Dustin Steinhoff, Staff Writer
As University of Missouri-St. Louis students attempted to access their online reading materials provided through the AutoAccess program on February 18, all they were given were messages saying they were being denied access to their course materials—even if the student opted-in to AutoAccess.
The university-wide outage lasted until February 19, with some students still reporting running into problems until February 21. During the outage, students and faculty alike were unable to access reading materials through Canvas.
The incident happened due to a mistake that occurred when students who had opted-out of the AutoAccess program were to be blocked of their access to the materials after the program’s trial period had ended. While only the students who had opted-out of the program were meant to be removed, all students and faculty members had their access to their materials taken away, regardless if they had opted-out of the program or not.
AutoAccess is a program that automatically provides students the required materials for their class when they enroll, allowing students to access their textbooks online the day classes start. AutoAccess was created through collaboration between the UMSL Triton Store, UMSL professors, and textbook publishers.
UMSL students had until January 30 to opt-out of the AutoAccess program if they decided to purchase their required materials somewhere else. All of the students who did not opt-out of AutoAccess were automatically billed for the required course materials after the official Add/Drop date, February 12.
The AutoAccess program allows students to access their materials through learning management systems such as Canvas and Blackboard. The program also allows students to purchase their materials at a reduced cost compared to other print or digital editions offered. Despite the upsides that AutoAccess provides, this misstep has affected how some people view the service.
A professor in the communication and media department who wishes to remain anonymous was caught off guard by this outage. The professor received emails from a multitude of students who could not access their online books on Sunday. The professor has almost all assignments and quizzes due on Sundays at 11:59 p.m. The assignments require students to cite their information from the textbook and the quizzes are open book, meaning students who were trying to complete their assignments and quizzes on February 18—a Sunday—were at a disadvantage due to the outage.
The professor then had to spend the day returning emails to concerned students, trying to find out the reason for the outage and trying to decide what actions should be taken in regard to the assignments that were due. What made matters worse for the professor was that the Triton Bookstore is closed on Sunday, and those in charge of the AutoAccess program do not have an emergency number that users can contact to resolve issues such as this. The professor did receive an email early on Monday that stated they were working on a resolution to the outage. Since then, the professor said those who worked to resolve the problem have been great and very helpful.
This is the professor’s first semester using the AutoAccess program and while the professor understands that accidents happen, the professor is still disappointed in how the outage was handled. The professor decided to go with AutoAccess this semester because it provided materials to students at lower costs than other means. However, the incident and the hassle it caused the faculty and the students has affected the professor’s opinions on the service.
“I am currently questioning if I will be continuing with [AutoAccess] in the future,” the professor said.
Students who had troubles opening their textbooks through Canvas were told to refresh their browsers and attempt to access it again. Students who are still having issues should email firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.