Sakai Open Academic Environment (OAE) 1.1.0 released

RELEASE DATE: 15 December 2011

The Sakai Community is pleased to announce the release of the Sakai OAE version 1.1.0.

Sakai OAE is an open-source platform that promotes collaboration and sharing between users and interoperability between systems. It embraces a new vision for academic collaboration informed by the needs of learners, teachers and researchers.

Academic networking capabilities encourage people to connect and participate actively in communities that span beyond the traditional boundaries of classroom and institution. Powerful capabilities around content – creation, authoring, reuse, presentation, and commenting – permit mash-ups and remixable experiences of ideas, connectivity, dialog and media. Enhanced search capabilities aid discovery of people and content. A widget-based architecture simplifies both development and integration with external systems.


OAE 1.1.0 introduces the following new features:

  • create, gather and share collections of related content items
  • restrict anonymous access to user information and content with enhanced user privacy options
  • import/export IMS content packages (packages imported as a flat structure for this release)
  • embed Sakai CLE tools in an OAE document using a new sakai2tools widget
  • leverage numerous accessibility improvements
  • scan search results quickly using infinite scrolling
  • create OAE worlds using templates and a “middle layer” world creation service.
  • export OAE worlds as templates for easy reuse
  • utilize a new migration framework when upgrading between OAE versions
  • run OAE in a cluster with redundant search and application server nodes for scalability and uptime
  • integrate OAE with Kaltura’s video platform*
  • enjoy a variety of UI and back-end refinements designed to enhance the user experience
  • and we also fixed some bugs too

*Note: OAE/Kaltura integration requires installation of a separate bundle that is not distributed with Sakai OAE due to licensing restrictions.


OAE 1.1.0 Web Start (one-click download/run for Demos)


Sakai OAE is released under the Educational Community License version 2.0

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UK Teacher Wins a ‘Teaching With Sakai Innovation Award’ (TWISIA)

Guest post from Shirley Bennett, Programme Leader M. Ed. in eLearning, University of Hull

On Winning a Teaching With Sakai Innovation Award (TWISIA) – Shirley Bennett

In June 2011 I was honoured and delighted to win the TWISIA 2011 award in the Distance Learning category, for my module eTutoring and eLearning Course Design, a core module of an MEd eLearning programme, delivered wholly online to students in the UK and around the world.

The module aims to equip teachers from a range of sectors to respond to the growing importance of internet technologies, to identify ways to incorporate them effectively within their own teaching practices and to develop the skills to adopt and adapt online teaching methods to their discipline focus, sector context and personal teaching style.

What especially pleased me in winning the award was that the innovation lying behind the module development did not involve complex and costly technical wizardry; the module uses primarily the usual nuts and bolts of Sakai, although the utlisation of the wiki as a form of eportfolio is perhaps non-standard, with students making links through to entries in the Blog and documents completed in response to pathway (Melete) activities.  The award recognised innovation lying instead within the construction of the learning and teaching process itself.

As the core module activity, eTeaching Practice (eTP) provides participants with practical, peer- and tutor-supported, hands-on experience of working with a group of learners in the role of etutors. They plan, develop, implement and self-evaluate their own eTP, and lead a Hot Seat discussion exploring an issue arising from the eTP experience itself.  Peer Observation, though well-established for classroom teaching within UK HEIs, is rarely extended online (Bennett and Barp 2008; MKenzie et al 2008; Swinglehurst et al 2008).  It is, however, an especially valued source of support on this module. providing feedback on online practice from a teacher’s perspective rather than that of a student, an giving insight into alternative approaches to online or blended learning in other contexts, employing different technological learning environments and tools; the eTP itself becomes a learning resource in an innovative approach to online experiential learning in which students are not just receivers of a pre-packed learning experience, but rather are active participants in delivering the learning strategy itself.  The eTP courses they design, develop and deliver act as a key source of learning, not only for the individuals in their role as etutor, but also for the peer observers who access that eTP directly, and, because this experiential and observational learning feeds into discussion forums and shared wiki pages, with the wider module group.

If you are thinking of entering the TWISIA award, then don’t hesitate a minute,. As winner I enjoyed my expenses-paid trip to the Sakai conference in Los Angeles, and have a plaque for my office wall.  As a competitor I gained insight into the strengths of my module and came to understand more deeply the reasons why it works so well.


Bennett, S. and Barp, D. (2008) Peer Observation – a case for doing it online. Teaching in Higher Education, 13:5,(pp.559-570).

McKenzie, J., Pelliccione, L., and Parker, N. (2008) Developing peer review of teaching in blended learning environments: Frameworks and challenges. Ascilite, Melbourne.

Swinglehurst, D., Russell, J., and Greenhalgh, T. (2008) Peer observation of teaching in the online environment: an action research approach. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning. 24,(pp.383–393).

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Why Newcastle University chose Sakai

Thanks to Andrew Martin for this post.

Newcastle University’s adoption of Sakai came about after the central computing service (ISS) won a bid to provide a “web-based communication and collaboration tool” solution for TREAT-NMD (a European-wide research network, researching neuro-muscular diseases)

After a comparison/evaluation with the best open source systems at the time (namely: Moodle, Mindquarry, Dokeos, ATutor and ILIAS) it was decided Sakai had the best fit due to (amongst other reasons) its ability to integrate with Shibboleth and the best possibility of extending use beyond the initial project and providing it as a service to the rest of the University’s research community.

Sakai has now been promoted into a fully fledged service available to our whole research community with 50+ research sites and nearly 600+ registered users. We are now in the process of looking toward offering the best tools and integrations to our researchers.


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Euro Sakai 2011 – Amsterdam

Doug Johnson at Euro Sakai 2011 image Ian Dolphin11 people from UK HE attended the European Sakai conference (#EuroSakai). Delegates from the UK represented the following bodies: the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Bath, Newcastle, Hull and Leeds and JISC/CETIS.

The highlight of the conference was almost certainly the extended Sakai OAE demonstration.

The OAE is based upon the Sakai Learning Capability Design Lenses: OAE is not yet complete but a combination of it and the Sakai CLE running as a Sakai Hybrid do just about cover every aspect. (Sakai CLE tools or sites can easily be displayed within the OAE.)

The scenario that was demonstrated was the construction of a collaborative research projects (with industrial contact). This demonstrates:

  • openness – layers of content opened up at appropriate levels: “unlocking your content”
  • reuse of material
  • collaboration: authoring, review publishing

The demo showed how a student or researcher could go about putting together a research proposal by collecting material from within Sakai OAE and from material located on the web. Then people with similar interests can be found and invited to help collaborative author a proposal. The proosal can then be opened up for evaluation of for public consumption. Collaborators can be from within the University or from external companies / institutions.

Other aspects of OAE were covered during other sessions: NYU spoke about their impressive pilot ( and the project team outlined the two-year road map. The emphasis will be on  integration with Sakai CLE, annotating documents, content collections, lists of people and a widget SDK to allow individuals and institutions to easily develop their own ‘tools’.

The OAE is currently in a very usable state. It has just had it’s first release and is ready for institutions to download and deploy as a pilot

There were many other interesting sessions including presentations about Mobile interfaces (and the Mobile Sakai project, see photo), Open Courseware, the benefits of open source software, new tools, the upcoming ‘Neo’ portal and integration with Internet2 Grouper.

The social side of the conference is also very important and it was nice to hear more about the Sakai initiatives at Leeds, Newcastle and Bath Universities. It is great to see that the word is spreading in the UK.

There have also been many opportunities for UK institutions to engage in collaborative projects with European and American partners. The Sakai Mobile Project is a good example of this.

In summary, it was great to see so many delegates from the UK and also to see that Sakai OAE is now ready for use ‘in anger’.

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Sakai OAE Release 1.0.0

From Alan Marks Sakai OAE Project Director

The Sakai Open Academic Environment (OAE) steering group and project team are pleased and excited to announce that the OAE 1.0.0 is now available.

This release of OAE represents the first production-ready version of OAE and emphasizes functionality for academic networking and collaboration. We recognize that as a version one release, it’s merely a stepping stone for great things to come, and hope that it encourages adoption and, crucially, increased participation in the project among individuals and institutions that together comprise the Sakai Community.

Sakai OAE grew from the hard work of a lot of people, not just those “officially” seconded to the managed project team, but especially the many volunteer contributors in the community without whom the project would not have succeeded. While the list of people who have helped to make OAE a reality is too long to acknowledge individually, I’d like thank you to each of you for your hard work. Great job.

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Sakai Commercial Partners Benefit The Whole Community

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

Another peculiar, well at least to me, aspect of the community is the presence of strong commercial partners. Whilst much of the development of Sakai is shared around the community, there are a number of pretty serious commercial partners offering Sakai as a service. Interestingly they don’t seem to hold any extra power within the community. I suppose that what non-hosted users want will match pretty well with what hosted users want. I guess that we are all heading in the same direction. The professionalism of these partners and their contribution not just to the technical development side, but to the teaching and learning community is awesome.

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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.

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Sakai: Collaboration in the Rapid Design Life Cycle

Thanks to Rob Crouchley (Lancaster University) and Rob Allan (STFC, Daresbury Laboratory) for this article.

The Virtual Engineering Centre (VEC) is a University of Liverpool project partially funded by the North West Regional Development Agency (NWDA) and European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) located on the Daresbury Science and Innovation Campus, UK.

The VEC was set up to help both small companies and larger organisations embrace ICT in the rapid design life cycle. Companies bringing their expertise together and using computational modelling and 3D visualisaiton aim to reduce the time taken from idea to

In this context Sakai is to be used as a collaboration and communication tool which can underpin a large collaborative research network of both academic and business partners. Custom tools are being deployed as portlets within the Sakai framework and made available to all partners.

This means that Sakai will enable on-line collaboration among designers and manufacturers and also enables feedback from end users of engineering products. The provision of simulation tools alongside collaboration tools in the same platform allows end users to test small changes to the design specification, run scenarios on a computational Grid using pre-defined workflows and to visualise the results of their changes. In this way they can participate in the overall process and better understand the reason for some of the final design choices.

Some project partners are now beginning to use Sakai to assist in the management of projects and have expressed an interest in using it to provide support to their own “customers” as part of the overall supply chain.


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The Sakai Teaching and Learning Community Makes All The Difference

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

My role at Hull is to coordinate eLearning activities across the University. I have a small team who support staff in their use of eLearning, which naturally centres on the use of the VLE. My real interest is in how we manage to support our staff and how we continue to provide a system that matches their teaching and learning needs into the future.

With open source most people would immediately recognise the benefits of receiving the source code and being able to change or add code to suit their own needs without having to create a system in its entirety. For me, the real value of adopting Sakai lies in its teaching and learning (T&L) community. The T&L part of the wider community is very active with groups working on a variety of different things, two examples being documentation and a group focussing on distance learning. There are also groups looking at future developments of a number of specific tools. All of these groups are open too, anyone can contribute or lurk as they see fit. If you have any questions relating to teaching and learning someone on one of these groups will have an answer, even if you are not using Sakai! In addition to the open groups there is an increasing growth in open educational practices whereby Sakai folk are actively sharing their teaching and learning approaches, activities and content. This community truly enriches our experience of Sakai. We are able to share our learning with our teaching staff and as a result our students have a better experience.

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Sakai Usage at The University of Bath

Thanks to Jez Cope for this article.


The Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies (CSCT) is a cross-disciplinary research centre which brings together academic expertise from the University of Bath with international industrial, academic and stakeholder partners to carry out research, training and outreach in sustainable chemical technologies. In less than two years, the centre has attracted nearly £20m in funding for its activities and has rapidly become an important hub for sustainable chemistry in the UK.

In December 2008 the EPSRC awarded a £7.5m grant to establish a Doctoral Training Centre in Sustainable Chemical Technologies, offering a 4-year integrated PhD programme in Sustainable Chemical Technologies.

Regular face-to-face meetings between geographically-diverse groups of stakeholders would be prohibitively expensive, not to mention environmentally damaging. CSCT has therefore implemented a Sakai-based Virtual Research Environment (VRE), known as iSusLab, as an online place to collaborate and communicate.


The most important features identified in initial discussions with stakeholders were:

  • Ability to easily grant access for industrial and international partners;
  • Ability to tightly control access rights to protect IP of researchers and industrial partners;
  • Good integration with email for less tech-savvy users;
  • Good support for file storage to archive research artefacts such as data files, bibliographic databases, reports and papers;
  • A variety of collaborative tools (e.g. wikis, blogs, forums) to enable experimentation with communication styles as part of professional development for research students;
  • Flexibility for individual users to use it in their own way and with their own preferred selection of tools;
  • Consistent user experience across tools within the VRE.

Why Sakai?

After considering a number of alternatives (including externally hosted tools and general-purpose CMS’s and portals) it was decided to use the open-source Sakai project as the basis of iSusLab. In particular, the following features were identified:

  • Out-of-the-box support for a wide variety of collaboration tools, including file-sharing, wikis, forums, email archives, blogs, chat rooms;
  • Able to set up separate ‘worksites’ for individual projects, each using its own selection from the available tools and giving very fine-grained control of access rights;
  • Able to integrate with other tools, such as embedded video conferencing using Elluminate or BigBlueButton;
  • Able to authenticate using CAS for University of Bath account-holders while also providing local access for external users (e.g. industrial partners);
  • Mature software under active development, supported by a well-funded foundation involving several key research-led universities worldwide;
  • Growing community in the UK of institutions and groups using Sakai (e.g. Lancaster University, STFC Daresbury, University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, University of Hull);
  • Customizable appearance using CSS-based skins.

Examples of Use


  • Archival of research data, reports, meeting notes and other artefacts by students and supervisors;
  • Planning and recording/sharing outcomes of a research sandpit on sustainable water.


  • Online submission of MRes and PhD project proposals using a custom web form;
  • An online archive of student MRes project reports;
  • Course materials and announcements for the Doctoral Training Centre Public Engagement module, run by external trainers.


  • General document-sharing and collaboration by DTC management team;
  • Online booking of meeting rooms.


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