Course Auto-Archive Retention Policy Change – 3900.58

Blackboard Learn SaaS
Ultra Experience
Original Experience
Impact: Administrators

This change is part of a series of ongoing policy and product changes for automatic course archives in Learn SaaS.

Background on Automatic Course Archives

Learn SaaS creates archives for active courses every day. This process is automatic and lets administrators retrieve data deleted by accident. To align to Service Level Agreements (SLAs), Anthology has always required a minimum 30 days of archives since we released this feature.

In the past, administrators could choose to keep archives longer than 30 days. On large environments, setting a policy longer then 30 days could prevent the automatic backup process from running properly.

Also in the past, clients had to pay for storage for all course archives. We heard from clients that it was unfair to charge storage for the archives we required for the SLA. In response to this feedback, we stopped charging for course archive storage in April 2022. For storage use, we couldn’t distinguish between older archives and the 30-day archives we require for the SLA. Since April 2022, Anthology has also covered storage costs for archives older than 30 days. However, this situation is temporary pending product improvements.

We also found clients relying on older auto-archive packages for long-term, legally required data backups of learner activity. This was not intended and is not recommended. The auto-archive process creates new archives when there is new course activity. Changes to a course will overwrite prior archives after 30 days.

  • Example: An instructor completes a course in 2022. The course is archived automatically. In preparing for teaching that same course again in 2023, the instructor accidentally deletes the student submissions in the 2022 course. In 30 days, the new archive for the 2022 version of the course will overwrite the backup made a year earlier. The student data is gone. Therefore, we recommend storing long-term course archives in a location not associated with daily backup overwrites.

Changes in this release:

  • We removed the archive retention policy configuration in Admin Panel > Course Settings > Automatic Archive Settings. Now the behavior will be consistent on all SaaS environments.
  • If a course still exists in Learn, the process always removes archives older than 30 days.
  • If a course no longer exists in Learn, the process will retain the final archive. This behavior will change in a future release. Administrators should move older archives to another location for long-term storage.
  • If a course is deleted, the process will still create and retain an archive to support recovery after accidental course deletions. As with other automatically-created archives, these archives are valid for 30 days. Older archives will be retained temporarily to support client transitions to other storage locations.  In a future release, these deletion archives will be removed automatically after 30 days. For now, administrators should move these archives to another location for long-term storage before 30 days. Once copied elsewhere, administrators should delete these older archives.

Future plans:

We plan to continue to improve the auto-archive process. As noted above, the next change will be to automatically delete after 30 days archives created by a course deletion. This will correctly align the process to the data retention policy outlined in the Service Level Specifications. In the next phases, we will make it easier for administrators to manage archives and move them to external storage. We will also require older archives to be removed or they will count against storage use. These changes will be announced before they happen.

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