donderdag, december 21, 2006

New kid on the Blog

I am new on this Sakai NL blog. My name is Jan van den Berge and I am one of two founders of Portfolio4u. Portfolio4u has translated Sakai to the Dutch Lanquage in cooperation with the UvA (University of Amsterdam).
We are specializing in the Digital Portfolio part of Sakai by using the OSP inside Sakai. Our main customers are educational institutes in the Netherlands starting with student from the age of 12 to adults. At this moment we have more than 16 Sakai implementations and more are on there way.
I visited the last Sakai conference a few weeks ago in Atlanta and I was surprised by all the work that already has been done all around the world.
For me as a sales person of our company I found it hard to believe we can make business with free software. But now, after 1,5 years working with Sakai and the community, I am convinced about the power of Open Source Software and how to make a business of it.
We have contributed our translation to the community and got a lot of things in return from other members of the community, works. It's a new way of thinking, new ways of telling our customers about Open Source Software and news ways of developing the tools and setting up our infrastructure. It's a great feeling to know people all around the world that are doing the same thing.
What I learned in Atlanta is how things are changing at the moment. Big players like BlackBoard seem to going out of business or have to change doing business in a complete other business model. I don't know if they are capable in doing that, so.. time will learn.
Ofcourse not everything is sunshine and lots of work has to be done, but what matters to our company, we believe in it. By specialising in the Portfolio part of Sakai we are one of the few people that are doing that in the world.
We believe that it is a good idea for a school to start working with portfolio's and after that slowly let the application grow to a bigger thing thats supports the complete educational process.
Working with e-portfolio's needs a real serious implementation. You need to look very carefully to the needs of the school and most importantly, what are the skills of the teachers and students. Students are mostly not the problem, but we learned in the last years that lots of teachers have problems or even fear working with digital tools and let go some of their power on groups of students.
So it is not a matter that teacher's dont want to change but lots of them are afraid of losing something. Something that they cannot explain, but it is the way the are working now for centuries. I don't think this New learning is a small change. This is something bigger, it seems to be like a learning or knowledge revolution like many years ago happened during the industrial revolution. So this will be not a easy process but finally people will be learning in an other way then they are used to now.
I believe the future of teachers will be much more interesting then it is now. They are changing from the teacher to coach. Someone thats helps the student how to learn instead of telling him/here exactly what to learn. This wil take still lots of years but you can see the change and the growing believe in this New way of learning.
Tools like Sakai will help teachers in learning to work in new ways. So it's not only a matter of developing this great tool but it is also a matter of learning how we can learn our teachers in using this new tools and finding new way's of working with students.
It seems that the use of the e-portfolio part in Sakai is very strong in the Netherlands and maybe we can tell the community more about what the developments are in The Netherlands during the next Sakai conference in June 2007, Amsterdam.
For the near future we have to develop more and new tools for connecting Sakai to other applications like administration tools and goal registration applications. That shall be a lot of work but I think we can do lots of devellpment within the community.
For now this is my first contribution to this blog and I hope you liked it. I am looking forward of meeting you at the next meeting in januari 2007. I wish you all a great Christmas time and lets make 2007 a real Sakai year.

woensdag, december 20, 2006

Just in case

In case you have not been able to find our 'official' website, I would like to remind you that we have one! It is located on (this is the English version; but there is also a Dutch version, at
On our website you will find our meeting minutes of face-to-face meetings that we have on a regular basis. Our last meeting was on November 22 (minutes of this meeting; in English). Our next meeting will be on January 31, 2007. The website is equipped with an RSS feed too!

donderdag, december 14, 2006

My audience in Arnhem

Photo taken by wytze.
Today, as I mentioned already, I presented at the yearly Open Source symposium. This symposium is mainly geared at the local governments, of which there are more than 400 in The Netherlands. The aim is that they will start working together more closely on the exchange of knowledge on open source and also open standards. Most prominent use of open source in this area is OpenOffice and Linux, but also in the GIS application area.
My first question to the audience was who knew what a VLE (or CMS) is. Most hands were raised, which was actually quite surprising to me.
My talk went OK. I think I have shown that, besides the already mentioned Linux and OpenOffice, there are other areas where opensource software is quite succesfull. It might well be that, because local governments are quite receptive to opensource, that some of them will start trying out Sakai.
Actually most local governments are funding directly lots of primary and secondary schools. We will see who sends me an email in the coming days.

woensdag, december 13, 2006

Tomorrow: Arnhem

Tomorrow I will be doing some evangelism (can I say that?) for Sakai. I will be presenting Sakai (the product, the community, our university and Sakai) at a conference (only in Dutch) primarily focused on the use of open source in local government(s). There are talks about GIS, content managements and OpenOffice.

Maybe I can get some attention and can attain some valuable contacts within this area of our society. You never know. I will keep you posted!

zondag, december 10, 2006

Brooklyn Bridge

Photo taken by wytze.

Because of missing our connecting flight from JFK to Amsterdam, Allard and myself had to stay in New York for one day. We spent this day like real tourists: taking lots of pictures, riding the subway, visiting Brooklyn Bridge, Ground Zero etc. Finally we are home today (Sunday), tired as hell. Our suitcases are still somewhere between New York and Amsterdam :-(
Next time, one thing is sure: we will take a direct flight!

zaterdag, december 09, 2006

Moving to Stoas

This is sort of a personal announcement. I'll be working for Stoas in the new year. I was at the Atlanta Sakai Conference over the last couple of days and realized, when talking to people, that it would be a good idea to give it a little more public attention.

I have had wonderfull years at the University of Amsterdam and learned a lot. In my new position at Stoas I'll be able to work on exisiting systems like Blackboard and new systems like Sakai and other interesting initiatives.

Please feel free to contact me at 'vma {at} stoas {dot} nl'.

Victor Maijer

vrijdag, december 08, 2006

Mixed Sakai feelings

Although my review of the SAKAI system was rather critical I’m impressed by the devotion of the people at the conference. It is nice to see that so many people are working on a development of a system and also come to this kind of conferences. And then of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg, it is a large motivated community. But… I’m still wondering (and I think most of the people here) were we are going. Sometimes the presentations preach of a better open new collaborative world, were everything should be free and we all work together. I also heard a lot of people like myself that have problems with using the interface of the system, and that these problems are not taken seriously by the SAKAI board. So may be we all work together on the same system, the goals, expectations, and requirements do vary for each partner, and almost each individual. The fact is that developments focus on integration, in my opinion it is all very interesting to see that such big interest exists for such kind of tools, but that the investments are enormous and the question is how long these investments and interest will continue. The popularity of Moodle shows also that a large group is still interested in a easy to use, free e-learning system that can be used in a simple way… But for Sakai still a lot has to be done :-)

Do you like German beer?

"Das tolle bei Sakai ist ja immer, das hier viele kleine Tools benutzt werden und die Community wirklich funktioniert." This is the beginning of the latest post on a German weblog that has existed now for some months, where Andreas Wittke is the leading figure. I am going to do a little promotion here for this weblog... So, if you are interested in news about Sakai in the German language, then go the weblog of our collegues from Lübeck.

donderdag, december 07, 2006

On usability evalation of Sakai

Jonathan Howarth is graduate student and has done research on usability of the course management features of Sakai. At Virginia Tech they also use Blackboard, which is quite good in usability.
Jonathan gave an excellent presentation. He started with some fine examples of (un)usability. And then went along with a little theory (just right!): Usability is characteristic of an interactive system that indicates ease of use and usefullness. It is not 'user friendliness' only. The system should help you accomplish something.
Then Jonathan talked about the goals of the usability testing he carried out. The setup of the testing was that of a walkthrough. The 5 participants involved had to do 17 tasks within Sakai 2.2 (they call it Scholar) and had to articulate what they were doing.
The positive feedback that came back from the users: variety of tools is great, thorough Help system, mechanisms for supporting collaboration (although the test was on the course management features of Sakai).
There was a series of usability problems, that some of us are all too familiar with. One of my collegues, Allard Strijker, came to same sort of conclusions after using Sakai 2.2 in his course. The biggest issues that Jonathan has found: terminology, consistency, sections and groups. In the presentation the problems were shown with video's that were recorded. These video's were very informative (you could see the screen and hear the user talking). Some examples: (terminology) The use of the word Roster is different in the Site Info and Gradebook, (consistency) Removing students or removing sections works completely different.
There were much more video-examples in the presentation. They are not on Confluence, because of privacy regulations. You missed something very illustrative, if you weren't there.

User Experience: the theme so far

I am just sitting in on the presentation of the featured speaker of today, Briant Cantwell Smith. He is talking quite philosophical, so far. It should get interesting, I hear from someone who has listened to Brian before. And after some more minutes, it becomes indeed interesting. Briant asserts that people are very capable of swichting their attention (they go up and down the 'attention stack'). After this we heard some interesting implications for software, and specifically Sakai.

Think about this one: "Systems themselves should not occupy our attention - except in times of failure." Most of the times this is not the case in our current systems. One other implication: "Interface should not (in the first instance) provide transparant access to the system". Another implication is that we should pay attention to holism, the overall structure. This is available by thumbing through a book, but not really in software most of the times.

Brian concluded with a conclusion for Sakai: "the experience of the Sakai user should be a) building a research station in Antarctica, or b) participating in philosophy master classes". To put it another way around: the Sakai experience should be anything from a learning system.

Earlier this morning the partner representatives came together and had their 'private' discussion with the Board in the so-called Sakai Foundation Retreat. I won't dwell too much because of the 'privateness' of the discussion. I will leave it that we discussed different subjects. One of them certainly was the room for improvement for the user interface (or the user experience). We also talked about improving our internal communications and external communications. You will see the actions coming sometime near you.

woensdag, december 06, 2006

Realtime collaboration in Sakai: it gets better

Today,Miguel Gonzalez Losa from Lancaster University presented a new set of collaboration tools that they have developed to enhance the collaboration experience within Sakai. They have been funded by JISC in the area of e-Science (or e-Research).

The aim of the project was to create software that was useful, simple and extendable. They didn't want to create 'the most powerful' or 'the most complete' solution.

Features available in Agora are audio/video conferencing, whiteboard, shared desktop and chat. With a very simple PC, of a few years old, you can still have a conference room with 4 to 6 participants. They found a very simple solution for the desktop sharing application: they are only transmitting an image of the screen from person 1 to the rest of the persons. This seems to be enough for most use cases. The same goes for the chat tool: it is geared of sharing simple information like URL's of email-adresses. Everything that is done in the conference room is recorded for later viewing, which is strong feature! This recording is done a the client PC, so that you can (re)view it offline.

Agora can be used with no problem on Windows and Linux computers. For Apple the problem lies in the video and audio conferencing, which is a pity. There is a Agora server needed to make use of Agora.

There are lots of thing still to be done, as Miguel pointed out at the end of his presentation, e.g. whispering mode, full Mac support, encryption and SIP compliancy. They also want to make it available for more opensource projects, like Moodle. That would be a good approach for sustainability of this nice toolset.

Oracle and Sakai: next steps

Linda Feng had an interesting presentation on what Oracle is contributing to the Sakai community. The efforts of Oracle are in the area of exchanging information between Enterprise Campus Solutions and Sakai for course,
person, and enrollment information.

It got interesting when Linda started to talk about standards. So far IMS Enterprise Services v1.0 was not really a standard, as was concluded by their market investigation (every vendor had their own somewhat different implementation) that they have done. Linda and a collegue from Desire2Learn are heading the effort to create the IMS Enterprise Services v.2.0. The scope of this specification was decided on in Heerlen.

Also interesting to see was that they did some mapping between objects between Campus Solution and Sakai. This seems to work out fine, as far as I could see.

Some interesting questions by Linda, that Oracle wants answered by us, the users of Sakai and/or Campus Solutions:

  • Do we expect real-time interaction between Sakai and Campus Solutions?
  • What will be the volume of transactions?
  • How many enrollment transactions occur on average per hour? (during peak enrollment periods, during peak add/drop periods)
I spoke earlier with Cary Brown (also from Oracle) about the fact that they need the European input. So we will stay in touch.
Actually, in this arena there are (in general) 2 possibilities, according to another Dutch collegue in the session: you either go for the combination Blackboard/SAP or you go for Sakai/Oracle. All the rest (he means the local players in The Netherlands) is just 'spielerei'. What do you think?
btw: this is post # 100 on this weblog! hurrah!

We have got a structure!

Charles Severance just started his overview of the Sakai Foundation. His main message was that we are not sprinting anymore, we are at a slower pace, but with much more quality and much more people involved. There were some other interesting messages from his talk:

  1. We now have a sort of organisation chart for the Sakai Foundation, which is good (this says that the Foundation is maturing). The Requirements process is one part of the Foundation, where users have their influence. Software coordination (including QA) and community communication are the other two parts of the Foundation organisation.
  2. Adoption of Sakai is still growing.
  3. There are some working principles, such as Public discourse as much as possible, meritocracy, distributed decision making. The essential principle is that there are no 'bosses' who make the decisions. There are project coordinators (and not managers!), which concept is stolen from the Apache Foundation.

  4. Because of the Requirements process (Mark Norton is coordinator), we don't have to burden the developers with these kind of stuff. They can develop!
  5. There is a community requirements summary for every release, so that there is a short document for everyone to read.
  6. Quality Assurance (coordinator is Megan May) is making more waves. QA makes the final call for a releases. QA broadens the community involvement, because not only nerdy people are involved here.
  7. Anthony Whyte is the coördinator for community communication.
  8. The only thing we are non-transparent about, is security. This is only communicated to people we know (which is also copied from the Apache Foundation) before we inform the public.
  9. Communication should be better :-). We are going to redesign the website and all that stuff that is behind it (seamlessly integrate confluence, jira and collab). One improvement that Chuck kept repeating: we need a document library. I cannot agree more.
  10. One important document in this document library should be a Roadmap.
I will leave it here. The complete presentation is available on Dr Chuck's website.

dinsdag, december 05, 2006

U-Camp: a day well spent

Most of my day I was attending the U-Camp. The morning was spent with some pretty nifty presentations by different presenters. The presentations are(/will) be on the wiki page soon.
The afternoon was more interactive. We had some very interesting discussions on design and user interface issues regarding Sakai. Here are some current and future challenges for Sakai I would like to mention here, that came up during the afternoon.

  1. We have, what was called the Microsoft Office effect: there is a proliferation of functionality within a tool (e.g. Resources tool) and therefore tool get less and less usable, certainly for the first-time user of a tool.
  2. There are tool-silo's. Newcomers are asking questions like "Why is it that I should put all stuff into the Resources tool?" Wouldn't it be great that we would have Flickr Uploadr tool (a litte desktop application), with the same user friendliness, to upload stuff into Sakai?
  3. Sakai technology is complex. Sometimes small changes seem to take forever. For example the Schedule: why is it so hard to display the title of the Month in the right place. Or another big user (support) issue: why are we still having the problem of the Back button, that doesn't behave as expected?
  4. Shouldn't user interface issues be part of QA?
  5. We should focus more on user scenario's (what does the user want to accomplish?) if we (re)build Tools
  6. Sakai as a product is mirroring the community, maybe... It is very difficult for different (working) groups to come to terms with other groups, and that is what you see reflected in the tool-silo's.
More to come.... We still have to start talking about 'real UI delight': how much better will we make Sakai in the future!

Evaluating Sakai after some months

Early this morning, just before the conference really started, I was interviewed by a Sakai board director. The board is in the process of talking with member institutions of the Sakai Foundation, to evaluate and steer the strategic directions of the Sakai Foundation for 2007 and beyond.
I really like the fact that the Board is doing this. The Foundation should know what the individual institutions are working on and where their issues lie. So that's what we talked about. We also talked a little bit about my role as the community manager for Sakai within The Netherlands.
My biggest issue with Sakai, for 2007 (and beyond) is what I would call 'marketing'. This is where our biggest challenge lies for the coming years. And marketing is not a BAD word for me. You might call it 'decent communication', if you like that better. Here are some examples of things I am thinking of.
I am thinking about the teacher, the director, the CIO or the educational designer that has heard of Sakai. I think we should provide them with some whitepapers (shall we call them "sakaipapers"?) that answers their specific questions. These sakaipapers should be easily available from our website.
I think we also need pertinent information regarding features of Sakai. And we really need information about features in future releases. I have not been able, so far, when asked questions, to direct an 'outsider' within The Netherlands to this kind of pertinent information to be found on the Sakai website. My belief is that this kind of information is what could convince someone of going to use Sakai. And if this information is not readily available, they will revert to whatever they are using right now. And ultimately that is NOT what we want, do we?

maandag, december 04, 2006

We are in Atlanta!

Photo taken by wytze.
So, we are here in Atlanta. We, that is Allard Strijker and myself. We had some problems with synchronizing our train schedules, but finally we met at Schiphol airport right on time. After that we had a smooth flight to Atlanta. The biggest hassle (if you can put it that way) was the very strict security measures at the airport.
But once you are through that (no pictures!) security, you can hop right on the MARTA, which brings you almost straight to the conference hotel. Which is HUGE, btw!
Here you see Allard studying the map of MARTA.
Our collegues from Amsterdam should be here already. But haven't seen yet. I have seen Steve Githens already!

vrijdag, december 01, 2006

Critical Sakai review by Allard Strijker

My colleague Allard Strijker will give a presentation at the Atlanta Sakai Conference next week. Within a pilot of Sakai at the University of Twente in the study year 2006/2007 Allard used Sakai within an international master course on knowledge management systems. Together we collected the user experiences which are given from a teacher and student perspective. It's especially interesting to hear about Allard's experiences because he was closely involved with the design and development of TeleTOP, which is currently still the standard virtual learning environment for the University of Twente. Besides being a teacher at the Faculty of Behavioural Sciences, Allard may be considered an expert in the field of e-learning. At this moment I will not give away too much information about the presentation, you should hear it for yourself. But be sure there will be some critical remarks. However, I think we shouldn't react too defensive about that, referring to Chuck Severance's statement in Luebeck that the focus should now shift towards the user perspective. This is the only way we can learn from our users and it will help to improve Sakai into a better system. So for those who attend the Atlanta Conference: visit Allard's presentation in the Pedagogy track on Dec. 6th (10.30-11.30 INTL 1).

Busy schedule for Atlanta

Finally I had some time to take a look at the schedule of the Atlanta conference. The schedule is pretty dense and impressive. There really is a lot of good stuff! What strikes me (still!) is that almost all sessions in Atlanta are done by our fellow Americans.... I hope this has changed a bit when we are in Amsterdam. To have at least one genuine 'european' session in Amsterdam, we will have a Birds of the Feather (BOF) meeting for all fellow Europeans in Atlanta.
Besides this BOF, there are some other session that I most certainly will blog about on this weblog.
On Tuesday, Dec 5 (Sinterklaas!), I will be spending my day in the U-Camp: "(..) will provide an opportunity for those interested in the design and support of Sakai to meet, learn, and contribute to the future of the Sakai user experience." The University of Twente already did some preparation for this, which can be found here.
On Wednesday, Dec 6, the day will start of with a keynote by Eben Moglen. This talk will certainly deal with the Blackboard patent. Right after that (at 10.30 AM) my collegue Allard Strijker will present his first experiences with Sakai. At the same time, I might also go to a lecture on "Supporting a Sakai Roll-out". This might provide us with some valuable info on a possible roll-out at our campus some time next year.
At 11.20 AM on this same Wednesday, there is a session on the subject of bridging the gap between Sakai and a Student Information System. Sakai 2.3 has some new services and utilities to make bridging this gap easier. Later on that day (2.20 PM) there is another interesting session on this same theme. This session, from Oracle, is called Sakai Course Mgmt API and Oracle Enterprise Campus Solutions: Oracle will share strategy and architecture to support out-of-the-box integration between Enterprise Campus Solutions and Sakai for course, person, and enrollment information. We will also present analysis and prototyping results of course management integration based on the proposed Sakai Course Management API.

Patent should be reexamined!

Official press release on "November 30, 2006 - The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) today announced that it has formally asked the Patent Office to reexamine and ultimately cancel all 44 claims of Blackboard's patent on e-learning systems (SFLC Press Release). The SFLC filed the request for reexamination on behalf of the Sakai Foundation (, the Moodle Community (, and the ATutor Community (, three open source software projects which develop online educational systems."
There is also a Patent FAQ available.

woensdag, november 29, 2006

Sakai Webinars by Unicon

Yesterday I received an email from Unicon, Inc. inviting me to attend one of their upcoming webseminars on Sakai. I do not have the time right now, but maybe you have the time. Then please read on:
"Unicon offers Webinars for anyone who wishes to attend. However, seats are limited and an RSVP is required to reserve a seat.
Upcoming Webinars Provided by Unicon
Sakai Guided Tour Webinar. 11/30/06 (Tomorrow!)
Sakai Cooperative Support Webinar. 12/14/06
Sakai Guided Tour Webinar. 12/15/06"
So, if you are interested, please follow the link above to register.

dinsdag, november 28, 2006

Sakai: measuring against Educause

Charles Severance wrote an interesting post on his weblog. He reflects on the status of Sakai (the product, the community, the maturity etc), in relation to the attention that was given to Sakai during the last three annual Educause conferences.
In essence Chuck concludes that we have become just one the options within the playing field. Just saying that Sakai is opensource doesn't win any contract any more. Check out Dr. Chuck's Web Log: Status Update: "So I take the occasion of Educause to reflect on things to make sure that I remain grounded in what we are doing and why we are all here."
Here is my little reflection on the status of Sakai. The time is now to indeed change some things: more emphasis on communication (or 'marketing') is one of the things that is on the top of my mind. But also the pure product information on Sakai (what is available? in which version of Sakai?) should be readily available. Quite a few of the questions that were asked during my presentation and demo (text is in Dutch, but presentation is in English) at the Tilburg University yesterday were exactly of this nature. For example: "There is no versioning capability within the Resources tool? How can we then seriously consider Sakai? Blackboard already has versioning, and this is a requirement for us!" Fortunately I could answer that in Sakai 2.4 we will have versioning. But how sure is this answer?
I guess, maybe, just maybe, we should have some sort of product manager role within the community that really can take responsibility for the product releases... My impression is that we still let releases happen too much dependant on the availability of developer resources. Just my 2 cents...
If you have some more spare time, then I would recommend to start reading the great conversation developing on the Sakai dev list on the 'need' for a 'community roadmap'. Check out the public version of this thread.

vrijdag, november 24, 2006

Sakai SIG NL at the Podium

Today I have presented for the Podium group of ICT experts of 7 different institutions in The Netherlands (University of Utrecht, University of Maastricht, Wageningen University and Research Centre, Free University of Amsterdam, Leiden University, University of Groningen, University of Twente). There were very relevant questions by the audience. One of the most prominent ones: "How do you go about with migration from Blackboard to Sakai (or any other VLE)?" I have referred to Confluence.
Check out the attachment at Sakai op het Podium, if you are interested. Next Monday I will be doing a reprise, based on the same presentation, at the Tilburg University.

donderdag, november 23, 2006

Vertaling = Acceptatie

Een goede vertaling is het eerste wat gebruikers en geinteresseerden zien. De kwaliteit, volledigheid en consistentie hebben effect op de acceptatie van Sakai in het Nederlandstalige onderwijslandschap. Regelmatig onderhoud is noodzakelijk, want functionaliteiten komen er bij of worden gewijzigd en kennen dan slechts de Amerikaansengelse taal.

Hoe gaat dat vertalen met een community? Hoe voorkom je verschillen in vertaling en schrijfstijl wanneer meerdere mensen zich bezig houden met vertalen?
De Nederlandse stijlgids en terminologielijst op de Sakai-wiki kunnen deze (ver-)taalkwesties oplossen.

Geef je mening over de koers, lever commentaar en schrijf mee aan deze fundamenten op

woensdag, november 22, 2006

We had a great meeting today!

Today we had our 3rd face-to-face meeting of the Sakai Special Interest Group The Netherlands (Sakai SIG NL). We had quite a bunch of new people at the table, which is great. We even had some Belgian collegues from Gent. There were some great stories and experiences that were shared. I was pleasantly surprised by the great number of institutions that are working with OSP, mainly due to the efforts of Portfolio4U.
I have tried to capture most of the meeting in the notes. Check the website for all the nitty gritty details. I am awaiting eagerly the stuff that Jaeques and Ferry shared with us :-)
For (y)our convenience here are some URL's that were mentioned today:
  1. Translation of Sakai into Dutch:
  2. Overview of all QA servers to be found on
  3. Styleguide for the Dutch translation:
  4. Our wiki:
  5. Video Alfa College (featuring Jim Doherty):
See you all next time, on Jan 31, 2007!

vrijdag, november 17, 2006

Sakai SIG NL: Agenda for 22 november 2006

{Dutch} Iedereen is welkom op 22 november 2006 in Utrecht. Agenda voor 22 november 2006: "De agenda voor onze derde bijeenkomst is bekend. Zie het attachment. We hebben een aantal nieuwe gezichten aan tafel en er is een interessante bijdrage van Walter Brand (Memotrainer)."

donderdag, november 16, 2006

SURF Onderwijsdagen 2006: Sakai stuff

The last two days have been quite busy for me, as I was visiting the SURF Onderwijsdagen, the largest conference and tradefair regarding ICT in Education in The Netherlands.
I had tried to prepare myself properly with regard to sessions that I would like to participate in, but this proved quite difficult because of the clumsiness of the conference website. And during the conference the sort of same feeling struck me: so many people, the lack of food during lunchtime, the very crowded trade floor and the heat in some of the conference rooms! Maybe the conference needs a different format.
Anyway, this blog is about Sakai in The Netherlands! I had some interesting conversations with regard to this subject during the conference. Let me share with you some new insights and interesting developments.
First of all I had a chat with a representative of Dokeos Nederland. This was after the very interesting presentation by the Vrije Universiteit Brussels (in Belgium). They have implemented the Dokeos course management system (opensource ofcourse) and have formed a large consortium with mainly Belgian partners, but also partners in Chile, Spain and France, to sustain developments for Dokeos. This reminds me a little of the Sakai Foundation, although there are major differences regarding governance I think. And ofcourse the scale is much smaller. To the best of my information some of the institutions on the partnerlist are also using (of have used or evaluated) Sakai and/or OSP.
Then I talked a while with a representative of a large community college who just have dediced to go with Sakai. Great news!
And thirdly I got introduced to a university in Belgium, that is using WebCT right now. They are very keen to get more insight in the possible alternatives. And since there is quite an active opensource movement in Belgium, they are seriously considering Sakai and other opensource systems.

vrijdag, november 10, 2006

OSP within the Netherlands

OSP (Open Source Portfolio) might be relatively unknown, but sometimes you can read something about it, even within The Netherlands. There are two things I would like to point to. [what follows is partly in Dutch]
1. Zo schrijft Wilfred Rubens: Ervaringen met eportfolio bij Gilde Opleidingen: "Na een selectieprocedure is gekozen voor Open Source Portfolio (OSP), dat geïntegreerd is binnen Sakai. Gilde Opleidingen heeft ook binnen OSP een web-based formulier gemaakt dat deelnemers moet aanzetten tot reflecties."
2. Jim Doherty (Portfolio4U) has been interviewed by Chuck Severance regarding their experiences with OSP. I hope to see the video real soon!

donderdag, november 09, 2006

{Dutch} Ga je stemmen of kom je naar Utrecht?

De uitnodiging die ik het gemaild naar iedereen waarvan ik veronderstel dat ze enig belang zouden hebben om op 22 november aanwezig te zijn. Ook lezers van dit weblog (die de mail niet hebben ontvangen), mogen mij mailen of ze gaan komen!
From: Koopal, W.Y. (Wytze, ITBE)
Sent: Thursday, November 09, 2006 10:10 AM
To: {removed}
Subject: [Sakai SIG NL] Ga je stemmen of kom je naar Utrecht?

Hallo mensen,

De tijd schrijdt voort. Het is herfst geworden. Volgende week zijn de SURF Onderwijsdagen. Op 22 november gaan we stemmen voor een nieuwe Tweede Kamer.

Maar he, wat zien we daar in onze agenda's staan? Op 22 november is ook de derde bijeenkomst van Sakai SIG NL. Ik hoop dat deze datum ook in jullie agenda's is terecht gekomen. Zo niet, dan hierbij de herinnering!

Op 22 november zullen we in ieder geval 1 of 2 praktijkverhalen gaan horen mbt het gebruik van Sakai. De agenda voor 22 november begint dus vorm te krijgen. Het 'rondje langs de velden' is natuurlijk ook een agendapunt, evenals een staande lunch. De definitieve agenda zal uiterlijk op 16 november op onze website ( verschijnen.

Graag hoor ik via een kort antwoord (svp voor 14 november) op deze email of je ook van plan bent te gaan komen op 22 november.

Wytze Koopal
University of Twente
SURF Sakai community manager, The Netherlands

dinsdag, november 07, 2006

Must-reads on Sakai

On our website (of the Sakai SIG NL), I have created a short message (in Dutch) a few days ago with links to three important documents regarding Sakai.
The most readable (at least for me) is the document that Charles Severance wrote with Joseph Hardin, entitled "Strategic Directions for Sakai and Data Interoperability". (direct link)

vrijdag, november 03, 2006

Sakai 2.3.0 is available!

Today, Nov 3 (2006), Sakai 2.3.0 has been officially released!
Sakai 2.3.0 is the first release to promote successful provisional tools to the enterprise bundle (Rwiki and Calendar Summary). It also includes three new provisional tools. Sakai 2.3 introduces a significant number of feature enhancements to existing tools as well, along with over 450 fixes. See the release notes for more details. You can also download a Sakai Demo
Sakai has not yet been thoroughly tested with either Firefox 2.0 or IE7, though early testing has not revealed any issues.

vrijdag, oktober 27, 2006

Who is going to / Wie gaat er naar Atlanta?

It would be nice to have some idea which Dutch collegues are going to Atlanta for the 6th Sakai Conference. Please respond by commenting on this post. You can also send an email to Wytze in case you don't want to be known :-).
I am planning to have the following travel schedule (nothing final yet):
To Atlanta on Monday 4 dec, KL621
To Amsterdam on Friday 9 dec, KL9289 and then KL644 (via JFK)
Disclaimer: this is just for informative purposes... I am not going to act as your travel agent!
Tags: , , ,

woensdag, oktober 25, 2006

Candidates for Sakai Foundation Board published

Candidates for the 2006 Sakai Foundation Board election have been announced today. You can view the candidates bios and statements at Board members will be elected by the institutional and corporate representatives as specified in the Sakai Foundation bylaws. These are the candidates (names link to their bios and statements about their candidacy and vision for Sakai): Lois Brooks , Michael Feldstein ,Clay Fenlason ,Rolf Granow, Joseph Hardin, Michael Korcuska, Deon van der Merwe.
This list shows some very very well respected people (at least by me!), as well as that Sakai is really international (Rolf Granow is from Germany and Deon van der Merwe is from South Africa).

maandag, oktober 23, 2006

Security and data integrity worries

On 10 October Kennisnet, a Dutch organisation that facilitates ict in education, held a meeting about their ePortfolio standard. This ePortfolio standard is a derived localisation of the IMS standard and has a more narrow definition for some datafields focused on the Dutch context. It remains interoperable, which is a good thing and vital in the current global market.

One question that was still open is the following: How can we guarantee data integrity for the grades, teachers reviews and comments?

The educational intstitutions are held responsible for this data and therefor should protect it from manipulation. A change in grading from 'bad' to 'exellent' must not remain undetected.
  • Should signatures be calculated for this data based upon public and private encryption keys?
  • Should (this part of) the portfolio be virtual and only hold references to the grading data at the website of the original source?
  • Should there be a grading bank that holds and issues the data from a central trusted repository?

Is the answer for this problem already thought up elsewere? I am probably not the first one to think about this,... and hopefully not the last ;-)

woensdag, oktober 18, 2006

WebCT versus Sakai? Read this!

During my travels around the web, I sometimes find some interesting treasures. A few months ago I found the UBC Arts ISIT Learning Tools Community Blog. I cannot really find out who the authors are, which is a pity. I guess that UBC stands for University of British Columbia.
Because they use categories on their blog it is quite simple to point you to all relevant posts on this blog that give you some insight in differences between WebCT and Sakai as seen through the eyes of an enduser. Just go to UBC Arts ISIT Learning Tools Community Blog - WebCT versus Sakai.

vrijdag, oktober 13, 2006

Interviewing in Dallas

Every year a large group of Dutch elearning professionals visits the annual Educause conference somewhere in the US. This year the group traveled to Dallas. Keith Russell (University of Utrecht) got hold of Charles Severance and conducted an interview for the Edutrip 2006 weblog which also has been recorded.
Thanking Keith for pointing this out for us.

woensdag, oktober 11, 2006

Interdisciplinary studies (UvA) supported by Sakai

- Jaeques Koeman, Universiteit van Amsterdam (IIS), Edia
- Roland Groen, Edia

The Sakai implementation is the learning environment for interdisciplinary lecture series at the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies (IIS, of the Universiteit van Amsterdam. A broad population of students including alumni, contract students and students at other universities participate in these lecture series, which cover topics ranging from conflict studies, religion, quantum lessons and China.

The use of Sakai in supporting the lecture series offered ways to overcome bottlenecks and meet new demands and opportunities at the same time. The environment has been configured to meet demands such as facilitating experts at distance to contribute to the educational process and have a level of public accessibility to allow the communication and transfer of academic knowledge to a broader audience outside the university. By doing this, the achievements made during these lecture series (e.g. a Wiki containing future scenario’s about the city of Amsterdam) will also not be deleted at the series’end, but remain publicly accessible and serve as a reference point for future students, thus creating a community around interdisciplinary topics.

The Sakai implementation was done by Edia - education technology ( . Edia is an Amsterdam-based company that develops educational software, implements (open source) e-learning technologies and advises in the field of ict in (higher) education. Since 2005 Edia has monitored the developments of Sakai and now has version 2.2.1 in production at IIS. Next to adding various bug and issue reports and some translation work, Edia has developed a tool for versions 2.1.1 and 2.2.1 that combines the register, join and login functions in one.

Both Edia and IIS are now joining forces with the Computing Centre of the Universiteit van Amsterdam, exchanging experience and ideas on applications of Sakai within the university. For example, 2007 will see Sakai in action supporting online academic introduction courses for scholars (Webklassen).

maandag, oktober 02, 2006

A little tool for aiding the translation process

Making a good translation for Sakai to the local language and keeping it up to date is quite a challenge. Within the LOI company we are confronted with the translation into Dutch (together with the other organisations in this language area). To aid that process we have build a little tool that we want to share with the Sakai community.

The tool works for any given language and calculates the percentage translated labels per resource file, lists the labels without translations and possible missing resource files. It is currently being used to generate a report for the resource files in the Sakai development trunk. You can find the nightly updated reports on the QA server of the Universiteit van Amsterdam:

Additional information about the tool can be found on confluence:


Hugo Jacobs
Leidse Onderwijsinstellingen (LOI)

zaterdag, september 30, 2006

Anonymous browsing in Sakai

Last Thursday Charles Severance was one of the keynote speakers at the "Over de grenzen van de ELO" conference, where Stanley already reported about in this blog. His official announcement of the 7th Sakai conference to be held in Amsterdam, next June, was great news!!
But there was more news than that of course. I will share two news items with you. I have some more, but i am not able to share them here.
The first newsitem newsworthy item was spawned by Keith Russell of the University of Utrecht (mentioned earlier on this blog), who raised the question of anonymous use of Sakai during the Q&A session with Chuck. The answer by Chuck was very clear: in the near future it will be possible that (part of) a course or project site can be made public. That is: you could make the Announcements public, so for everyone to read (including Google!), but the rest of your tools in Sakai private (so only for site members). See Jira for more details on Google indexing. This feature would really be an great improvement for Sakai. Actually we have exactly the same problem with our current VLE.
One other newsitem (from the hallways) is that one of the larger institutions for vocational education in The Netherlands will start piloting with Sakai real soon.
If you want to read more on "Over de grenzen van de ELO" conference, please go to Wilfred Rubens (in Dutch) or Marc Dupuis (in English) or Scott Wilson (one of the other excellent keynotes that we were offered!) And maybe Willem van Valkenburg will be ready to share some comment with us, once the VVD congress is over :-)
More pictures at Flickr

vrijdag, september 29, 2006

Sakai Foundation present at Dutch ELO Conference

The Dutch conference "Over de grenzen van de ELO II" (Beyond the boundaries of the electronic learning environment), held on Sept. 28th-29th, included two interesting contributions made by Chuck Severance, Executive Director of the Sakai Foundation. See for a reflection of the first conference day.

Sakai Announces June 2007 Amsterdam Conference

The Sakai Foundation is pleased to announce that the June 2007 Sakai Community Conference will be held in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The dates will be Tuesday -Thursday, June 12-14, with pre and post conference sessions and activities on Monday the 11th, and Friday, the 15th. This will be the first European venue for the Sakai Community Conference and we look forward to working with all our community and especially the Universiteit van Amsterdam on the conference. The site will be the new Movenpick Hotel Amsterdam City Center for the Tuesday-Thursday meetings. See you in Atlanta this December, and Amsterdam next June.

- Joseph Hardin, Sakai Conference Chair

The Universiteit van Amsterdam and the City of Amsterdam are very pleased that Amsterdam will host the Sakai 2007 June conference. The university will work closely with the Sakai Foundation and the Sakai Community to make the meeting a huge success. The conference itself is happening in one of the most modern buildings of Amsterdam in an astonishing setting on the waterfront, next to the canal area and the city center, and we intend to host the pre- and post- conference meetings in university buildings in the historic center. The open cosmopolitan spirit of Amsterdam fits perfectly with the open source spirit of the Sakai community.

- Frank Benneker, Universiteit van Amsterdam

maandag, september 25, 2006

Keith's take at Sakai 2.2

Keith Russell (University of Utrecht) contacted me a few weeks ago. I provided him with some testing oppurtunities on our Sakai pilot installation. He quite hits the right spots, I think, in his review: "I had a go at the new version of SAKAI (2.2.0) which was so kindly provided by Wytze Koopal. It was very interesting to give it a go and I learnt a number of new things. So here a quick resume..." I left some comments on his weblog.
Keith will co-lead the Dutch delegation to the upcoming Educause annual conference in Dallas, with a special emphasis on coursemanagement systems. Check out the wiki of this Dutch bunch for the different themes that they will be focusing on. They also have a weblog. Both the wiki and the weblog are in Dutch btw.

donderdag, september 21, 2006

Shift towards multi-channel learning

The september poll by Brandon-hall.c0m shows that 78% of the respondents predict a further shift towards a multi-channel learning paradigm. Multi-channel as an alternative for the traditional tell-test model of e-learning. Even the definition of "content" becomes broader as in any online experience or task that leads to learning (Woodill & Brandon Hall Research, 2006). The focus is now on mental models through the cooperative an collaborative construction of knowledge based on discussion and guided exploration (Jochems et al., 2004). Provided that this is the educational development mainstream for the next couple of years, I think this provides excellent possibilities for Sakai. As stated in Luebeck - two weeks ago- especially the collaborative and groupware functions are considered USP's in Sakai, which perfectly matches with current and future educational paradigms.

Jochems, W., Merrienboer, J., and Koper, R. (Eds.) (2004). Integrated E-learning: Implications for pedagogy, technology and organization. London: Routledge Falmer.

vrijdag, september 15, 2006

Check out Planet Sakai!

While in Luebeck i heard the newest buzz! It is called Planet Sakai. And Steve Githens is THE driving f0rce behind it and has just released it 'officially. He says: "Planet Sakai is a wonderful world of aggregated camaraderie amongst Sakai users, coders, pedagogy folks, admins, etc etc."
So check it out at ! (and yes, this weblog gets aggregated too!).

donderdag, september 14, 2006

Meeting notes available

Yesterday we had our second official meeting of the Sakai SIG NL. I was pleasantly surprised to see some new faces at the table (well actually this is what I am aiming at ofcourse!). We heard some great stories about Sakai. I have tried to capture anything of interest in the meeting notes (that are in English, for our non-Dutch speaking friends around the world).
Sakai SIG NL: Verslag 13 sep (editie 2): "Op 13 september was de tweede officiële bijeenkomst van de Sakai Special Interest Group NL. Het was een interessante bijeenkomst met nieuwe en bekende gezichten.
Het verslag is te vinden in de bijlage. Volgende bijeenkomst is gepland op 22 november 2006. Iedereen met interesse in Sakai is van harte welkom."

dinsdag, september 12, 2006

Pedagogy, education or...

During the European Sakai Days I noticed that the term pedagogy was mentioned a few times. Personally, I believe this is not the best concept to use in the Sakai context. Although it is nowadays used in a broader context, the emphasis is still on teaching children. Moreover, pedagogy includes a lot more issues about raising children from birth till they are adults. I have another reason not to prefer pedagogy instead of concepts like education, learning or didactics. In the context of education, pedagogy is most times referred to as the correct use of teaching strategies or the science of teaching, i.e. the teacher is in control. However, in the context of Sakai and the Bologna issues the focus is on learning. The educational process becomes demand driven: the student is in control of his own learning process. Collaboration and groupwork are key issues. How to organise groupwork is not a matter of pedagogy but of educational or learning design.

European Sakai Day in Free Software Magazine

Alan Berg wrote a nice article in the newsletter of the Free Software Magazine.

Link to article

zondag, september 10, 2006

Further Luebeck impressions

In addition to the posts that were already submitted by Frank and Wytze, for me it was a key issue (e.g. explicitly stated by Rolf Granow and confirmed by Chuck Severance) that the focus within the Sakai community should now shift from the development approach to the user approach. The learners and instructor are the real stakeholders, although development should continue for further improvement of Sakai. Perhaps the European partners should take a lead in this. I think this approach fits perfectly well within the approach we have taken in Twente: starting with the educational user requirements and then see how ICT can facilitate.

I had an interesting talk with John Norman, right after my own presentation. It comes down to an offer by Cambridge to help with the startup of a development workflow process. What issues do you have to deal with when starting up, how to deal with requirement lists, releases, setting priorities, deployment to the community are some aspects that could be addressed. The Cambridge people are willing to come over if we like. It may also be considered to relate this to a possible development group within the Dutch SURF Sakai SIG.

A third point which became clear to me is that there's a market for commercial affiliates. Several people I talked to are interested in using Sakai, but simply don’t have the expertise for development and support capacity within their own resources. Hosted solutions (based on major releases), integration with existing infrastructure (e.g. student administration), implementation support and helpdesk are a few services that would help out to make these organisations use Sakai. It's good if organisations would join the community on that basis, because it's important for the future of Sakai to have as much as possible a large install base.

For further impressions by the CBUS team from Twente look at:

vrijdag, september 08, 2006

Oslo and Stockholm

Oslo and Stockholm where the universities that sent out very thought-provoking (and excellent English-speaking) presenters for the first European Sakai Days (ESD). Susanne Koch from Oslo University talked about three tasks that we have as the Europeans within the worldwide Sakai community:
1. Identify European challenges and ideas about pedagogy and education; these can be derived from the Bologna process and EU's Lisbon process
2. Ask ourselves seriously: "Does the Sakai framework currently or potentially help us better than, say, Blackboard, and why?" So, for example how well does Sakai support lifelong learning and other things.
3. And if and when the previous questions are answered positively, then we should ask ourselves: "How do we format, maintain and cultivate the network?" One thing that Susanne mentioned (and that was also said at our Euro BOF in Vancouver), was that we could try to apply for EU funding. The complete presentation by Susanne can be found online.
And after this very interesting talk by Susanne, there was even a more interesting one by Frerik Oldsjö from Stockholm University. He really gave us a thorough insight in the Bologna process and the pedogical implications. Fredrik made very clear that the Bologna process will result in a pedagogical shift in our educational systems for higher ed! The purpose of Bologna process (which started in 1998) is to create one European Area of Higher Education (EHEA). And don't be fooled: this is not a EU endeavour. The Bologna process has been ratified by 45 European countries! There are ten operational goals, all revolving around comparability, compatibility and transparancy of the systems for Higher Education.
One of the most mindboggling things that I heard is that this whole process essentially means that there should be focus on learning outcomes and assessing these, instead of content. Or take this consequence: much more focus on (peer) feedback!
Fredrik very neatly had translated the Bologna process into some basic requirements for a VLE / LMS or CMS:
1/ should at all times be possible to have an open dialogue over time
2/ full integration of online and offline activities
3/ discussion / dialogue between all involved
4/ summative and formative assessment -> combine in portfolio, but also basic simple assessment tools (!)
5/ seperate group discussions (threads, visual structure), fora, blogs, chat etc
6/ inspiring and secure (socialization): they need to get to know their peers, present themselves to the group
7/ the teacher (the tutor) should have tools that allow for getting a picture of the learning process.
Fredrik's presentation will be online shortly hereafter. I recommend it!
So, all in all I really liked both contributions a lot!

woensdag, september 06, 2006

Lubeck, Valencia and Porto

In the title of this post you will find the universities that delivered their presentations last afternoon over here in Lubeck.
Lubeck is a very interesting case, you could say. Under de Oncampus brand they are delivering very much distance learning programmes (80% distance, 20% f2f), using Sakai. They depend heavily on online content in their network of partners around the Baltic Sea.
Valencia is another special case: they need to provide their ICT tools in two languages, being Spanish and Catalan. This is why they did some work in realizing this in Sakai.
The last presentation was of our collegues from Fernando Pessoa (Porto, Portugal). They had a lot of the same issues we have encountered in our preparation for our pilots. But also they created some provisional tools, that we are deploying right now in our pilots. For example Site Stats.

Looking back

In his keynote address at the European Sakai Day in Lubeck Chuck Severance took the audience on a history ride. Going back to the days before the Sakai project started he provided the listeners with the reason why the collaborative effort of all the universities that are working together in the Sakai Foundation provide them with true control of their destiny.
Being an eloquent speaker Chuck told about the route the people had planned in past, the detours, the undiscovered "lands" and the sometimes difficult decisions that had to be made. He combined this with his nice sense of humor and appetite for good food and drinks.
The scaffolding is removed and Sakai is now ready for the real thing. It has to prove itself as a sustainable solution as a collaborative and teaching solution for our campuses.

A link to the website with the slides of Chuck Severance presentation

We are in Luebeck right now

Originally uploaded by wytze.
The European Sakai Days have just officially started. There is a great audience of about 100 people. Even people from Africa have taken the effort to come over. Prof Dr Rolf Granow is delivering his talk right now. I you want to see the powerpoint, then go to confluence, go here.
Last night we had a great walk around the old town of Luebeck. The weather was very good. And Luebeck is a nice city to walk around.

maandag, september 04, 2006

A promising week lies ahead.

1st European Sakai Days
Originally uploaded by wytze.
This week is a very significant week. First of all it is the week where our prime minister officially opens our academic year. Secondly this is the week where our first two pilots with Sakai are starting.
And thirdly this week marks the first European Sakai Days, that will be held in Luebeck, Germany. In this weblog you will see extensive coverage of this conference. So keep coming back (or read our RSS or Atom feed through your feedreader)!
Oh yeah, also this morning in the news-headlines was a manifest of all our Dutch universities to invest more in higher education. Why now? Well, our parliament elections are coming up (next November).

dinsdag, augustus 29, 2006

Open standards and Sakai

As many of you know, open specifications and standards are becoming more and more important as we are moving into the future. One of the most promising open specifications out there regarding interoperability between LMS / CMS / VLE systems, is called the IMS Common Cartridge. Please have a look at this Sakai Video Report: IMS Common Cartridge Demonstration at Alt-I-Lab 2006 if you want more detailed info: "This video shows the successful demonstration of IMS Common Cartridge at Alt-I-Lab 2006. "

donderdag, augustus 17, 2006

The Sakai Foundation Releases Sakai Version 2.2.1

2.2.1 is a maintenance release, meaning that its purpose is to distribute a further set of fixes to issues that were present in 2.2.0, while deliberately avoiding any new features which may introduce novel bugs. In short, 2.2.1 is currently the latest and greatest release of the 2.2 codebase, and those running 2.2.0 should be able to move to 2.2.1 with confidence: there have been no API changes, so all 2.2 code should run without modification. Sites moving from the 2.2.0 to 2.2.1 will need to perform a small database conversion operation. The details of the steps necessary to upgrade are specified in the release notes.

For more information about Sakai and to download the 2.2.1 release, please visit:

from the Sakai website

vrijdag, augustus 11, 2006

Requirements for Sakai: listed for the first time

Sakai Special Interest Group Netherlands: "Op woensdag 13 september (..) in ieder geval (..) werken aan het definieren van requirements. Een eerste inventarisatie van Dutch/European issues is in de attachment te vinden."
Translation: We have created a list of 22 issues that are of interest for the Dutch /European users of Sakai. Please read and see what you think. You can also check out this information at our wiki, that we have set up for the pilots with Sakai that we are starting as of today at the University of Twente! Just go to ...sakaiwiki/european_dutch_enhancements.
And now it's my time to take some vacation. I'll be back on August 28. See ya!

vrijdag, augustus 04, 2006

We are present(ing) in Lubeck

Since we have been doing some promotion here for the European Sakai Days in Lubeck, we might as well tell you that some Dutch collegues are not only going there as visitors.
Alan Berg, together with Bas Toeter, will have (I think!) a very interesting session in Lubeck. Alan will, no doubt about that, tell us that we should be focusing more (and more) on quality of our software. He will tell us how to automatically test our code and use this to improve our code.
And me, myself and I will be presenting on the forming of the Sakai Special Interest Group The Netherlands. I will especially try to focus on some actions that we can do together as Europe, so that the European perspectives will be more visible then now within the wider Sakai community. Therefore I am also very keen on what our collegues from Germany, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Portugal and Spain will bring to the table. I will listen closely.
Hope to see you there! And again: registration is free for Lubeck, so why not go?

dinsdag, augustus 01, 2006

Website to ground control: I can be launched!

Originally uploaded by wytze.
Since Jan 2006 we used this weblog for communication on the subject of Sakai in The Netherlands. We hope you have enjoyed the ride so far (have you noticed our new banner, nice isnt't?).
Since today, we also have an official website for the Sakai Special Interest Group The Netherlands. There we will do our 'official' stuff, like meeting agenda's, presentations etc.
The website can be found on the elearning portal of the SURF Foundation at There is stuff available in English, but also in Dutch. For both languages we have an RSS feed available, in case you want to follow closely what we are doing.

woensdag, juli 26, 2006

Grading in Europe: Sakai 2.2 does it!

As Frank mentioned in the previous post, the Dutch perspective on Sakai would be shared here. This is a first post from the perspective of the University of Twente (a little background: we are planning on running some pilots with Sakai 2.2 from the start of September, which marks the beginning of the new 'collegejaar').
In the past weeks we have been talking with several teachers about what they want before their first pilot with Sakai can actually happen. They had several remarks, but they where quite positive in general. Their most important remarks were twofold:
  • that the concept of roles and users was a bit confusing (questions like "Who exactly can create a projectsite?" we are looking into that right now)
  • the way the grading works is completely unusable in our Dutch context
Well, actually regarding the second remark, we have looked at Sakai 2.1.1. where this is absolutely true. And even worse: this seemed to be quite hard-coded also.
But now we have Sakai 2.2! As of 2.2, configurable database-stored grading scales are supported. This is exactly what we have been looking for. The scales are referred to only when creating a gradebook. From then on, the gradebook’s mappings of those scales to percentages stay under the control of the instructor.
So, it now is quite easy for us to use our Dutch grading schemes (1 to 10, where 1 means "very very bad") or any other alternative scheme that you can think of.
If you want more current information on the Gradebook, check out the wiki at
To be continued...

donderdag, juli 20, 2006

Sakai 2.2.0 Release

"Sakai 2.2.0 marks the culmination of a significant effort to restructure the framework into more logical functional/architectural units, paving the way for multiple focused teams to work in parallel on moving the framework and legacy code forward. This release also incorporates the Open Source Portfolio suite of tools, available in this first merged effort as provisional tools. Additional functional improvements include group awareness for each of the Resources, Assignments, and Schedule tools, the inclusion of French and Catalan translations, updated help content, and the addition of four innovative provisional tools. See the release notes for more details."

(from the sakai website July 19, 2006)

More news from a Sakai-NL perspective on this new release will be posted on the blog.

Sakai 2.2.0 is available on this website:

donderdag, juli 13, 2006

Please register now!

Everyone is strongly advised to register him/herself as a participant for the European Sakai Day in September, so that our collegues in Lubeck can move forward with regards to catering, location, rooms, seating, wifi etc. So please Register now.
To help you decide to do so, here are some reasons:
1. There will be a very interesting batch of sessions. There are speakers from Germany, The Netherlands (of course!), Italy, the UK and Spain. There will be visitors from these countries also.... (I guess) :-)
2. Registration if FREE (but you need to book and pay for your own hotel)
3. This is your chance to get a feel of the livelyness of the (European) Sakai community
4. Lubeck is a great city
5. This is your chance to meet those faces behind those names on Collab and/or Confluence
6. There will be some folks from the US, representing the Sakai Foundation. So if you feel the need to talk to them, please register
7. We are working on some sponsors, so there even might be some FREE beer. These sponsors also would like to know how many people will attend. So: please register now!
Thanks again...

vrijdag, juli 07, 2006

Sakai SIG NL - number 1

{july 26: updated with URL's pointing to}
I won't repeat what Willem van Valkenburg has written already about the first meeting of the Sakai Special Interest Group The Netherlands (Sakai SIG NL). That would be a waste of time. But this is my summary of our first SIG meeting. I think we heard a good mix of enthousiastic and more realistic stories.
Saxion Hogescholen (Willem Smith and Hans de Vries) had a great presentation on student engagement with Sakai in one of their schools (the school for computer science).
Longtime Sakai partner University of Amsterdam (Frank Benneker) gave us a useful impression of different ways of involvement that are possible within the community. They are doing a lot of great work in the area of automatic code review.
My own collegue Stanley Portier presented the next steps for the University of Twente, which are definitely exciting since we are going into the pilotphase of our project real soon with Sakai 2.2.
Erasmus gave us an insight in some hindrances that they are having right now to get properly started with Sakai. So, their focus is now to get started in 2007.
And Stoas, together with Hotelschool The Hague, are also eagerly awaiting Sakai 2.2 to go ahead with some pilots.
Last, but not least, Leidse OnderwijsInstellingen (LOI), told us why they are interested in Sakai and OSP. And LOI is quite special, since they are what you could say a private school.
For now we have reached our first goal, which was to inform each other of our developments regarding Sakai. It also liked the fact that some other institutions were also present (TU Delft, TU Eindhoven, Universiteit Utrecht). And the Vrije Universiteit couldn't attend, but were interested to get notified of what happened.
What I will do as a next step is to work out a more detailed projectplan of what our SIG is about and where we can collaborate more closely together. We touched on some of these issues already last Wednesday, but that was only superficial as we were running out of time. This projectplan will be discussed with the SIG on our next meeting on September 13. That will be right after the first European Sakai Day in Lubeck, Germany.
In the coming weeks I will be working on a more permanent solution for our (internal and external) communications on the web. I am hoping (and striving) for as well as How do you like that?
The presentations are here:
Update: Keith Russel has also written about our first meeting.
Technorati Tags: , ,

woensdag, juli 05, 2006

First pictures

Today we witnessed our first meeting of the Sakai Special Interest Group NL with attendance by half a dozen Dutch institutions that are more or less working with Sakai, or will be very shortly. A more detailed report will be published later (and Willem van Valkenburg and Keith Russell might be publishing their thoughts on their respective weblogs, I guess).
For now there are some pictures that I made today. You can find them on Flickr. Hopefully Willem Smith is also willing to share his pictures of today.

vrijdag, juni 30, 2006

Sakai and Utrecht University

Yesterday, I received an email from Wilfred Rubens (Utrecht University). He would have liked to be present at our meeting next Wednesday (July 5), but unfortunately he will not be able to attend. Therefore you will find the summary of his presentation:
"Utrecht University is the only Dutch university which has implemented two virtual learning learning environments (VLE) on a large scale. At the moment there are two consortia of faculties who use WebCT Vista or BlackBoard. Nevertheless the central board of the university considered this situation as unconvenient (for the long term). Therefore in 2006 Utrecht University investigated the possibility of one virtual learning environment, implemented in September 2007. The conclusion was that, due to several developments, it is not realistic to implement one (alternative) virtual learning environment on short term. A decision to implement one VLE was posponed for two years. In the meantime the development of especially Sakai and Sharepoint will be monitored actively."
If you would like to read more on Utrecht University and Sakai, you can find the complete advisory report that lead to the abovementioned summary on the website of IVLOS (in Dutch). And Wilfred himself ofcourse has posted on this advice on his weblog (also in Dutch).

donderdag, juni 29, 2006

Meeting agenda July 5

I have finalized the agenda for the upcoming meeting of the Sakai Special Interest Group NL that is scheduled for next week. We will spend most of our time on exchanging our experiences and plans for the future by means of short presentations that will be delivered by the University of Amsterdam, University of Twente, Saxion University, Erasmus University Rotterdam and the University of Utrecht and most possibly some others.
The meeting on July 5 will be conducted in the Dutch language, but I will make sure that the highlights will be available in English for the Sakai community at large. Dutch: Als je ook aanwezig wilt zijn, laat het me dan weten!

dinsdag, juni 27, 2006

Severance, once more

Pierre Gorissen, who was present at alt-i-lab 2006, reminded me that all presentations of this very interesting conference are available. There is one interesting presentation that
I specifically would point the readers of this weblog to. This is a 11 minute video (wmv format) of the short (but very interesting) introduction of Chuck Severance on the theme of "Integrating Open Source, Commercial and In-House Solutions to Deliver Online Learning". This video is a summary of the vision for Sakai as the Swiss Army Knife that Sakai could become, that we reported earlier on.

woensdag, juni 21, 2006

Making the most of 5 July

A little more than a week ago I had a very positive phone-conversation which I would love to have shared with you right away. But I was a little hesitant at that time. Sometimes you need to work out some more details before you go public with something.
Anyway: now I can go public. Here it is: Wouter de Haan (from the SURF Foundation) called me asking me if I was willing to make some steps in creating a more lively community around Sakai in The Netherlands. He asked me if I had some spare time in my schedule to act as a community manager for the Sakai Special Interest Group (SIG)? After some deliberation I said YES.
There's one disclaimer which I should share with you: SURF has a vacancy (Projectenmanager e-Framework) where the Sakai community managament might be part of, depending on the candidate that will be appointed. So my role might be just temporary.
But in the meantime I will go ahead!
So, this is one of my first tasks as Sakai Community Manager NL: this is a reminder that on July 5 we will have a next meeting within The Netherlands with all parties seriously interested in Sakai. I will be organizing this meeting, which will be held all afternoon. More details will be available next week. In the meantime I would remind those who attended on May 22 that we discussed to have short presentations of each institution on our July 5 meeting. We also would like to have a short text (in English) about your institution and Sakai.

woensdag, juni 14, 2006

Sakai installations worldwide

In a previous message I already mentioned the visual listing of European Sakai sites. There are two more listings out there, which I would like to share with you.
The first is a textual listing [updated: not publicly available while still work in progress] on the wiki of the Sakai Foundation. Anthony Whyte is working on this very comprehensive list here, which gives you also access to the actual Sakai installations at the various locations.
The second one is much more experimental in nature, but I don't want to withhold it from you. This is a Google map maintained by Charles Severance. Just check it out, to see what can be done with webservices today.
Oh, and by the way: have you seen the advertisement on the sidebar?

vrijdag, juni 09, 2006

On presenting a complex message

Last Tuesday I was invited, by a former collegue (Lisa Gommer), to share some of our experiences and knowledge about our past, current and future activitities regarding our Virtual Learning Environment. I was happy to see quite a diverse audience at the Wageningen University and Research Centre.
I started out my presentation with looking back at what we have done in 2005. This was the project called ELO Advies (beware: links to a website in Dutch language). We did quite some work in this project.
And then I explained what we are doing right now, which is the definition phase of the project called CBUS (Campus Blend using Sakai). In this phase we are really get to grips with the Sakai product, but also with the Sakai community, procedures etc.
After this definition phase, there will be a pilot phase where we will do some pilots with Sakai with real students and teachers (the so-called "production pilots").
And within roughly one year from now there will be decision point on whether Sakai is a viable route for us to follow.
It was a good meeting at a university that is quite happy with what they are doing in this area. For example: they are quite extensively making use of the MS Sharepoint Portal Server. They will get some subsidy with a project proposal (beware: links to a website in Dutch language) on this matter with the SURF Foundation.
There are a few observations and remarks that I want to share with you regarding my visit to Wageningen:
  1. The presentation that I prepared was way too long! This is really something that I have to work on for upcoming engagements.
  2. People are very very eager to get a demonstration of the Sakai product. I used collab for this, because our own demonstration system is behind a firewall.
  3. There is a serious lack of information regarding Sakai. People tend to think only about the product Sakai, while there is so much more (and more important, such as the future vision and the collaboration between so many likeminded institutions).
  4. I guess I succeeded in conveying the message that at least one other strength of Sakai is the community, but this was not really easy to convey in a few minutes and bullet points (actually I needed a few examples as a sort of workaround).
  5. My audience was very critical about what we would measure in our pilots ("what will your reasoning be to say that Sakai is a viable route to follow"). I think they were right. This is something that I will work on: what will be our criteria?
For your convenience: the presentation (again: in Dutch!) that I carried with me (which took up almost two hours with this audience). I am also curious what the people from Wageningen think about my story. Any readers here from Wageningen?

dinsdag, juni 06, 2006

Valencia: Sakai needs to be bilangual

Universidad Politécnica de Valencia delivered an interesting presentation on their Sakai experiences. They tried to get Sakai working in conjuction with Oracle IAS, but it didn't work. So they switched to the 'standard', being Apache / Tomcat. They are very interested in any experiences we (University of Twente) would have with Oracle IAS.
They needed Sakai to be really bilangual: Spanish & Catalan. This is not exactly something that Sakai can do out of the box.
UPV will go in full production as of September 2006. Slides of their presentation have been posted on the conference wiki.

maandag, juni 05, 2006

Sakai in Europe

Just a short post here: the collegues from the University of Applied Sciences in Luebeck (Germany) have created clickable map of all installations of Sakai in Europe. You will find the UK, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Spain, Portugal and The Netherlands on the current map already. Which countries would be next? Yours?

vrijdag, juni 02, 2006

Where Sakai is heading

Chuck Severance delivered a very inspiring talk yesterday which had the rather dull title "Sakai Technical Overview". But most people at the conference already now that Chuck will always entertain you with something new or something crazy, so that will you have a great time listening. So, the room was fully packed when Chuck started.
Chuck started indeed with a technical overview of Sakai and once again stressed that Sakai is a enterprise level application and should be viewed, used and deployed that way. He showed the impressive figures of the myUnisa installation (more than 17000 unique visits within 2 weeks), of which you might have read elsewhere on this blog.
And then Chuck talked about the upcoming release of Sakai (2.2). But he also looked a little bit further ahead. And I found that most interesting. You can read all the stuff at Chuck's own website (and look for the items dated June 1). I will not repeat all of his views and remarks here, but some ideas that I picked up will follow:
  • There will be a time that Sakai can talk "PHP"
  • He sees Sakai becoming the Swiss army knife that does it all. And by all, we do not mean that Sakai will become a monolithic system that we all have become to hate more or less. No, actually Sakai will talk all sorts of 'languages' and standards in the near future (2-3 years from now). So think RSS, webservices, REST, SOAP, CalDav, WebDav and iCal!
  • Internationalization (I18N) will become an important criterium, amongst others (like Oracle db support and proper Help files), for a tool to move from a provisional tool to become part of the official release.
All in all this was really a great presentation (or should I say performance?) on the future of Sakai. I really like this vision especially with regard of Sakai to be seen as a Swiss army knife. This is where also Service-Oriented Architecture comes is on one hand (remember: Sakai is an enterprise system!). But on the other hand Sakai will embrace and make good use of the quite 'simple' standards that are emerging within what is called Web 2.0 (can I still use this wording?). Which is great!
And now I am going to take a walk (it is 5.50 AM over here in Vancouver).

Portfolio meeting before Sakai conference

Being in Vancouver for the 5th Sakai/OSP conference gave us the opportunity to have a meeting with colleagues from University of British Columbia (Kele Fleming, Allison Wong, Michelle Lamberson and two colleagues), from George Mason University (Darren Cambridge), and from the University of Central Florida (Barbara Truman and 4 colleagues). We, the University of Amsterdam, were present with Marij Veugelers and Leon Raijmann.
We had an 2,5 hour meeting with 11 persons in the nice telestudios from UBC.

The University of Amsterdam (4-year campus wide project) and the UBC (3-year campus-wide project) showed their experiences with portfolio implementation. The University of Central Florida is in the starting/orienting phase and doesn’t have any pilot running.

What where the main issues in the meeting:
Lessons learned:
- Pedagogic is really important: it has to do with changing your curriculum. That cost a lot of time. It needs a vision about student centered education.
- The tool itself isn’t so important, be aware of to much focus on the tool.
- It is important that you have funding (maybe from central level in the university, or from the government or from companies) for doing pilots, taking care for central support
- A central project leader is important to coordinate all the pilots and the Community of Practices.
- A community of Practices stimulates everybody and also is it the way for professionalization of all the leaders of the pilots.
- Make an portfolio website for your institute so that everybody can read about what is going on in the university.
- Start small and make the connection with the curriculum. It is also possible to start with connection at some courses. It is too complicated to roll out the Eportfolio for a whole curriculum.
- For peer review you can also used the student peer review process. It isn’t necessary that always teachers/faculty members do the peer review.
- Think about student involvement in the events. UBC just started with a special flyer for students.

Using Sakai by European University: some things to do...

Following a session with colleagues from Sweden and Norway I realized that we have some special things to do in the Sakai community.

There where comments about the American way of using the gradebook that differs from the European ECTS process.
There were some details around the timeschedule (PM/AM). So maybe we can discuss this on the European Sakai meeting in Lubeck.

See for details their presentation

donderdag, juni 01, 2006

EuroBOF, Thursday

EuroBOF, Thursday
Originally uploaded by iandolphin999.
BOF stands for Birds of the Feather, a informal meeting of likeminded people. That is what we had this morning with almost all European organizations that are using (and/or are interested) in Sakai.
Our discussion was very fruitful and constructive. We especially got some great ideas for the upcoming European Sakai Day(s), which will be held in Luebeck, Germany, on September 6 and 7.
Results from the discussion will be found on the wiki.

MyUnisa: very impressive!

Yesterday I attended two sessions delivered by representatives of Unisa, the major South African distance education institution with over 200.000 students (mostly in Africa, but also in Asia and even in Europe and the US)! Unisa have gone into full production with Sakai as of January 9, 2006, under the title "MyUnisa".
The first session was delivered by Johann Möller. He gave a very informative talk about their change management approach and a brief look into the history of Unisa. Unisa is actually a result of a merger of three institutions, of which two of them were already doing a lot of distance education. They all had their own learning management system and that situation could not be sustained (ofcourse not!). The fact that they would we switched off, created the right sort of sense of urgency that was needed. To overcome possible barriers (especially with the teaching staff) it was throughout the process that all functionality of the 'old' systems would be preserved within the new system, to be based on Sakai.
So, how much time did they have? Well, that's what so impressive! They basically had no more than 6 months to go into full production. And they didn't actually use Sakai out of the box. Most of the time spent was on integration with the legacy systems. And then they developed a total of 19 (?) additional tools, to deliver the promise that all old functionality would be maintained. And Unisa actually used only 6 of the standard tools from the default Sakai toolset.
And these tools were the focus of the presentation by Francette Myburgh. Despite the technical problems with the wireless network, we were given a clear impression of some of the tools that Unisa has developed. I will not list all the tools that were developed. ONe of the tools I liked was the Mailing list tool, that can be used by a lecturer to create bulk email for (a selection of) students in (a selection of) his/her courses (coursesites). This was actually a functionality that existed in one of the previous LMS systems. The other tool that was developed is the Join tool, which is used to assure that every student is identified and fills in a valid email address, which is then verified also.
As I said: what Unisa has done is very impressive! It stands out as a very clear example than can be scaled to enormous amounts of users. The actual figure for Unisa is pictured here. Right now there are two other installations of Sakai that have close to 100.000 users. The other two are Indiana University and the University of Michigan.