Sakai 2.8 Upgrade

Sakai logoThis summer Pomona College’s Sakai administrators will be upgrading The Claremont Colleges’ Sakai server to version 2.8. We’ve been running version 2.7 for several years so we’re looking forward to the bug fixes and new tools that will be available in version 2.8. The Sakai Administration Team (SAT) will be testing the new version on a test server during May and June. The upgrade will take place in early August after summer classes are over.

New tools include a tool called Blogs which will replace the discontinued Blogger tool. The old Blogger tool will no longer be available. Faculty and staff who have old sites with the Blogger tool will no longer be able to access that tool after the upgrade. CIS will be providing documentation on how to export text from the old tool before the upgrade. The new tool is quite similar to the old one and has a very simple and easy to use interface.

The Sakai Administration Team has also decided to add Gradebook2, an alternative to the regular Gradebook tool. The original Gradebook tool will not be going away but will run in tandem with the new tool. Gradebook2 was developed at UC Davis and is similar to Gradebook with some significant new functionality (extra credit items and categories, drop lowest grade item, grade item weighting, excuse individual grade record, etc.) along with some improvements to the user interface.

Profile2 will also been be added when we upgrade to Sakai 2.8. It replaces the old Profile tool in My Workspace. It adds some social networking features and allows users to upload photos of themselves and create more detailed profiles. Users can also create social networks with other Sakai users and send personal messages.

Another new tool is Lessons. Lessons was developed by Rutgers University and is used to structure course content in a sequential or hierarchical manner. Instructors can use the tool to create lessons organized by week or by topic and can link to other Sakai tools like Assignments, Forums, and Tests & Quizzes. Instructors can also allow students to create their own Lessons page and can insert rubrics for peer review. It looks like an exciting new tool that can provide a very different, less tool-centric way of using Sakai.

We’ll be offering workshops on these new tools later this summer so stay posted!

The full list of tools that are being retired includes:

  • Blogger
  • Linker Tool
  • Reports
  • Timeline
  • Evaluation System
  • Modules

The Blogger and Linker Tools are being discontinued by Sakai. The other tools have been available for quite a while and are still available, but SAT has decided to remove them because they are not being used. The only tool that has been used in the past is the Blogger tool, which is being replaced by Blogs. As mentioned above, we will be working with faculty and staff to export any data they have in the Blogger tool since it will not be available once we upgrade.

If you read my news item on the Open Apereo 2013 conference, then you many be wondering why we aren’t upgrading directly to Sakai 2.9. Sakai 2.9 is getting very good reviews and many of the presenters urged institutions to upgrade sooner rather than later. However, after our rather difficult upgrade to Sakai 2.7 a few years ago, the Sakai Administration Team made an informal vow to be more circumspect about upgrading to versions of Sakai that had not been out very long. But there were several other members of SAT at the conference so I expect that we will discuss this option again.

Open Apereo (Sakai) 2013 Conference

Apereo LogoThis week I was in San Diego attending the Open Apereo 2013 Conference in San Diego. Apereo is the new name for the open source community that combines the Sakai and Jasig communities. Jasig is a community that develops open source academic software such as uPortal, CAS (Central Authentication Service) and Bedework (an enterprise calendar system). Last year both organizations voted to combine into a single open source organization called Apereo. The name is a combination of community suggestions, and represents the fusion of two Latin words, “aperto”, which means “open” and “mereo”, meaning merit.

This year’s conference showed a renewed enthusiasm in development on the original Sakai CLE (Collaborative Learning Environment) system. Sakai 2.9 was released to the community recently and has been getting great reviews. With a new, more modern user interface and several new core tools, Sakai 2.9 has been a shot in the arm to the community.

Many of the sessions I attended focused on how institutions have integrated Sakai with other 3rd party tools they are using. The University of Michigan gave a particularly impressive presentation on their Sakai integration of Google Apps for Education. The University of South Alabama gave an overview of the different methods they’ve used to integrate a wide variety of tools including BigBlueButton, Foliotek, ePortfolio, iClicker, Media Gallery, MyMathLabs, ProctorU, Scantron Class Climate, Smarthinking, Turnitin, and iRubric. I also attended several presentations on interesting usage scenarios that other institutions have designed within their instance of Sakai. The University of Virginia uses Sakai’s site template feature in very creative ways for example. When we upgrade Sakai this summer we will have access to two big new tools—Gradebook2 and Lessons—and I attended several sessions devoted to those tools. You can read more about our Sakai upgrade in another news post.

Development on Sakai OAE, now known as Apereo OAE, progresses with support from Marist College, the University of Cambridge, and Georgia Tech. OAE has had a rocky history. Originally envisioned as Sakai 3, a replacement to the original CLE system, the developers quickly realized that rewriting all of the code behind the CLE tools was logistically impossible. They then thought the two systems could run in tandem, in so-called hybrid mode. Last year we saw a real upheaval in the development process with complaints of severe performance problems and the withdrawal of two of the major contributors, the University of Michigan and Indiana University. (Both are still continuing with their development support for Sakai CLE.)

Development of OAE continues, but with a scaled-back focus. The developers pretty much started from scratch in order to fix the performance problems and have decided to abandon the hybrid mode idea. OAE is now designed to run completely separately from Sakai CLE. Sakai CLE will continue to provide the course management tools while OAE will focus on providing an open, permeable collaborative environment, similar to what we already have access to with Google Apps for Education.

Many of the conference sessions were recorded using Google+ Hangouts and published to a YouTube channel. You can find them at http://www.youtube.com/apereo if you are interested in learning more about the topics I’ve mentioned. The conference also used a conference schedule system called Lanyrd, which I really liked. So you can find the full conference schedule with links to presentation materials at http://lanyrd.com/2013/apereo.