WebLearn unavailable on Tuesday 4th August 2015 from 7-9am

cisco-routerWe plan to upgrade WebLearn to version 2.10-ox4 on Tuesday 4th August 2015 7-9am. There will be no service during this period.

We apologise for any inconvenience that this essential work may cause.

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Sakai Has Greater User Satisfaction Than Moodle or Canvas



I saw an interesting report into customer satisfaction of Learning Management Systems (aka VLEs) by the G2 crowd today which shows that there is a higher satisfaction amongst Sakai (WebLearn) users than amongst Moodle or Canvas users.

I know the sample size is fairly small but it still means that we’re doing something right!

G2 Crowd‘s strap-line is “Compare the best business software with G2 Crowd’s industry-leading review platform”

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Now Open! Call for Proposals for the Sakai Virtual Conference 2015



Here’s an announcement about this year’s Sakai Virtual Conference which is to be held in the afternoon and evening of Wednesday 4th November. (Sakai is of course the software upon which WebLearn is based.) 

It would be fabulous if Oxford could build upon the success of Lucy Tallents’ TWSIA 2015 Award and showcase some more of the most excellent work that is taking place at Oxford. The central WebLearn team will be very happy to support and individuals or teams who plan to submit a proposal.

Even if you don’t propose a virtual session, why not mark the date in your diary and plan to attend the conference? As noted above, due to the difference in time zones, the conference will start in the afternoon and run into the evening, however, there is no compulsion to attend every minute of the conference!

Now Open! Call for Proposals for the Sakai Virtual Conference 2015

You are invited to submit a proposal for this year’s Sakai Virtual Conference! The premise of the virtual conference is simple: An On-line, Sakai Teaching and Learning focused conference to connect with colleagues across the globe, share stories and best practices, and envision how you might use Sakai in the future. You can enjoy interaction with your peers in the Sakai community, all without leaving home!

We are actively seeking presenters who are knowledgeable about teaching with Sakai. You don’t need to be a technical expert to share your experiences! Submit your proposal today! The deadline for submissions is September 6th, 2015.

This on-line event will emphasize the use of Sakai for teaching and learning, although there will also be some technical sessions in the program. The conference committee has planned the following tracks/session types:

  • Faculty Course Showcase – Demonstrate exemplary instructional strategies and course design by showcasing your course.
  • Instructional Design/Support – How do you support your end users?  Share best practices for instructional design, training, and professional development at your institution.
  • Effective or Innovative Practice – Are you using Sakai in a unique or uniquely effective way? For example, are you doing something innovative in Mobile/Responsive Design or Accessibility? Show us your effective or innovative practice!
  • Learning Analytics - How are you using Learning Analytics in conjunction with your Sakai LMS to promote institutional objectives? Have you implemented a dashboard or student intervention success plan, Learning Records Store, xAPI, etc.?
  • Technical Session – Do you have a topic that would be of interest to Sakai developers or IT staff? Would you like to demo new features or functionality coming in Sakai 11? Present on a technical topic “under the hood” of Sakai.
  • Birds of a Feather – Lead an informal/unstructured online discussion about a topic of your choice.
  • Lightning Talks – Do you have a project or perspective you’d like to share? Maybe you have an idea to improve Sakai that you’d like to promote? Lightning talks are 5 minute presentations which will be combined into an exciting and fast-paced conference session.
  • UX Testing – We will be conducting live usability testing during the conference. Do you have a research question and test script you’d like to propose as part of our UX track? Help us improve the Sakai user interface through UX testing!
  • Sakai en Español - Envía tu presentación sobre cualquiera de estos temas en español. (Note: The Spanish track will begin two hours prior to the main conference sessions so that attendees have the option to attend the presentations in Spanish as well as other conference tracks.)

The Sakai Virtual Conference will take place entirely on-line on Wednesday, November 4th.  You’ll make your presentation in a virtual “room,” take live questions from the audience, and get the conference experience without the expense of travel. There will be opportunities for networking and informal discussions, as well as a chance to win prizes donated by our sponsors.

Help us make this year’s Sakai Virtual Conference a success!

We look forward to your proposal!



Ian Dolphin, Executive Director, Apereo Foundation
Neal Caidin, Sakai Community Coordinator, Apereo Foundation
Wilma Hodges, Sakai Virtual Conference 2014 Planning Committee Chair

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A step in the right direction

At the heart of the WISE project is the aim to improve the student experience of WebLearn.  Here is a word cloud which describes the aims of the project.


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A Tool for Choosing Projects, Modules or Options in WebLearn

msdltThis from Jon Mason, Medical Sciences:

We have just been awarded funding from the IT Innovation Seed Fund for a project to develop a simple, flexible web application to enable the collation, communication and choosing of project, module, or other options. More information on the project can be found here: https://weblearn.ox.ac.uk/x/utCX61.

A demo of ‘OxPro’, the prototype tool that has been successfully used for project and module choosing in Medical Sciences for the last few years, can be found here: https://weblearn.ox.ac.uk/x/N62jvS

As part of this project, we are looking to gather requirements from interested parties across the University. If you are interested in using this tool and would like to be a part of this, please contact Jon Mason, jon.mason@medsci.ox.ac.uk, as soon as possible.

The completed tool will be integrated into WebLearn using IMS Basic LTI. It will appear in the standard WebLearn “Edit Tools” menu making it easy to add to any WebLearn site and control who has access.

Chuck Severance one of the biggest contributors to the Sakai code-base and primary architect of the IMS LTI standard has made a video explaining the concepts of IMS Basic LTI which may be of interest.

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WebLearn first contact

Recently Steve and Xav from the WISE project (WebLearn Improved Student Experience) went to Mansfield College to meet three lecturers in Theology to discuss the development of their teaching spaces in WebLearn. It was beneficial for the learning technologists to meet with academics and discuss their particular needs, with the aim of supporting student learning. Work is underway to launch their new teaching spaces for Michaelmas Term 2015.

Prof. Joel Rasmussen explained how he wishes to build his WebLearn site around some of his main papers, and also to use the Turnitin plagiarism awareness tool.

“Here is my reading list for tutorials for ‘Issues in Theology, 1789-1921′, as well as an overview of my lecture series supporting the paper entitled ‘Western Christianity and Modern Culture, 1789-1921′, to give you a sense for my primary undergraduate teaching responsibilities. I teach other papers as well (Kierkegaard, Philosophy of Religion, Modern Theology), but this is really the heart of my work, so I’d wish to build my Weblearn teaching site around it.”

“Many thanks for this. The mock up looks great. … , what you’ve done thus far looks very user-friendly and visually good — strong work!”

Dr Donovan Schaefer also wishes to develop his teaching site and make use of more of the pedagogical tools offered by WebLearn:

“This is where Weblearn is so effective–because unlike Blackboard or Moodle it’s highly configurable and can be set up in any number of different ways.”

Xavier and Steve

The Wise Guys at Mansfield College

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WISE project on the road


(picture shows Learning Technologist Fawei Geng working with the Department of Social Policy and Intervention).

The WISE team have been talking to lecturers, staff and administrators to gather requirements for their new, or improved WebLearn sites.  The process normally involves:

  • initial conversations about requirements and current usage of WebLearn
  • designs for a prototype site
  • testing the prototype and gathering feedback from users
  • prototype version 2
  • launch to Faculty

Despite the challenges and work involved in reviewing information content and structures, the response from Faculty so far has been very positive and we look forward to working closely with more departments across the University.

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How is Sakai faring in the face of competition from Canvas? Quite well actually!

lti-ring-chuckDr Chuck (with a little help from yours truly) has written an excellent blog post outlining the (minimal) impact of Michigan, Stanford and Indiana’s ‘defection’ from Sakai to Canvas.

It makes an interesting read.

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WebLearn Plans for the Next Few Months

Busy Bees. Phtoto credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/nomindsvision/2333302342We thought it might be useful to outline what tasks the WebLearn team are currently working on. The focus at the moment is on 4 projects but we are also spending time inducting two new developers and two new learning technologists:

  1. WebLearn Improved Student Experience (WISE) project (see: https://blogs.it.ox.ac.uk/adamweblearn/wise-project/)  – The WISE project will support departments, faculties, colleges and units to fast-track the development and improvement of their WebLearn presence in order to deliver an enhanced (and consistent) student digital experience, as per recommendations from previous projects.
  2. Developing an Online Reading List Management System (ORLiMS) at the Bodleian Social Science Library (Innovation Project) – Major improvements to the design, functionality and user interface of WebLearn’s Reading List tool
  3. Researcher Training Tool Improvement Exercise (RATTIE) – Numerous improvements to the user experience plus big fixes.
  4. Rewriting the WYSIWYG HTML editor ‘item picker’. (This relates to the pop-up window that appears when you opt to ‘Browse Server’ from within the editor.) This work is being undertaken by a student intern.

In the future, WebLearn is poised to switch to switch over to using the IT Services Group Store as the provider of institutional groups (unit and course groups); this will happen in July.

There is some good news in that the Education IT Board has approved the Mobile Learning with WebLearn (MOLE) project brief. (A project brief is a pre-project phase where requirements are fully-defined and the project plan is made.) The full project will transform WebLearn into a fully responsive service meaning a much-improved user experience on a mobile phone. In addition, the project will develop a handful of ‘Learning App’s and the next few months will be spent mapping out exactly what Apps will be developed.

WebLearn will also be providing the back-end to the Humanities Division’s  ‘Frameworks: The Oxford Mobile Career Planner’. The project is in its very early stages so details may change but it is currently planned that WebLearn will act as a data store and present anonymised skills audit data to skills training officers who will be able to assess the effectiveness of Research Training at Oxford University. The project will also develop an App for students to record and reflect upon researcher career development in terms of skills accrued.

Another substantial piece of work is the rewrite of the integration code that links WebLearn and TurnItIn (the plagiarism awareness service). Turnitin are withdrawing the current interface (API) and moving to an IMS Basic LTI with extensions approach. The new integration should be invisible to the end user although we may be able to improve the range of options available via WebLearn’s Assignments tool.


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Sneak Preview of WebLearn (Sakai) 11



Members of the WebLearn team (and TWISA winner Lucy Tallents) have just returned from the annual Apereo conference held in Baltimore.

Aside from the delicious crab cakes, there were numerous other benefits not least being able to help define the shape of the forthcoming Sakai 11 release (expected around the turn of the New Year). We hope to start moving to WebLearn 11 as soon as the official release is made.

For the very first time, Oxford has contributed significant functionality to a single release of the software; institutions around the globe will now benefit from work undertaken in response to requests from our users.

What probably interests Oxford staff and students the most are new features that aren’t already in use at Oxford so I’ll describe a handful of the most interesting new features.

  • Responsive (Morpheus) Portal – the biggest redesign of the system since Sakai was launched, offers a fantastic user interface on desktop, tablet and mobile phone (notice the collapsible menu)home-fullhome-phone (some early screen-shots are included here)
  • Public Announcement System tool – allows important messages to be broadcast to users
  • Markbook (Gradebook) enhancements – provide easier and faster ‘speed’ marking capabilities via spreadsheet entry, to simplify and consolidate the grade import/export process, and to improve the overall user experience of the tool.
  • Dashboard – gives users an overview of activity and events in My Workspace, supplements the synoptic tools
  • MathJAX support – (mathematical notation / LaTeX) in the WYSIWYG HTML editor

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/39908901@N06/8362334111/Links

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