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.

Where is Sakai deployed?

Asking yourself where you can find Sakai installations? Well, that's a good question. Andreas Wittke from Lubeck asked himself this same question and created a nice map of Sakai installations within Europe. Check it out and comment by sending an email to Andreas if you see omissions.
A worldwide listing is also available, with not always the most current information. But hey, at least it is something.

Good news: Oracle is on board!

From the official press release on sakaiproject.org: "Curtiss Barnes, education industry lead for product strategy at Oracle noted, 'When I speak with our customers about the Sakai project, it is increasingly clear that this community can bring about a sea change in the use of IT for academic and research enterprises. Now is the time for an ERP vendor to truly get engaged and help to drive beneficial outcomes for faculty and their students and researchers and their collaborators.'"
This is really good news for the community! After the very positive engagement that IBM is showing at this conference, I am more than curious to see what Oracle will bring to the table!

SCORMify Sakai

IBM took the title SCORMify Sakai to show their tools to import and use SCORM content in Sakai. Parts of the tools have been donated to the Sakai project. That includes a tool to convert PowerPoint presentations into a Scorm package. Also a tracking server is part of this donation.

The nice thing about using this Scorm converter is that the notes with the slides are also presented and the Scorm ability to return where you last left the presentation (the socalled RunTime Environment, RTE).
There are still many wishes for improvements like gradebook integration, reporting and Scorm 2004 features like simple sequencing etc. But this is a very good start.

During the presentation IBM also showed their Content Producer. That looks very impressive to make Scorm content. This software is not part of the donation, but a 30 days evaluation version is available. I will certainly look at that tool.

Also interesting to hear was that they do not use the QTI standard for the testing part of the content producer. The reason was that the QTI standard is too limited for advanced testing and gaming like features. They go around the QTI by using the tracking mechanisms in Scorm. Have to think about this.

Links: http://www.ibm.com/education/open

Mark Nortons one-and-a-half hour Framework walkthrough

By our guest author Gissur Jonsson
Mark Norton has made som forays into the nature of the framework in Sakai 2.2 and has emerged with quite som information. In general, refer to his slides for API specifics. My interests was mostly in his understanding of the AuthzGroup and the GroupProvider but there was alot about the new Entity model.

Entities provides a common model for working on objects within Sakai that has persistence and maybe uses outside of their originating tool. A good example is the resources but also syllabus entries and stuff like that springs to mind. Entities has a reference to the Producer who made them and they have Properties to describe their metadata. Edit extends Entity and provides mutability to the Entity object. The Entity Bus or the Entity Model will be a focus for futher development as a central service in Sakai. I expect a lot of kernel or core usages to spring from this model.

The actual blog from the session is quite extensive and probably not very interesting for the non-initiated non-coding person. So I'll try to wrap it up in a few words and then attach the rest of it as notes under the wiki presentation entry.

The overline of the five (formerly known as six - but Security and AuthzGroup got collapsed into one) models is as follows:

  • User Model for user properties and authentication (used to be in kernel). A UserDirectory provides searching capabilities for User objects with UserEdit objects as a way of changing information about users. External providers are implemented through UserDirectoryProvider and returns filled-out UserEdits for the queried user. A new thing is the external eid as a separate id to Sakais internal (cryptic) id. In most circumstances you would want to show users their eid...

  • Tool Model - I kinda missed the essentials here, not even sure if this is the proper name for it. But it breaks down to separating tools into a tool part, a service api part and a service impl part. At the lowest level, it should hook into the framework. All the other parts should only depend on own APIs.

  • Security Model manages permissions for users by a unlock-by-key scheme. It's basically just a function (lock) that is granted (by key) to a user, managed by collecting users in groups called authzgroups (formerly realms). Likewise a set of functions are collected in a role that expresses a given set of users' rights within a site context.

  • Content Model manages all uploaded documents etc. It can be stored internally in the database or (recommended) externally on the file system. A limitation in the content hosting model means that all backup and restore is per server instance, not user instance.

  • Site Model wraps up all kind of site-specific things, like tool placement etc. Of particular interest was the notion that pages is not the same as tools. You can have more than one tool on a page, but in other circumstances only one tool per site is allowed. Try for instance to use admin site editing to add more than one chat tool pages to a site - it will actually be the same active chat for both pages.

And that's it - sorry about the noisy first edition - if you are interested in the full edition, go to this site.

You can find the slides here at a later date