How Healthy Is The Sakai Community? Sakai Virtual Conference Highlights

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Last November, Sakai, the most popular open source LMS from the U.S., held its annual conference where participants exchanged knowledge about pedagogy and best practices. The Sakai Conference, held online this time around, highlights the ability to connect with other people from different places and collaborate with them in an intensive way.

This year’s schedule included participatory workshops, online group activities, photo contests and prize drawings. It showcased the friendliness that characterizes the community as it addresses the aspects of learning and teaching with Sakai. Revenues from the conference will go to further Sakai’s development.

From this wise day, we summarized the main conferences.

Commons tool: authentic rather than forced community

It has been a challenge for the educational community to keep up in this virtual world. And according to teachers, traditional, such as forum-based participation methodologies have not proven to be up to the task, unless participation is compulsory. Students do the work but without interest and grudgingly. As a solution, Sakai has the Commons tool, which works as a kind of social network that allows students to make posts with URL extension to answers without threads.

A teacher can use this tool to encourage genuine participation and interaction focused on student learning. Commons does not completely solve the problems of student participation, but it is a valuable tool to introduce the topic of peer interaction. 

That is why Pau Dagnall, from the University of Dayton, shared examples of successful use cases that have had an impact on the improvement of the Commons tool.

Code for PandA and its first certified tool – Comfortable PandA 

Comfortable PandA is an extension for Chromium-based browsers that seeks to enhance students’ learning experiences. This lightning session demonstrated the extension and how it is used with the Sakai assignment tool at Kyoto University. It was developed by a student using Sakai REST APIs, and is currently being used by over 3,000 users at Kyoto to manage assignment status across course sites effectively. Comfortable PandA is certified according to the “Code for PandA” regulation that allows users to use a user developed tool securely. 

If you are interested in using this extension, you can add it to your browser, and for more detailed information check out its official website. (In Japanese.)

The powerful pedagogy of discussion protocols

Hosted by Wilma Hodges, this workshop covered protocols that teachers can use to initiate engaging and attractive asynchronous discussions in online courses. Wilma also talked about tools that can be used in a practical way to create enriching discussion and debate activities that have the bonus of reflection and practice. Finally, practical examples of the use of different protocol scenarios were shared.

Take Sakai to the next level with Tsugi

Tsugi is open source software that allows teachers to build learning sites, tools and content that integrate with LMSs using interoperability standards. 

One of the benefits of open source software is that it allows users to easily adapt new technologies, letting keep learning fun and up to date. The University of Dayton has spent years developing Sakai, and the Tsugi platform has allowed them to extend the functionality to create new avenues of learning, inside and outside Sakai, in a cost-effective and efficient manner. Accordingly, the session focused on the learning and process improvements that the University of Dayton has made with Tsugi and how it has allowed it to be a model for other institutions to follow.

How healthy is the Sakai community? Putting the Open Source Health Factors (OSHF) assessment to use!

Sakai and Longsight are sponsoring a project called Open Source Health Factors. The project tries to answer the question: What makes a healthy open source community? Its first rounds of research identified health factors and developed an assessment to determine if they were present for Sakai. This workshop shared the data and key points generated in the first assessment, and engaged the community that took part in the event by asking questions about the expectations of the project, creating actionable steps that the Sakai community can implement in upcoming assessments.

The Attendance tool: Past, present, and future

The Attendance tool allows the teacher to quickly assign attendance status to students in a course, and the tool’s in-process grades can be added to the site’s gradebook in a single attendance element. Currently the tool has weaknesses that prevent it from becoming a “focus” tool for Sakai and makes it difficult to use on larger Sakai sites. This short session discussed the history, gave an overview of the current state of development, and discussed the future and what the community expects from the tool.

Making exceptions exceptional: A new UI for tests & quizzes date/time limit exceptions

Managing virtual education experiences and platform tools has been a challenge for teachers and students. That is why sometimes when they want to organize their schedule, they need adaptations to have more time or more availability dates to submit evaluations.

There is a function called “Exceptions to Time Limit and Delivery Date” in Test & Quizzes, which was mentioned in the session as indispensable. However, for teachers to add this feature is complicated and confusing, plus it works differently than elsewhere in Sakai, where dates are set.

However, during the recent upgrade of Sakai 20.2 at Virginia University, the user interface was redesigned in order to make it more intuitive and user-friendly for teachers. In this session we discussed the improvements that this function has had and the important details that were taken into account when redesigning it.

Reorganizing with resources

The amount of information and content teachers have to manage and organize is large, which is why this session was about optimizing what teachers can use to organize their lessons. Megan Griffin and Stephanie Laurent from Marist College, also discussed the advantages that teachers have by linking their resource folder on a lesson page. This feature certainly helps and enhances the experiences of students and teachers who use various types of Sakai sites. And finally a course design template for teachers was discussed.

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