The UK and Ireland Sakai Support Network met for the second time this year at the JASIG UK meeting in Manchester on July 20th. There were 12 delegates from the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Hull, Lancaster, Bath and Limerick plus attendees from the Sakai Foundation and STFC (Daresbury).
The day began with introductions swiftly followed by a short talk by the Executive Director of the Sakai Foundation, Ian Dolphin, who spoke about the implication of the upcoming merger of JA SIG and the Sakai Foundation. It is hoped that this will be completed early in the new year. The merged entity has yet to decide on a new name.
A demo of the next generation of Sakai, Sakai OAE (formerly Sakai 3) was given by John Norman from CARET. The demo covered four main aspects of this next generation VLE:
- user autonomy,
- content creation and
- social interaction.
Sakai OAE is not yet complete, however, what currently exists is quite usable, indeed Cambridge University Engineering Faculty are committed to use the system over the next academic year.
Functionality to support annotation, content authoring and activities will be added next followed by learning and teaching management and assessment.
The demo had many highlights: the ease of creating “websites” and embedding third party content (for example, You Tube and Vimeo objects); the categorisation or tagging of content; the ease of sharing such content with named colleagues or the general public; and how easy it is to run other systems, such as Moodle, inside Sakai OAE.
John outlined how Sakai CLE (Sakai 2) and Sakai OAE can work together. It is possible to have either a whole Sakai site or a single Sakai tool running within OAE. Styling is applied so all Sakai 2 tools like a native OAE object.
Hull commented on how the OAE looked like it might satisfy their ePortfolio needs (as well as act as their VLE).
After this each institution gave a round-up of how they use Sakai and any upcoming developments. Oxford, Cambridge, Hull and Limerick run Sakai as their institutional VLE, Lancaster use it within the Business School and the other use it to support collaborative research projects. Limerick have opted for a hosted platform and use rSmart for this purpose.
There was quite a lot of talk about accessing Sakai on Mobile phone with a variety of methods of access being used. There was great interest in recently developed reading list functionality, Turnitin integration and the Survey tool (generally known as Evaluations),
After lunch there was presentation about uMobile which is a spin-off from the uPortal project after which the Sakai developers broke off to take about technical issues related to mobile access and the rest of the group talked about the recent initiative focusing on collaborative improvements to the help documentation.
It was then reported that Sakai-themed papers have been given at the Eden Conference and will be given at ALT-C. There will also be a workshop hosted by Cambridge and Oxford at ALT-C to further raise the profile of Sakai in the UK.
A member of Hull University teaching staff won a Teaching With Sakai Innovation Award (TWISA) – Distance Learning during 2011. It was decided that, as an experiment, Hull would coordinate a lunchtime webinar for members of the teaching community – this could be a talking shop where academics swap ideas on how to get the best out of Sakai.
Finally there was a discussion how UKISSN could raise the profile of commercial affiliates to help make it easier for local institutions to use Sakai. There are hosting companies such as rSmart, Unicon, Longsight (& Samoo) who can provide either a whole installation or set of sites and that there are numerous companies who can undertake bespoke development of targeted tools. (See: http://sakaiproject.org/commercial-support)
The meeting ended with a hearty round of applause for the host institution, Manchester University.