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.