Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sporadic Site Slowness, 8/29

Last night (8/29) we experienced sporadic site slow-downs for many users from approximately 7:13 pm CDT to 10:29 pm CDT. This was caused by an unoptimized configuration setting on our servers which capped the number of users allowed to access the site at any one time. The issue has been resolved, and the site is now running faster than it ever has.

We're extending due dates by 24 hours for students who might have been affected by the slow-downs.

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please contact your TechTA (for instructors) or support@saplinglearning.com (for students). We apologize for any frustration the slowness may have caused.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Sapling Learning v1.18 Release Notes

Last week, we released several new features to both the US and Canadian higher-education servers. A lot of the changes in this update were behind-the-scenes, but these are the things you might notice:

  • Instructor Quick-Edit on Activities and Due Dates: Instructors can now edit all of the settings (except "Description") for every assignment in your course at once from the "Activities and Due Dates" page. This should be helpful if you want to change the policies for several assignments at once, for example. We also added a "Save All" button on that page to commit all of your updates (the changes you made don't "stick" until you click the individual save icon for each one or the "Save All" button at the bottom).
Course Settings
  • Subject and Term: We now explicitly track the Subject and Term (1st semester of  2, 2nd quarter of 3, etc) for courses, so that we can offer better statistics in future updates.
  • Name Changes: Users can now request name changes after account creation. We changed this to a by-request system to help combat a way we knew might work for cheating purposes, but which it doesn't look like any students had discovered; now they'll never get a chance.
  • User Institution Settings: On sign-up, we now ask users to choose their Institution (college, university, etc) instead of to tell us their City, State, and Country. We're putting this in place to allow us to streamline the account-creation and course-selection process for the Spring. We'll also start suggesting the appropriate timezone to users based on their institution to help avoid a rare but annoying issue (when students select the wrong timezone and are therefore told the wrong time for due dates).
  • Cleaner Login: The Canada server received the Facebook login fixes and the updated login-box look.
  • New Payment System: We completed overhauled the back-end to handle payments in our system. This will allow us to make several improvements (such as the multi-course discounts described below). The thing you're most likely to encounter right now is that we can upload rosters to enroll students in a course even with for-pay courses now.
  • Easier Refunds: We updated our refund system to make it easier for us (or even instructors) to grant refunds to students. After we get a few more safeguards in place, we'll also be able to open up self-directed refunds to students (so they'll be able to request a refund within 60 days of purchase and receive the refund immediately).
  • Grace Periods: Students now have two weeks to use most courses for free before they have to pay. We hope this will make things easier for students who later drop the course (they can simply use the course without paying if they aren't sure, then only pay when they've made their final decision).
  • Multi-Course Discounts: We can now offer a discount for students who purchase multiple quarters or semesters of a course at once (for example, for $29.99 courses, students can purchase two semesters at $49.99 and save $9.99).
Let us know at feedback@saplinglearning.com if you have any comments about these or any other features, or especially if you have an idea for a neat new feature. We're constantly developing new features, and we have a very long list of things we'd like to do, but it never hurts to hear what people want.