Desire2Learn Outage Review, Evaluation and Strategic Path Forward

Last Updated: 08/08/2013


This website provides comprehensive information regarding the outages, evaluations and decisions for changes as well as path forward to ensure the campus has a technology environment with the stability and reliability needed to appropriately support teaching and learning activities of the campus.

D2L Outage Review, Evaluation and Strategic Path Forward (downloadable PDF)


D2L is CU-Boulder’s primary Online Learning Environment (OLE). In the spring 2013 semester, approximately 2,445 university courses relied on D2L, affecting over 25,433 students. Early in the spring 2013 semester, CU-Boulder was impacted by two significant outages of the Desire2Learn (D2L) collaborative learning environment, which also affected a many of D2L’s other clients.

The first outage occurred on January 16, 2013, and caused faculty members to be unable to log into the D2L system in order to distribute course materials, communicate with students and assess student learning. Similarly, students were unable to access their new courses, participate in learning activities or download course content. This outage imposed an unacceptable negative and chilling impact on the daily teaching and learning activities and educational mission of CU-Boulder at the critical start of the semester.

Subsequently, a multi-day outage, from January 29 to February 1, again significantly impacted the ability for faculty and students to use D2L in support of their teaching and learning activities. Once more, faculty and students were unable to access any aspect of D2L, causing an unacceptable negative impact to the campus.

In addition to these two significant outages, additional D2L outages and/or service issues, such as system slowness, impacted faculty and students during the fall semester of 2012 and the spring semester of 2013. (See the “Timeline of service issues and outages” section for specific details.)

Given the many system issues culminating in the January 29 to February 1 outage, CU-Boulder’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) recognized the serious, systemic issues with D2L as a vendor and sought to further evaluate the ongoing issues with the D2L system and company and to assess the path forward for the future.

The information regarding the outages, evaluations, decisions, and path forward have been captured in the sections outlined below:

Section I: Timeline of service issues and outages: 

A comprehensive snapshot of D2L service issues that caused either a disruption (i.e., significant slowness of the system) or an outage in the fall of 2012 and spring of 2013. Included in this snapshot is planned and emergency service maintenance that was necessary to keep D2L stable during this timeframe.

Section II: OIT and media communications about the two most significant D2L outages that occurred on Jan. 16, 2013, and on January 29 to February 1, 2013: 

A reference of executive communications issued to the campus regarding both outages. For the January 29 to February 1 outage, there is also a listing of local news coverage, given this second outage affected approximately 25 percent of the D2L company’s clients and garnered national media attention.

Section III: Summarized feedback from faculty and students: 

Client feedback from proactive feedback sessions OIT held with students and faculty, following the January 29 to February 1, 2013 outage. In addition, this section includes a summary of feedback received through many channels, including through the OIT website, email, voicemail, Facebook and Twitter, as well as shared directly with the CIO and OIT team members.

Section IV: Historical information regarding the initial selection of D2L: 

A synopsis of the process and rationale of why CU-Boulder initially selected and implemented D2L.

Section V: D2L evaluation after major outages:

A synopsis of the evaluation activities related to the potential self-hosting of D2L versus continuing to host the system with the vendor.

  • D2L Audit and On-Site Visit by OIT Technical Staff
  • CU-Boulder Hosting versus D2L Hosting
  • Risk Analysis of Self-Hosting versus D2L Hosting

Section VI: Strategic path forward and steps to get there: 

A summary of the discussions with the committee and the conclusions, final decisions and steps to move forward.