the system never fully has the time to catch up, resulting in turnaround times of 12-24 hours in many instances.

Given projections from historical usage, the significant delays of 12-24 hours or more will continue through the first week of December and then rapidly ease off in mid-December as the semester closes. Clients should expect that they will not see any significant improvement in turnaround times before mid-December.

From a development perspective, the current focus on SafeAssign is scalability and improving turnaround time of submissions. In 2011-2012, we have a two-phase project to improve performance. Phase 1, executed over the summer, was replacement, upgrade, and expansion of the entire hardware environment in which SafeAssign runs. This was necessary to assure being able to move SafeAssign forward. However new/additional hardware is not the sole solution to the problem, as some bottlenecks in processing are a result of the application itself. The second phase, underway this fall and into 2012, is a detailed performance analysis of the SafeAssign application itself to determine the bottlenecks in the processing that continue to create backlogs/slowdowns, and to identify the associated development effort to rectify those bottlenecks.

There are some improvements that have already been identified. We will be put these initial improvements in place as soon as possible. At this time, though, we are not able to quantify the impact of these planned changes on turnaround time, as the performance analysis is ongoing.

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