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Minerva maintenance this December - advice for staff

Minerva will be unavailable between 12 noon on Friday, 13 December and 3pm on Tuesday, 17 December as we undertake work to make the service more resilient. You can find up-to-date information about this work on the Minerva blog.

FAQs

The project aims to move, or migrate, Minerva from on-premise hosting to cloud hosting. We are moving to cloud hosting to improve the resilience of the infrastructure and to ensure a better service to our staff and students. Once in the cloud, many aspects of technical support will be provided by Blackboard, who manage the hosting for many universities.

The original plan was to move Minerva to cloud-based hosting in July which is the quietest time of year for the service. Unfortunately, this was not possible, and so the migration element of the project was re-planned for the end of the autumn term. This is the second quietest time of the year for the Minerva service, and precedes the heavy usage period leading to examinations in the new year.

We have looked very hard at the possibility of moving the migration to another date since the announcement of the industrial action. However, it is not possible to complete this work any later in December due to risks to the service when the University is closed, and it is not possible to complete the migration during the University closed period. It is also not possible to wait to complete this migration next July, due to the risks it poses to the live service Minerva offers. Whilst we fully recognise the challenges that the Minerva downtime may bring, this is the only time it can take place.

It is not technically possible to provide a read-only version of Minerva, and as a total copy of the whole system needs to be made to move the system into cloud hosting, we are not able to provide access to the system during the migration. The downtime is as short as possible to minimise disruption to staff and students.

There is a very detailed implementation plan in place, and test migrations have taken place already. However, if anything goes wrong with the migration, we will revert back to the on-premise system and Minerva will be available to staff by 3pm on Tuesday 17 December.

Students have been informed of the downtime and how to manage access to their learning resources via the Student Newsletter and other communications throughout November and December. They have also been advised that schools are making alternative arrangements for any coursework deadlines or essential Minerva access during the downtime period.

If you have any questions not covered by this guidance, please contact your Pro-Dean for Student Education or Director of Student Education in the first instance.

Preparing for the downtime

Assessment deadlines

Any assessment deadlines on and between 12 noon on Thursday 12 December 2019 and 12 noon on Wednesday 18 December should be 'paused' and moved to 12 noon on Wednesday 18 December 2019.

Assessment feedback return should correspond accordingly and be returned to students within the agreed 15 working days of submission on Wednesday 18 December 2019.

Penalties usually accrued due to late submission during the assessment pause will not apply.

Any online tests due to take place during the assessment pause should be rescheduled to a date within term time.

NOTE: the assessment pause will remain in place, even if access to Minerva is restored before 3pm on Tuesday, 17 December.

FAQs

As with all submission dates, students can submit early, and prior to 12 noon on Thursday 12 December. Schools should be sure to enable this.

Minerva is expected to be available until 12 noon on Friday 13 December, but we cannot guarantee submission will be possible during the Assessment Pause period. If students are leaving on Friday 13 December, they are advised to submit prior to the commencement of the Assessment Pause.

Students should submit prior to 12 noon on Thursday 12 December.

If submission is outside Minerva, the original deadline and assessment method can be applied.

Schools should explicitly confirm the date feedback will be given to students for each module. 15 working days from 18 December is 17 January.

There will not be complaints if student expectations are managed, and receiving feedback prior to the vacation should not be an expectation.

If, however, it is School practice to offer feedback to students earlier than the end of the 15 working day period, and Schools wish to continue to offer this in December 2019, students could be advised to submit early, and no later than 12 noon on Thursday 12 December, so that feedback can be provided prior to the Christmas vacation.

Students should not expect to receive individual feedback on a submission on, or following, the last day of term, prior to the January examination period.

Module leaders should give clear guidance as to when and how students will receive feedback, in order to manage expectations. The purpose of providing students with feedback should also be explained and a distinction drawn between different types of assessment process.

Where time is not available to complete individual feedback, module leaders could consider providing early feedback to the group and deploying other formative feedback strategies.

The extended Assessment Pause period around the downtime is intended to act as a buffer - this allows any late submissions for assignments with deadlines earlier in the week to be completed before the Pause and allows staff time to download or mark before Minerva is made unavailable.

The Assessment Pause extends beyond the expected return of Minerva as a contingency measure, should the migration require it.

Marking

While Minerva is unavailable you won't be able to access assessments that have been submitted by your students, nor will you be able to upload marks.

You can use the free Turnitin iPad app to mark papers offline, but this must be set up before 12 noon on Friday 13 December. When Minerva is made available again you can sync marks by re-opening the app and connecting to wi-fi. For more information about the Turnitin iPad app, see our guide (please note this app only works on Apple iPads and will not work on other devices, such as iPhones or Android tablets).

If you wish to mark physical copies of assignments, please be sure to download them before 12 noon on Friday 13 December.

Collaborate webinars

Any Collaborate webinars scheduled to take place between Friday 13 December 2019 and Wednesday 18 December need to be rearranged so they can be delivered outside of Minerva. Contact the IT Service Desk if you need help with this.

Teaching materials and Lecture Capture

You won't be able to upload or download teaching materials while Minerva is unavailable. Reading lists are available to view via the Library website, but will not be editable. You will still be able to access Lecture Captures by logging in directly to the Lecture Capture and Media Management Service. By default students will not be able to view Lecture Captures while Minerva is unavailable, but they can be shared. For information about how to share Lecture Captures, read the Knowledge Base article on the IT website.

Top Hat

Top Hat will still be available online for use by staff, to both create questions and discussions and present them in class, however some functionality will be unavailable while Minerva is down for maintenance:

  • Users will not be able to launch Top Hat courses from Minerva
  • Top Hat will not be able to sync the roster from an associated Minerva module or organisation. Students can still be added to course by following advice on the Top Hat support website
  • Top Hat will not be able to return marks to the Minerva Grade Centre. Student's results in Top Hat quizzes are recorded in the Top Hat Gradebook. These marks can be exported to a spreadsheet or can remain in Top Hat. Staff can delay the upload or sync until the Minerva downtime period has ended. For more information, see the Top Hat support website

These functions will resume when Minerva is made available again after the downtime.

Student access

Students have been provided with advice on what to do while Minerva is unavailable. They will still be able to access reading lists and past exam papers and consult their January exam timetable by using direct links.

Accessing other University systems

Many of the systems you usually access through Minerva are available through other routes using the links below: