WebLearn was upgraded to version 11 of the underlying software (Sakai) on Tuesday September 6th.
This improvement represents years of work by the international Sakai community followed by months of work by the IT Services WebLearn Team.
We thought it may be useful to show some of the best features from this new release. We have also included a list of known issues – we will be working to address these over the next few weeks.
Responsive User Interface
The most obvious improvement to WebLearn is the completely redesigned user interface. This uses responsive design to offer easy access and viewing across all devices including desktops, tablets and smartphones.
WebLearn will automatically select the optimum display style based on the size of screen being used. (You will note that this redesign involves a new set of icons, known as “Font Awesome”, and a new default textual font that is better suited for use on a mobile.)
(My) Sites and Quick Links have been redesigned and a new personal navigation area has been added (which includes the Logout link). If you have set one up, your profile photo will be displayed (this photo is also used in Forum posts and other areas within WebLearn). Please refer to this handy blog post entitled ‘How do I select a profile image?‘
Improved HTML WYSIWYG Editor
There is an updated and improved HTML editor, including ‘auto-save‘ facility, LaTeX mathematical notation and new file browser (‘elfinder’) which is used when linking to and uploading new files or images.
A redesigned ‘Sites‘ drawer (formerly ‘My Sites’) which enables you to change the order and ‘pin’ your favourite sites providing ‘one-click’ access from the main menu bar.
To set a site as a ‘Favourite’ simply click the star icon in the Sites drawer. You will need to reload the page to see the site pinned to the top bar.
Lessons Tool Updates
Thanks to an improved tool interface and a number of functional enhancements, the Lessons tool in WebLearn 11 is more powerful and flexible than ever before. Content authoring /presentation is greatly enhanced by the inclusion of new, multi-column layouts. And with a host of additional features, it is easier than ever to develop innovative content, especially student-generated content. Features include:
- synoptic Lessons elements, for example,
- recent Forum posts
- recent Announcements
- site Calendar
- Twitter feed display
- split a page into multiple columns / rows for improved layout
- choose a custom icon for embedded IMS LTI tool
- link to Forum and Forum Topic
- simplified menu bar with categorised menu items
- enhanced student content areas and peer review rubrics
New Gradebook (formerly called Markbook)
Designed to provide faster, easier grade-entry capabilities, and fully compatible with existing Gradebook content, the new Gradebook tool provides a number of functional enhancements, including:
- spreadsheet-style grade entry
- automatic saving / score validation
- individual student Grade Summary screens, with integrated Student Review Mode
- simplified and consolidated Import/Export process
- enhanced statistics for graded items
- flexible display options for final course grades (letter grade, percentage, points)
- improved accessibility
- simplified settings screen
Mathematical (LaTeX) Notation
Designed to present mathematics natively, WebLearn 11 can now display LaTeX equations as mathematical notation on most pages.
Using new LaTeX options, user can simply write LaTeX in an enabled tool and the resulting equation will be displayed beautifully. LaTeX updates include:
- identical output for all browsers and platforms
- no images or special browser plugins required
- accessible, with screen-reader compatibility
- scalable font for different text sizes and zoom levels
LaTeX needs activating on each site via Site Info > Edit Site Information, then enabling for individual tools via Site Info > Manage Tools.
External Tool Support
Support for IMS LTI (version 2) and IMS LTI Content-Item Message (for enhanced functionality with third-party plug-in tools) has been added. This allows WebLearn to be a ‘hub’ into which ‘best-of-breed’ 3rd party learning tools can be plugged.
- IMS LTI v2 offers:
- the passing back of marks to Gradebook from a 3rd party tool
- rich and complex two way communication between WebLearn and 3rd party tool
- IMS LTI Content-Item Message 1.0 is an IMS LTI specification for exchanging content between applications and tools. (Sakai was the first VLE to support this new standard.) It:
- enables external (LTI) tools to appear in the same way that internal tools do
- adds a new message type allowing a 3rd party tool to be used to create content (including LTI links) within WebLearn
- can return a hyperlink, a chunk of HTML (such as an ‘iframe’, cf YouTube ’embed’ code) or actual content such as a video, web page or ZIP file (eg, an IMS Common Cartridge)
We hope that external tools such as Panopto (Replay) and Xerte will support this standard in the near future.
Other minor improvements include:
- an interface to select a custom icon for each LTI tool
- the list of available IMS LTI tools (aka Plugins) are always displayed in Site Info
The PA System provides the WebLearn team with the ability to deliver timely alert banners and popups system-wide or to targeted sets of users. From simple banners at the top of the interface to fully customisable popup notifications, this system provides new and powerful ways to keep WebLearn users informed. Features include:
- banner alerts, with three different levels of severity:
- Low – blue (permanently dismissible)
- Medium – yellow (temporarily dismissible)
- High – red (not dismissible)
It is also possible for the WebLearn team to create a dismissable ‘pop-up’ that appears in the centre of the screen.
The following minor changes are worth mentioning:
- My Workspace is now called My Home
- the Home tool on each site has been renamed as Overview
- site URLs now use colons (:) as a separator instead of slashes (/), old style URLs will still work
- old style URL:
- new style URL:
- there is an issue with URLs that mix the old and new styles, such as
/portal/site/info/wlug -you should not have URLs of this form but if you do then please get in touch
- old style URL:
- My Sites has been renamed to Sites
- Markbook has been renamed to Gradebook
- Page Order has been renamed to Tool Order
- Switch To Access Role (formerly Preview site) has moved from the top bar (on right) to above the list of tools on the left hand side
- for an unpublished site, the Publish Now option has moved to the centre of the page from the left hand navigation area
Other New Improvements
- redesigned Tool Order page (formerly know as Page Order)
- barnd new version of the Tests tool
- ad-hoc groups in Surveys can now be deleted (User Voice request)
- Web Content links and External IMS LTI links can have custom images
- individual Forums can be configured so that all postings are anonymous
- brand new News (RSS) tool
- more detailed information in the Site Members (Roster) tool
- latest underlying software support (Sakai, Java and Tomcat) according to industry standards
If you wish to make any new suggestions for improvement, then please visit the WebLearn User Voice Forum.
Please email email@example.com if you come across any other issues.
The WebLearn team has been communicating with the WebLearn User Group and local coordinators over the summer about the changes, and Frequently Asked Questions for site maintainers are now available. WebLearn courses and supporting materials will be updated accordingly in September and a series of events and courses will be available in Michaelmas term.
If you have any queries or wish to join the mailing list for updates, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some text has been copied from the Sakai website