To Code Or Not To Code: Community Development of Sakai

Patrick Lynch, e-Learning Coordinator at the University of Hull writes:

Hull have just one developer working on Sakai and our development effort is therefore limited. Indeed we have a published statement that we will avoid development wherever we can, concentrating efforts on wider and deeper integration with other systems. Other changes we make might carry an overhead for future upgrades and we try to avoid that.

Some might question then ‘why go open source at all?’ My answer is because of the grassroots development approaches within the Sakai community we don’t need any more developer time, but still benefit from an open (source) approach.

When we first installed Sakai 2.4 we collected almost 200 feature requests in our first year. We updated to version 2.6 a year later and reduced our list to around 80 issues. A number of these are unsolvable in that they conflict with the way others want the system to work, but we log all requests and prioritise appropriately. Right now we are upgrading to version 2.8 and anticipate this will leave us with just a handful of issues that are pretty specific to Hull. The resolution of so many issues is not an accident. Staff at Hull are seeing a constant response to the issues they raise without us needing a large development team.

Institutions within the Sakai community often identify the need to change a tool or create something new for their institution. This recognition is often made by those who support teaching and learning. What they could do then is arrange for the development to be carried out locally to meet their needs. In the Sakai world what generally happens is that the first thing folks will do, after identifying a problem, is go to the community. Someone may already have a solution and/or some really good contributions can be had about defining what sort of changes should be made, sometimes development effort gets shared too. The community will often suggest a better solution to a larger set of problems than the original problem presented. It is often those people who support teaching and learning, like my team, who have a better understanding of the problem and can contribute use cases to the design. These community generated changes suit a much wider audience than that originally envisaged and also offer greater versatility in the tool to the originating institution.

Many of our requests at Hull were identified and solved within the community without our help. For others we have been able to have our voice heard. So it isn’t really a surprise that Hull have been able to find solutions to nearly all of our original reported issues. Developments have naturally offered more opportunities than our staff have identified and what’s more we continue to be able to influence the development of Sakai through this grassroots approach.

Posted in Sakai 2, Sakai Support, Why Sakai? | Leave a comment

Leave a Reply