[The following is a guest blog entry by Rob Moore, Manager of the Foreign Language Resource Center in the Department of Romance Languages. Since this posting Rob has moved to the UNC School of Government as an Instructional Technology Developer in Teaching and Learning Support. Thanks, Rob!]
I attended the 11th Annual Sakai conference in Denver, Colorado, and had a fantastic time! For the last two years, I have been singing the praises of Sakai to all of the instructors that I support in the language departments at UNC. Attending this conference gave me the opportunity to share our great experiences with, well, the world! It was great to get to meet other Sakai users sharing and trading ideas. The great advantage of Sakai is that it is open-source, which allows institutions to share ideas and code in a way that is not possible with Blackboard. I am excited to see some of the new enhancements that we may be able to implement in the fall including a new “Tests and Quizzes” interface, a new syllabus setup, and other aesthetic changes. In addition to networking and attending informative sessions and demonstrations, I also made two presentations.
My first presentation titled, “How Sakai solves the training and support challenge” looked at the training and support considerations for the ROML Sakai Pilot. There are over 4,000 undergraduate students enrolled in introductory courses in French, German, Italian, and Spanish. Unfortunately, the tech support available to support the learning management systems for these languages is limited. By transitioning these introductory language courses into Sakai, training and support has been more manageable while still allowing for instructors to have control over content and materials in the class.
My second presentation titled, “How Sakai solved the multi-section problem for Romance Languages” looked at the ROML Sakai Pilot from a faculty perspective. The Department of Romance Languages has several large section courses, which can have as many as 45 sections taught by multiple instructors with one course coordinator. Besides the coordinator’s own course load, he/she provides syllabi, assignments, and tests for the sections. Using Sakai’s section aware tools, these courses were moved from Blackboard to Sakai, which significantly improved communication and coordination between coordinators and instructors as well as benefiting students. The video and PowerPoint (in PDF format) can be seen at http://flrcvideos.unc.edu/video.php?link=884/.
All in all, it was a great experience, and I hope that more instructors will make the transition from Blackboard to Sakai.
There are a lot of things to discover in Sakai — even if you’ve been using it for years! If you’re feeling adventurous this summer, you might want to try one of the 5 Tips & Tricks in our forthcoming July series. We have selected 5 simple-to-use tools and techniques that you probably don’t know about — but really should.
Our criteria for selection: SPEED. You can use or create very quickly with an immediate benefit to you and/or your site members.
Look for the first post on July 1!
One of the highlights of the 2010 Sakai Conference in Denver was the presentations made by the faculty award winners who use Sakai creatively in their courses. Below is a 10-minute video interview with Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice, Dr. Scott Bowman, from Texas State University-San Marcos.
“For me, it was really looking and saying, I want my students to truly understand what kids go through. What kids go through in their communities, in difficult communities, in gang-riddled communities, poor and marginalized juveniles, rural and urban and suburban juveniles, and understand those different experiences and subsequently to understand how that background really affects the manner in which they go through the juvenile justice system and some of the difficulties that they would face along the way.”
Grab a snack and take a few minutes to hear how one rather small change to the way he was teaching his course — facilitated by Sakai — dramatically impacted student learning outcomes as well as Scott’s own pedagogy.
Indiana University is one of the founding institutions of Sakai. Brad Wheeler, Vice President for Information Technology & CIO, and Professor of Information Systems at the IU Kelley Business School talks about the vision for Sakai.
When Indiana University began to evaluate whether to evolve their homegrown LMS or to purchase a commercial product, a vision for Sakai emerged: “The driver was we knew we could not innovate fast enough. The best in teaching and learning was going to continue to evolve in disciplines.” (More info on Sakai 3 development)
The ability to accommodate change and innovation is key. Phil Edwards, Assistant Professor in UNC’s School of Information and Library Science discusses Sakai’s ability to support the kinds of learning and engagement we want to have on our campus in addition to the potential to grow Sakai in directions that we determine.
What are the opportunity costs of failing to innovate, grow, and change to meet our community’s evolving needs?
From a strategic perspective, consider the rapid, short-term technological changes and innovations that occur daily as well as institutional requirements for a longer-term evolution of sustainable learning systems. Sakai is “both/and” rather than “either-or.” The collaborative model and flexibility of Sakai are perhaps its greatest strengths.