Newsportal - Ruhr-Universität Bochum
Promising start suddenly interrupted by hacker attack
Switching to digital teaching in the summer semester 2020 was a tour de force for RUB researchers. As it happened suddenly and unexpectedly, preparing for it required much greater effort than usual. This makes the results of a survey among RUB lecturers, which was conducted in the third week after lectures had commenced and whose evaluation is now available, all the more gratifying. The overwhelming majority of lecturers who took part in the survey were satisfied with their own implementation of online teaching.
“What our teachers have achieved in such a short time since mid-March is extraordinary,” says Professor Kornelia Freitag, Vice Rector for Teaching and International Affairs. “They showed great personal commitment and a willingness to take risks in order to accomplish the changeover. Following this first stocktaking, we’ll be able to identify even more precisely where any potential problems lie and where further support is required.”
The detailed report of the teacher survey on online-based teaching in the summer semester 2020 is available on the Internet.
While the survey among approx. 3,000 teachers was still ongoing, a large-scale cyber attack on RUB took place in the night from 6 to 7 May 2020. Even though the core systems Moodle, Sciebo, Zoom and OpenCast have remained operational and teaching could continue as usual, both teachers and students were affected.
Electronic communication processes, which were strained in any case, were even more weakened and even came to a standstill. Data losses, blocked servers, interrupted email traffic, disruptions in exam registration and the delay in the recently commenced upgrade of Moodle and the optimisation of RUB-Mail, made a difficult situation even more stressful.
How is RUB dealing with the situation?
But despite the frustration, RUB teachers are still looking for and finding ways to continue teaching. At the same time, the supporting institutions are working tirelessly on solutions, for example by moving thousands of email accounts to a still functioning internal RUB system (RUB-Mail) and by gradually reactivating the administrative systems. Once again, many areas are being reorganised: faculties and central research institutions are making registration deadlines and conditions for examinations and theses more flexible.
“Seldom have our technical, physical and psychological limits been made so clear to us as they were during this crisis-in-crisis,” says Vice Rector Freitag. “But I have great respect for all university members who – after the initial shock – are doing everything in their power to continue teaching and research despite all adverse circumstances and, in particular, who ensure that studies and teaching can continue as usual. And so the results of the teacher survey remain vital.
The free-text feedback from the 403 answer sheets that were saved before the hacker attack is currently being evaluated, and first conclusions have already been drawn.
First consequences: an upgrade of Moodle and an increase of the aid fund
The survey clearly showed that many users were dissatisfied with the performance of Moodle. As a result, a major intervention was made and the server infrastructure was completely rebuilt. This should bring a performance boost that will be continuously expanded over the next weeks.
The aid fund for teachers with family responsibilities (caring for relatives, looking after younger children) was also increased once again, in order to enable teachers to request support at short notice.
Further consequences, such as new dedicated curricula at Centre of Academic Didactics, will be implemented in the next few days.
19 May 2020