CTL Blog

A Rebuild of the Class Email Tool

October 05, 2021 | 2 Minute Read

The class email tool is a core part of any CoursePlus site. CoursePlus often sends over 10,000 email messages a day using this tool. The tool itself was built before 2010, using code and toolsets that are now quite out-of-date. Over the years, this led to odd user interface problems, particularly around selecting recipients for a message, and difficult to debug one-off issues with sending messages.

The CoursePlus team has rebuilt the class email tool from the ground up using modern toolsets. This has a number of long-term benefits:

  • Faster performance, particularly in large classes.
  • Improved responsiveness when selecting email filters.
  • Improved long-term reliability, with fewer bugs.
  • Easier debugging and observability for the CoursePlus development team.

The new class email tool looks almost identical to the previous version of the tool. There is no re-learning of the interface or changes in expected actions. There are two functional improvements in the new version of the class email tool that did not exist in the old one:

  1. All message attachments are now stored in AWS S3 (Simple Storage Service). This allows us to store larger files, for a longer period of time, than the old system.
  2. If “Students” is selected in the recipient list drop-down, the message is automatically flagged to be shown on the class email archive page. (Previously, only selecting “Everyone” from the recipient list drop-down would cause the “Display on class email archive” flag to be automatically selected.)

The class email tool still uses the same system for the actual delivery of emails. This high-performance system operates within the strict guidelines of sending messages through the Johns Hopkins email gateways. Restrictions on sending emails through the Johns Hopkins email gateways sometimes results in a delay of a few minutes from the time a message is sent until the time that the message appears in the recipient email inbox. There is no real way around this delay as we must operate within the JHU restrictions.

The rebuild of the class email tool sets the foundation for another decade of reliability. Some of the modern code toolsets used in this project will work their way into upcoming revisions to other modules in CoursePlus.

As always, if you have questions or concerns about the class email tool in CoursePlus, please contact CTL Help!