woensdag, juni 13, 2007

Some first day impressions

The impression of the first day is rather good. More than 300 people were present and showed to be very much engaged with the Sakai community. I had two short meetings with the new Sakai executive director Michael Korcuska. One right at the registration desk and the second one after my presentation late in the afternoon. Although I reported some critism from the end user perspective, he thought it is very valuable that this kind of feedback is brought into the community. Another example of how the community is focused on helping each other on a variety of issues was my talk with John Norman. The was also present at my presentation and thought that the improvement issues we have identified in our pilot projects can be overcome. He did a direct offer that the Cambridge people are most happy to support our development staff and help to solve the issues we are dealing with. An open invitation to come over to Cambridge and work together on a number of issues: great!

A last impression I'd like to share here was a morning session I attended which was presented by Paul Warwick (University of Cambridge) together with one of his students. This presentation was very much of interest to me, because of the student view that was presented here. It was a nice and clear presentation, and what is more important a lot of issues correspond with our own experiences. The Cambrigde guys explicitly mentioned the need for consistency of the user interface and the lack of usability. This is assumed to be a barrier especially in a situation of distance education, i.e. where you have limited access to your instructor or mentor to help you in case of a problem. A rather surprising remark I heard was that students (considering themselves as a member of the net generation) still require some student training in Sakai. Maybe this is related to the usability issue? Sakai should be further improved to help 'searchability'. Students consider themselves also a search generation: just type in a word or (part of) a phrase and receive all relevant results. Some other issues are primarily related to the organisation of Sakai sites. Beware of consistency in the use of tools. E.g. teacher A sends e-mails outside Sakai, teacher B sends e-mail with attachments insided Sakai, teacher C sends e-mail but refers to a resources folder for finding the 'attachment'. This can make it very confusing for a student. A nice suggestion is to use specific site templates (depending on a pedagogical scenario) which created a pre-defined site structure.

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