donderdag, april 19, 2007

Sakai and/or Sharepoint?

As Wytze mentioned in his last post, yesterday there was a workshop at SURFFoundation initiated by the coordinators of the SURF SIGs Sakai-NL and Sharepoint. Some of the participants were expecting a sort of product comparance between Sakai and Sharepoint (SP). Probably the two are basically the two mainstreams in Dutch Higher Education that have a high amount of interest at the moment as possible alternatives for current VLE's like Blackboard, TeleTOP, N@tschool, etc. In some discussions the two are considered to be equal alternatives. Simply stated: when we are looking for a new VLE we might consider Sakai or Sharepoint. Or can we also think of a combination of both? As a reader of this blog you probably know that the University of Twente is conducting a profound pilot project in which Sakai is taken into consideration. There were some attempts to include Sharepoint in the final phase of the pilot project. For several reasons, we did not include that in the current project because the deadline says that it has to be finalised by the end of May. Moreover, a similar investigation should be taken seriously and not as a sort of epilogue of a Sakai study. But can you actually compare them? Sharepoint - already starting in 2001 - could be found in the support of business processes, workflow optimalisation and quality assurance processes. I remember being the external consultant for a Dutch water management company which had a primary goal to organise their document management (especially version management, make specific employees responsible for a workflow process. They also wanted a portal page in which documents, and information from other resources could be displayed.

My basic statement is that the conceptual design behind SP is completely different compared to Sakai. SP originates from a business approach, Sakai was developed in an educational environment. Examples show that SP is missing typical educational functions. We already see pilots in which SP is combined with a VLE like It's Learning. Is it any use to compare Sakai with SP as if they were completely interchangeable? Isn't it comparing apples with pears (as we say in Dutch)? A product oriented discussion is always difficult. What are the functional and technical criteria and what about bridging different policies? We have seen that in our recent efforts to achieve a virtuel learning environment for the three technical universities (3TU). Our current approach is to take it from the archictecture side: first define business processes (functional services), then functional components and finally decide which (parts of) applications may deliver a specific function. This rather open approach also enables us to include other information processes (student adminstration, HRM, finance) and build a truly integrated environment.

Basically, the lack of integration is what is truly bothering most of the end users: searching for information in system A gives a different result from searching the 'same' information in system B.

It's interesting to hear how others perceive these issues. Anyone commenting?

6 opmerkingen:

  1. Hi Stanley,

    I wonder how Sakai and Sharepoint ended up as apparently two interchangable options on many short lists. Clearly there isn't much overlap between both products in functionality. As you said, both products can complement the other rather than substitute it.

    I can think of many reasons why this is happening, some more profound than others. Sakai doesn't cover the needs of good content management and basically lacks the work flow posibilities. Sharepoint on the other hand has no built in tools that focusses on specific educational areas. Maybe a (more profound) reason for showing up as 'equal' opportunities that in some cases the work flow posibilities (along with content management) are the most important needs in one case while collaboration is more desired in other cases.

  2. Hi Walter,
    I think you have a good point here. I also believe there is some relation with the often traditional way of using a virtual learning environment. As one of the pedagogy discussions on Collab states is that a lot of typical lecture courses just use the announcements and resources tool of Sakai to distribute their content. This is basically the same when you look at the way how most Blackboard sites are used. This is probably why Sharepoint might be interesting to a lot of people, because they can keep up with their tradtional way of working. Dare we say the pedagogical concept of Sakai has a more innovative approach?

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