Wednesday, June 30, 2010

MIT, Yale, and other Barriers to Education

The atrium of Carnegie Mellon University in Qa...Image via Wikipedia

Ben Wildavsky wrote an article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed called "Is Globally Democratized Learning Always a Good Thing?" I went there to comment, but I set off their curmudgeon filter. It now says Threat Level Orange and won't let me post.

I feel that society and technology has changed how we communicate and how we learn to such a degree that "the traditional hierarchical relationship between professor and student" is more of a barrier than anything else.

First off, it represents an economic barrier that needed to come down a long time ago. There are places in the world where the globalization of education will mean the difference between life and death for millions of people. Many countries in Africa can't wait for the hand-wringers in the Ivy Leagues to decide when teaching epidemiology online is okay or not. They need the information now and they need to learn the best way to learn that information online.

Second, the hierarchical relationship is not the only method of teaching; it is merely the traditional one. Socrates was suspicious of writing because it took away our reliance on memory.

Third, as much as I appreciate the efforts of MIT and Yale, they did not invent open education content. Much of their content online consists of syllabi and reading lists. I do not find comfort in the repetition of "MIT, Yale, Carnegie Mellon" - these universities are institutions of exclusion. And ironically, I believe one of the reasons Anya Kamenetz is so popular is because she is a product of Yale and the access that background represents. There are far more revolutionary writers on education and open content that will not get that kind of attention.

Statements like "it seems to me that students don’t always learn effectively on their own or with minimal assistance" represent a complete misunderstanding of what online learning is and an unfamiliarity with the basic research into the field of online learning. Students in online classes can have highly interactive, thoughtful, and engaging experiences. There are examples of poor online teaching just as there are examples of poor face-to-face teaching. But to think that the alternative to face-to-face is "interactive software" is a misunderstanding of online pedagogy.

I disagree with Dunderstadt as quoted in this article as well. There is a significant amount of knowledge creation and research that is going on via the internet - for instance in open classrooms like George Siemen's and Stephen Downes courses on Connectivism and Connective Knowledge. There are many examples like this.

How will professors of traditional universities be able to provide "the experience and wisdom to intelligently navigate the new world of knowledge" if they are unwilling to experience it themselves?
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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sakai: The Student Perspective

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Mary McMahon - Pomona College ITS
Mary McMahon is the Director of Instructional Services at Pomona College. Susan Kullmann - Scripps College IT
Susan Kullmann is an Instructional Technology Consultant at Scripps College

Benjamin Royas - Claremont McKenna College IT
Benjamin Royas is an Instructional Technology Specialist at Claremont McKenna College. An alumnus of the college (class of 2003) and a long time employee within the Instructional Technology and Client Services department, Benjamin provides training and support to faculty using Sakai and oversees a team of student workers who digitize course materials.

Susan Roig - Claremont Graduate University IT
Susan Roig is Director of Academic Computing at Claremont Graduate University.

The Claremont Consortium administers a biennial survey to the approximately 5,000 Sakai-using undergraduate and graduate students in its member institutions [Claremont McKenna College, Claremont Graduate University, Harvey Mudd College, Keck Graduate Institute, Pitzer College, Pomona College and Scripps College]. Academic technologists and information technology administrators from several consortium campuses will present findings from the 2008 and 2010 surveys. We will identify changes in student use of Sakai; student assessment of the benefits and drawbacks of courses that use Sakai; which tools students find most useful in their courses as well as tool usage patterns, and student suggestions to improve Sakai and the ways that it is used in their classes.

I want to start surveying our students. This session is a good opportunity to see what questions institutions are asking their students. It will also let us know what to watch out for with our implementation of Sakai.

Every year they give the MISI (multi-institutional survey initiative) survey to students and faculty.

Students are increasingly more comfortable and satisfied using Sakai over the last two years.

An overwhelming majority of students find Sakai easy to use (91%).

Fewer students feel entirely unfamiliar with Sakai (from 10% to 5%).

Single sign-on made a big difference. They did not change what they did based on the survey.

Advancing Online Assessment in Medical Education

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Stephen Marquard - University of Cape Town
Stephen Marquard is Learning Technologies Co-ordinator at the University of Cape Town, where he is responsible for the University's popular Sakai deployment known as Vula. Stephen is a previous Sakai Fellow and a current member of the Sakai Product Council and Sakai Board.

UCT's Health Sciences Faculty has 3 related initiatives aimed at improving assessment practices: introducing the use of Extended Matching Item (R-type) MCQs, a Question Bank application to author, manage, reuse and share MCQs, and collaborating with other institutions to develop and share MCQs (including EMIs). The presentation will describe work in progress, particularly support for EMIs in Tests & Quizzes and the evolving requirements for a Question Bank application, with the aim of identifying similar interests from other institutions and medical schools leading to possible collaboration.

They have been researching how multiple choice questions work and looking at how to improve assessment practices.

EMI = extended matching item.

Previously, instead of having to use the images over and over, they started using "fill in the blanks" on a table. This way of doing things is difficult to write. There is no item analysis - they had to be graded manually in Excel spreadsheets.

For improving assessments, we should be tagging our questions with metadata for running reports. Sakai supports this.

University of South Africa are sharing question pools with other colleges. Creating a question bank for multiple institutions. Metatagging of assessments will allow people to create tests by theme, topic, and difficulty level. They want to be able to look at the statistics of questions across institutions. Their question bank will also support embedded rich media.

The assessment items should be an open education resource.

They are looking for programs that are interested in building question banks and tools.
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Five Minute Fixes to Improve Sakai Course Design

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Thomas Boudrot - Oregon Health & Science University
Thomas Boudrot is the Manager of Academic Technology at Oregon Health & Science University. His team provides instructional design and technical support to three schools and numerous departments in the use of Sakai. He has an EdD in educational administration from the University of Southern Mississippi.

John Ansorge - Oregon Health & Science University
John Ansorge is an Instructional Technologist at the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, OR. He provides user and technical support for Sakai and other online academic technology services. He has a Masters degree in educational technology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Support calls from students and instructors are an extremely important source of information. By analyzing help desk issues, a course builder will often discover that design, not the technology, is the culprit. Using support call details, course developers can revise courses and develop best practices to prevent further support calls. Spending just a few minutes improving a course at the beginning of the term can save hours of user frustration and confusion. Many good design techniques are basic though new course builders are likely to miss them. A few of them include:
  • Building the course homepage to direct students to important features and “must-do’s” when they first enter the site
  • Ensuring that the site has a voice of its instructors
  • Building (and deploying in Melete or Resources) templates that standardize the look and feel of instructional material
  • Standardizing on uploaded media types to prevent the need for multiple media players and to minimize end-user access issues.
In this session, the presenters will share lessons learned from two years of help desk experience that has resulted in course design changes yielding significantly fewer support calls. Actual courses from a variety of subjects and levels will be shared. Time will be reserved for questions and answers.


Look at your support tickets and see where people are having problems.

Things to do:
  • Make sure there is something on the home page of the course that tells the students where they are.
  • Link to the syllabus in the side-bar (we do this already).
  • Set link target with tools to "top".
  • Put a "Getting Started" section in the homepage that links to the syllabus.
  • Make sure that the students get an email or message every week (creates a voice for the course) or put in a video or recording.
  • Get rid of all unused buttons. Use the "Page Order" in the "Site Editor" (Site Info).
  • End the scavenger hunt. Use icons and links in the "Lessons" tool. Provide a template. Look at the "Templates" button.
  • Standardize all file types for things like videos (they are using Flash, mp3, and pdf)
  • Have faculty use the Text Editor as often as possible instead of uploading and linking documents
Things to Avoid:
  • Do not use date specific assignments - make the tests due on specific weekdays.
  • Because you can't link to every area in Sakai (don't link), give them a consistent path (Tests & Quizzes > Week 03 Quiz).
  • Stop using the calendar - not every instructor uses it, students don't know to expand the calendar. It sets the students up for failure.
Longer than 5 minute fixes:
rSmart got Lessons Tool and Resources talking together. You used to not be able to do this in Melete. This allows the links to be able to be moved. All the links revised automatically.

Adding templates - have rSmart change the editor to include templates.

CSS for Ergonomics - Skin manager allows you to make changes to make managing groups much easier. This is fixed in 2.7
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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

How Sakai Solved the Multi-Section Problem for Romance Languages

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Rob Moore - UNC-Chapel Hill Dept of Romance Languages
Rob Moore is a 2004 graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill and has worked at UNC for almost six years. He is entering his fourth year as Manager of the Foreign Language Resource Center in the Department of Romance Languages. In this position, Rob collaborates with instructors and other departments on projects to improve the quality of language teaching as well as integrates innovative technology into the language curriculum. Recent completely projects have included and

Department of Romance Languages has several large section courses, which can have as many as 45 sections taught by multiple instructors with one course coordinator. The course coordinator provides syllabi, assignments, and tests for the sections. Using Sakai’s section aware tools, these courses were moved from Blackboard to Sakai, which significantly improved communication and coordination between coordinators and instructors. The move to Sakai has not only saved time but also significantly improved communication and coordination between the coordinator and the instructors. Starting in the fall of 2009, each of the large section classes for French and Spanish had one main Sakai site, with the course coordinator designated as the instructor. Students were enrolled in sections within this main course, and instructors were set as teaching assistants for their section. The course coordinator can post necessary information to this one site and all students are able to see it, which eliminates the need for the coordinator to manage multiple sites and instructors having to move items from external locations to Blackboard. Another advantage of Sakai is that it segments students enrolled in the sections so that when they log in, they see only classmates from their section. As a result, any assignments or discussion boards are available to a specific section, and they are graded and seen only by that section’s instructor.

This works well for large multisection courses but it is hard to run the gradebook. If one instructor changes all the grade weighting, there can be a disaster. I am wondering if Gradebook 2 won't fix this.

We should look at the sections tool for our nursing classes.

Students do not see other students in the different sections. All of the tools are section aware.

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Sakai Gradebook : a UI Overhaul & New features

"See No Evil/Hear No Evil", one of s...Image via Wikipedia

Kirk Alexander - UC Davis
One of the improvements is that all of the settings for each item are visible on a single page. It now handles weighting, extra credit and dropping the lowest score. Instructors can drop lowest score in a category. It is integrated with all of the tools. It represents a more efficient use of the tools.

There is a grading spreadsheet that allows you to grade many items all at once. Items are color coded - it will show things like what score was dropped as the lowest score.

Everything is now drag and drop.

There is now documentation with ten different kinds of syllabi and how you need to set up the gradebook to support those syllabi.

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Virtual Problem Based Learning for Health Using Sakai

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Angela Gardiner - University of Hull
Angela Gardiner is a Senior Lecturer and eLearning cordinator within the facility of health and social care within the University of Hull. She leads and teaches a number of modules and programmes across the faculty and has a number of years experience teaching online. Angela has designed and developed a number of education provsions within healthcare and is leading on the construction of the virtual PBL Sakai site.

Patrick Lynch - University of Hull
Patrick Lynch is the eLearning Coordinator at the University of Hull. Patrick has qualifications in Business Information Systems, Education and Consultancy. Patrick has over 20 years of experience in supporting and developing academic staff. Patrick is also one of the tutors n the MEd in eLearning at the University of Hull.

Yvonne Needham - University of Hull
Yvonne has been a nurse for nearly 30 years. Working in Ophthalmic Nursing and Education as a Nurse practitioner and senior lecturer. Working will colleagues over the last 15 yeas to develop various modules and programmes on line. She is currently Chair of the RCN Ophthalmic nursing Forum and working with the Royal College of Ophthalmologists on their eLearning Project. Mary Beadle -

This paper will discuss the use of a Sakai-based environment to facilitate scenario and problem based learning across a range of healthcare disciplines as part of the Interprofessional learning agenda. A virtual landscape has been developed comprising of a number of key locations which mirror a real town or city location and which links to a range of scenarios which can be used to facilitate learning across health-related student groups. The structure of the site enables individuals to read literature, access supporting materials and review audio visual resources which together depict a particular scenario. Once the students have explored the supporting materials and resources, they are laced into inter-professional groups to explore a range of issues in relation to the scenario. The method of learning and teaching employed is based upon the learning needs of the students and of which the virtual landscape is employed accordingly using an appropriately constructed task. The functionality of the Sakai-based site has enabled a range of learning materials to be gathered and structured in such a manner as to enable a highly visual approach to scenario and problem based learning which can be used in addition to or as an alternative to classroom based activities. This option is particularly significant for groups of learners at remote locations to the institution and has a particular significance for health students undertaking learning as part of continuing processional development and hence may not be able to access regular on campus.


He calls this a constructivist instructional strategy. They use scenarios and problem-based learning. Their previous work was heavy on reading and discussion. They wanted a visual, interactive, authentic, engaging learning environment. They referred to this as a VLE, a virtual learning environment.

The content needs to be reusable. Their model is that staff and faculty maintain their own content. Faculty should be as independent as possible.

In their Interprofession Conference, they would create scenarios between different fields and disciplines - clinical psychology, nursing, medical school, and social work participated. They used forums and a wiki for support materials for the case (case based learning).

They used a map that used images and text. These maps and images of buildings are linked to details in the case. All the graphics were made by a graphic designer. The images are in a frame and the text can be edited by faculty.

They hired some theatre people to play different roles in the scenarios.

The conference really didn't work because they had too many students. All of the resources they built stimulated discussion about future work.

They want to build more scenarios, parallel scenarios, reuse content, create health records, give more information to the students and less answers (obfuscation) - make the students work for the answers. Have actual professionals come in and participate.

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Instructor Driven Course Site Design

Chapel (built in 1885-1890) of the University ...Image via Wikipedia

Yitna Firdyiwek is Faculty Consultant in Instructional Technology at the University of Virginia.

Sakai is now in full production at the University of Virginia where its adoption rate has been steadily growing over the last two and a half years. However, in spite of its many useful features, one of Sakai's serious shortcomings has been its limited accommodations for variety and flexibility in truly representing and delivering a course's design. While Sakai allows instructors to select, rename, and reorder tools and resources, instructors cannot provide students access to tools and resources except through a linear and heavily tool-based menu structure. Instructors at our institution have made it clear to us that this limitation is a severe setback to their creative and effective use of the system, especially in purely online environments. They may, for example, want to organize their course content and activities in a chronological order, or by topic modules, or even as a narrative with an emergent design. But, by default, Sakai forces a tool-based view/presentation even though few (if any!) courses are designed that way. This limitation has been partially addressed by at least two projects -- Melete by Etudes and OpenSyllabus by HECl. In this presentation we will briefly discuss the approaches and limitations in these two efforts and describe a third approach that focuses on the built-in editor in Sakai (FCKEditor) which we have adapted to provide a simple and flexible way for instructors to deliver their course designs via Sakai. By extending the Sakai editor with easy-to-use templates and plug-ins for full screen editing and previewing, and by adding the ability to easily link to discussion topics, assignments, and tests (in addition to resources), we have been able to provide instructors with an environment that is simple but also capable of supporting their individualized and innovative course designs.

There are groups on campus that provide information, suggestions, and decisions from faculty that drive technology:
  • CMS Advisors
  • Shanti/UVACSE
  • TRC - teaching and learning support
  • Instructional development teams in the different schools
When they collect information from users, they find that after a year, instructors are more comfortable using Sakai. They have forgotten the other LMS. They are only really using a few tools - communications, syllabus, and resources.

Student/faculty perspectives are not aligned. The students are comfortable and the faculty are not organized. Faculty complain about the tools but not willing to get the training to use the tools effectively.

There are requests from faculty for "content driven" course design - an agenda based course. This is contrasted with a "tool driven" approach. This way, the content is owned by the instructor - the instructor owns that space.

The steps that they took were:
  • Focus on supporting instructors
  • Give instructors control over the interface
  • Provide design assistance with templates
  • Focus on online editor training for instructors
They use an "interactive syllabus" - a template that allows instructors to link all of the activities to the syllabus.

They use the template icon in their syllabus editor with pre-loaded syllabi templates that they have created.

They are working on preserving the links - the syllabus is not copyable to the next course or semester because the links are dependent on the original course. They cannot afford new tools and support. He is looking at linking everything to a development site.

Another instructor here is using the "Schedule" tool in Sakai.

The syllabus becomes a teaching tool rather than just a contract.

This represents an elegant solution because it uses the editor that is built into Sakai.
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Innovations in Academic Advising: A Sakai CLE for Academic Advisors and Advisees

marist student unionImage by glemak via Flickr

Dr. Mark A. Van Dyke, Associate Professor School of Communication and the Arts Marist College, Poughkeepsie, NY 12601 (845) 575-3000, ext. 2679 mark.vandyke

Marist College has completed a one-year pilot of a CLE-based site for academic advisors and student advisees. This site, created with Marist's iLearn (Innovative Learning and Research Network) brand of Sakai, integrates a full suite of Sakai tools. These tools create a highly-interactive online community that has greatly enhanced virtual communication, collaboration, file management, and innovation in the academic advising process for one advisor and more than 50 of his academic advisees. The Marist model of this collaboration site supports academic advising for an on-the-ground bachelor's in communication program and a fully-online master's program in communication. It also supports advising between master's candidates and thesis committee members, provides tutorials and other instructional resources for new advisees, and connects students who are studying abroad with the academic advisor and other students who consider study-abroad programs. Hence, this site can serve the needs of traditional and non-traditional students and academic advisors in a wide variety of situations by offering the flexibility, power, and the openness of Sakai's product.

He developed a project site around Marist Collaborative Learning Constellation.

Sakai and innovation in academic advising

"If academic advisors want to reach their advisees, and their advisees are living in a digital world, then advisors need to become part of that world as well."

Elements of virtual academic advising include fast, efficient, flexible, powerful, and open. He saw Sakai as a good fit for this.

Used the U.S National Academic Advisting Association Guidelines for Web-based advising.

The course site used most of the tools in Sakai. The academic community of advisors and advisees could benefit from the same collaborative learning environment as the teachers and students. He creates specific groups for specific needs. All the links advisors need to calendars and schedules are in the side-bar. One of the most popular tools is the wiki. He also uses Twitter. He uses an online sign-up sheet as needed via the wiki tool. He also used web conferencing to meet with students.

In the wiki, the students are able to update information about the college as things change.

The feedback from advisees is pretty significant: they visit his site more often than students would typically visit their advisor.

Students are enrolled in the site manually. The advisors get a list of their students.

He is able to virtually meet with students and determine if he can answer their questions quickly or if their situation is more complicated and he can then schedule an appointment. He says that the virtual site enhances face-to-face contact rather than replacing it.

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TWISA Honorable Mentions Presentation

TWISA is the "Teaching with Sakai Innovation Awards." There are more awards and information here:

Joshua Danish - Indiana University Bloomington
Computational Technologies in Educational Ecosystems

Karen Swenson - Virginia Tech
Introduction to Science Fiction and Fantasy

Kate Ellis - Indiana University presented the winners.

Joshua Danish's Course: Computational Technologies in Educational Ecosystems Indiana University Bloomington In his graduate course on Computational Technologies in Educational Ecosystems, Dr. Joshua Danish used Sakai as a hub to help extend class conversations beyond the classroom and even into other courses. He used Sakai wikis and blogs, and other Web 2.0 tools such as Twitter, to help meaningfully position students’ online conversations in order to promote rich reflection and discussion. One of the central activities of the course was a modeling activity in which students created visual models of the course content and iteratively refined their models throughout the semester, while posting reflections to the course website about the manner in which they adjusted their models in response to course readings and peer feedback.

Extending the Conversation
Using Sakai to Promote the Ongoing Reflection.

He used Sakai, Twitter, Wordpress, and Blogger as the primary technologies.

He designs courses around activity theory (Engestrom 1987).

This was a graduate level survey course to look at the ways that technology can be used in education. There were 11 students with MA and Phd students drawing from a number of different disciplines. There were a wide range of tech abilities represented.

The course objectives included helping students develop a personally meaningful model of how tech can be implemented in educational contexts.

Activities included discussions from experience and reading for the "obvious" connections. The purpose was to develop a model of how technology fits in education (Lesh 2003).

The students created a preliminary model and tracked how the readings and discussions changed or evolved their model.

He created a page that grouped everyone's blogs together in Sakai.

Students collaboratively created the assessment rubric for the course.

The students were required to post definitions to the course wiki dictionary. The students had a set number of postings to this wiki for the course.

He used Twitter to extend the course conversations - 8 out of 10 were already on Twitter. He created a hash tag for the course. Course Twitter feed aggregated into a page in Sakai.

This is the cover to the January 1953 issue of...Image via Wikipedia

Karen Swenson's Course: Introduction to Science Fiction and Fantasy
Dr. Karen Swenson used the Sakai wiki in her Science Fiction and Fantasy course to create a community of practice that moved students from being peripheral receivers of information and content to becoming expert creators of information and content. The course allowed students the flexibility to choose what, how, and when they would contribute to the ever-growing body of Science Fiction and Fantasy knowledge. Students actively participated in an on-going dialogue within the Chat Room to discuss their contributions and to ask questions. Forums were used to let students discuss and debate ideas, including controversial and especially thought-provoking topics. Participating in their own education in this manner "gives students a sense of ownership,” says Swenson.

Karen's course was very popular with English majors, engineers, and science majors.

The course was developed collaboratively by many people.

Her course goals include using collaborative work to help make the world a better place.

She used multiple wikis for different purposes. She used them to present images of science fiction and for interactive postings.

She used videos to communicate with her class. Virgina Tech uses a "Principles of Community."

The class used polls to create community.

The quizzes were timed (50 mins) and open-book with 25 questions. They were basically reading quizzes.

The forum was only used to support the weekly summaries of what the students did. She also used a chat room.

Seven Principles for Cultivating a Community of Practice was integral to her instructional design.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Messages & Forums 2.7, Not What You Were Expecting

The famous set of columns from the Roman Forum...Image via Wikipedia

Bryan Holladay has been a developer at Indiana University for the past four years. Bryan has assisted with the Matrix tool enhancements for ePortfolio, is the project co-lead for Sakai's Messages & Forums tool, created Oncourse's mobile portal for MobileIU and redesigned the synoptic tool for Messages & Forums. He has his B.S. in Computer Science from Indiana University and will complete his M.S. in Computer Science from Purdue University in August 2010. Bryan enjoys android programming and sailing the lakes of Indiana in his free time.

Megan May - Indiana University
Megan is a Quality Assurance Team Lead / Project Planning Coordinator within University Information Technology Services (UITS) at Indiana University and was the Quality Assurance (QA) Director for the Sakai Foundation for just under 3 years. Over the years Megan has been responsible for leading a global QA effort, as well as directed the testing and implementation effort of IU's migration from the legacy CMS to Sakai. She has also been responsible for the communication, coordination, data analysis, design, documentation and tier 2 support. Megan earned her B.S. in Business from IU's Kelley School of Business with concentrations in information systems, operations management and process management.

Gonzalo Silverio - University of Michigan
Gonzalo Silverio is a Sakai/Ctools front end developer at the University of Michigan, focused on constructing usable and accessible user experiences.

Introducing the faster, sleeker, and improved Messages & Forums tool for Sakai 2.7. This showcase will go over the improvements made to the Messages & Forums tool, including the UI makeover, the new synoptic tool, the many performance improvements and the extra features added for the user. We will also go over the process of becoming an independently released tool.

Meagan gave a short history of the forums and messaging feature in Sakai.

Forums Facelift
UI Makeover - complex tool and unique needs
  • Deep hierarchical structure
  • need for context and detail
  • But there is no Sakai idiom for dealing with these issues.
Changes in the Forums
  • Color coding
  • Threaded view
  • Single message view
  • New flags that tell you what you have read
  • Navigation tools
  • Clarifying permissions
  • Complete accessibility review
  • Word counts
Forums: What's new in 2.7.0
  • New synoptic tool (shows unread messages)
  • Performance improvements
  • Direct pinking to Forum posts
  • Mark all as "read" when displaying all messages
  • Site participant notification
  • Displays # of users who read post
  • view all postings by in individual
  • Option to display and sort by last and recent activity
  • Option to pre-populated default forum and topic
  • Read by feature
  • Statistics page - able to click on posting and retrieve thread
Is the synoptic tool faster? A piece of chart junk was used to illustrate the faster speed. We were asked to ignore the numbers and just think of them as percentages - this guy has a future at NASA :-) To be fair, I am just not sure what his numbers mean apart from fast=good.

It is interesting to listen to programmers try to talk to faculty. All of the sorting and tagging options are not as nearly as useful as programmers think they are because they are dependent on what computer one is using when.

The thread view seems much clearer. This is going to be good news for our faculty.

Indie Tool Release
Development platform for building tools for Sakai.
Independently released from Sakai.
Using Maven Release plug-in

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Kaltura Video in Sakai

Image representing Kaltura as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBase

Unicon's Aaron Zeckoski is a software engineer and open source software developer. He is internationally recognized for his expertise in the Sakai open source collaborative learning environment. His nine years of experience include work both as part of a university team and as an independent consultant. An experienced systems architect, Aaron has demonstrated his programming expertise in all aspects of web application development. He is also experienced and interested in technical documentation, programmer tools development, and developer training.

This is a presentation on the integration of Kaltura Video into Sakai. We will discuss the use cases for the project and why it was developed. We will also present results of the pilot at UVA. There will be a demonstration of using the Media Gallery tool to create a media collection and using the Sakai Rich Text Editor integration to capture, edit, and embed video into various other parts of Sakai.

Kaltura is an open source video transcoding system to put content into Sakai. It is like YouTube except it is siloed. I am not sure if this is a good thing but for student privacy or some copyright issues this may be important.

The users will create collections of media. The processing and coding of video is done on Kaltura's servers. It is holding content and delivered through Sakai. The beta has been released first production in the Fall. Can be installed in Sakai 2.5-2.7

Instructors can create collections and site libraries. Content can go in the library and then the instructor can create a collection for a course or an assignment.

Instructors and students are able to tag the videos and write descriptions.

There are institutions using Kaltura for lecture capture.

There is a "Media Gallery" link in his course that becomes available to the students for their courses.

They are working on integrating with HTML5 so it will work on iPhones.

I was afraid of this presentation at first because I thought it would be too technical but this was clearly presented. It was a good over-view of the tools.

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Sakai: SMS, Q&A, and Course Evaluations

kiwanja_san_francisco_texting_11Image by kiwanja via Flickr

This presentation was by Stephen Marquard of the University of Cape Town where he is the Learning Technologies Co-ordinator at the University of Cape Town. He is also responsible for the University's popular Sakai deployment known as Vula. Stephen is a previous Sakai Fellow and a current member of the Sakai Product Council and Sakai Board.

Find out more about how to send SMS messages from Sakai and integrate incoming SMS messages with Sakai tools and service. Questions and Answers is a contrib tool for asking and answering questions. Course Evaluations provides an easy and powerful way to deliver online course evaluations and other surveys in Sakai. This is a full presentation is a companion to the tech demo covering these tools.

SMS Tool
This is interesting because SMS is tying Sakai to mobile phones. His presentation covers three tools available to the Sakai community.

They are not in a Sakai release but you can have them put in.

The SMS tool is for pushing information out to people. There are some limited two-way uses. There is more information at Confluence.

The outgoing SMS cam be targeted to particular users.
Incoming SMS allows you to send messages in and to take surveys. Other possible uses are chat, polls, glossaries, etc.

They used it to get through placement offers for the college and got back 200 responses in 10 minutes. Students were asked to send student # and accept/decline in the message.

You need a service provider with an SMPP gateway (e.g. What destination networks/countries are supported and at what cost per message.

In South Africa, the receiver pays for the messages. They paid a bulk rate to the company.

Privacy Issues
They allow the students to opt in and out. No one gets students mobile numbers if they use it. Less than 5% have opted out.

They have limited experience in running live polls as a "clicker" system.

He thinks of it as a back-channel. You can schedule how messages go out.

Q&A Overview
A tool that supports question driven interactions.

The tool bubbles up the most frequently asked questions. Allows for anonymous answers. Students answer one another's questions. It can be set up for instructor led or peer collaboration. You can set up the questions in categories. It tracks the number of views of the questions. Instructors can screen answers from students.

This tool is often used as a knowledge base. It is minimally connected to SMS. You can text in a question and you will get texted back when there is an answer.

This tool does not require SMS.

Course Evaluation Tool
A tool for delivering course evaluations or surveys.

How you use this tool depends on how a college does its course evaluations. These are very political questions.

Response rates are higher face-to-face but students write more feedback - better qualitative feedback. Online evaluation is more popular with students. Studies have showed that the different media does not skew the responses.

Students will respond when they feel that the responses are important to the institution. There are concerns about what happens to the results.

He reviewed the different ways that the tool is used on his campus. "Direct, relevant, and targeted." This tool is integrated into his institution, I think, because the instructor gets to make a lot of decisions in the evaluation process. There is not a lot of pressure institutionally around course evals. The evaluations tend to stay in the dept.

The tool really breaks things down visually with graphs.

Audience Concerns:
How do you control the release of information?
By default the instructor sets the global configurations for the release date.

There is no way to see the results in progress. One has to close the eval and reopen it to see progress.

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Teaching Basic Physiology and Anatomy Lab Courses Using Sakai

Heart and lungsImage via Wikipedia

This is a presentation by Joan Esterline Lafuze who is a professor of biology at Indiana University East. I am particularly interested in this session because teaching online labs seems to be such an issue for so many science instructor and colleges. Interestingly enough, there is a lot of actual science that is practiced via the internet (e.g., gathering and sharing data). I see a disconnect between the teaching of science and the practice of science.

These courses are primarily for nursing students. They use:
  • Streaming video (live demonstrations)
  • Modules (Melete Tool in Sakai)
  • Assignments II
  • Forums
  • Original Test & Survey to Samigo
  • Wiki & ePortfolio
Two strategies:
Only use tools in their most simplified form (on tip-toes)
Don't overwhelm students with tech

Course background
  • Traditional course for pre-nursing and nursing students
  • National, international, and rural students
  • Issues: access to technology
  • Benefits to having this course online
  • Attendance/Live streaming element (there are attendance points)
Benefits include
  • being able to meet individual students needs;
  • able to teach deployed military;
  • gasoline shortage;
  • caregivers
The instructor puts materials on thumbdrives.

Organs are sent in the mail and the students dissect along with the class during a live stream - although this is not a requirement for the class.

The students watch the dissections on line via live streaming. They meet the outcomes of the course and do not require dissection. She believes that there are a few courses where someone would be required to come in and work in a lab.

The course is taught multimodally - face-to-face and online.

I like the fact that she actually incorporates meetings with actual practicing scientists in the course.

Course utilizes a "course manager" - a TA.
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Activity Awareness in Sakai

The University Club of Chicago Building shortl...Image via Wikipedia

These are my notes from Jim Laffey's presentation "Activity awareness in Sakai: Improving the social nature of learning." The social nature of online learning; context-aware activity notification system (CANS); lessons learned.

Dr. James Laffey is a Professor in the School of Information Science and Learning Technologies at the University of Missouri and a former researcher and systems developer at Apple Computer, Inc. Dr. Laffey has a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and has won awards for the design of innovative, media-based computer systems. He currently teaches graduate level courses on development of systems to optimize HCI and learning. He is the principal investigator for a grant from the U.S. Department of Education to study activity awareness in learning systems.

Abstract: The Context-aware Activity Notification System (CANS) integrates with Sakai to monitor and provide notification of member activity. CANS observes when members log in, post to discussion boards, upload resources, etc. and can then provide customized email, widgets or web-based notifications to members of what is going on in a class or work group. CANS allows instructors and students, to create custom notifiers to enable activity awareness and impact the social nature of online learning. For example an instructor might ask for daily reports of student activity related to a specific unit in a course, or setup notifiers to keep students aware of activity within a project team. The presentation will demonstrate the innovative ways that activity data can be used to impact teaching and learning in Sakai as well as what we have learned about the value and potential of activity awareness for supporting instruction. The presentation will also be an opportunity to discuss how to support and improve the social experience of online learning. CANS has been used at the University of Missouri over the last 2 years as part of our Sakai implementation with a small set of courses. In the Spring of 2010 we hope to have some levels of testing and usage of CANS at the University of Michigan and Rice University. We are also soliciting other Universities and partners who may wish to try CANS for the summer and fall of 2010.

How do we use this in our installation of Sakai?
CANS is a tool they are developing.

They have not solved the problem but as they learn more about the problem, they find more questions.

He is not looking for better discussion tools but for more information for the students and the instructors. Administrators can use this information to help instructors do better jobs and to understand how resources are being used.

What concerns and complications would we have with a tool like this?

Three big ideas have fed this project: 1) Rapid advances in technology, 2) Dramatic changes in our understanding in how people learn, 3) Social nature of education.

We always underestimate the power of the technology coming and its impact. We are moving from occasional and supplemental to frequent and integral.

University of Missouri faculty are using immersive worlds to help socialize autistic children.

Laffey's understanding of learning has gone from behavioral, to cognitive, to situated. He as turned to social learning. Human beings are wired to be social. Our brains have evolved to be social processors - a social engine. It must be part of our design framework as instructors.

Key ideas:
Four places of collaborative learning (Dillenbourg)
Classes are complex, engineered ecosystems
Structure for productive social interaction
Effort towards shared understanding
Act becomes artifact - interaction is a substance

Developers and designers have the engineering task of maximizing the social interaction in Sakai.

Activity Awareness to impact the social experience of the class. Technology is a mediation for our social behavior. A sense of place encourages accountability.

Context-Aware Activity Notificaion System (CANS)
Captures events and the context of the events (when someone posts, for instance). CANS server sits outside of Sakai. It records what happens in a class and the instructor subscribes to the information - gets emails. There is then an "activity analysis" that includes graphs and charts.

Tries to measure salience and meaningfulness - it records the social activity - collaboration, coordination, and cooperation. They are attempting to fit the world of the multitasker. They are seeking to move from thin communication to argumentation/discussion.

Customization and Contextualization
Users can set up how they want to get the data and decide what will be useful and relevant. Instructors can interact with the data.

The tool is called the "Activity Monitor." It will post information to an email digest, a course widget, or to a web page. You can select students - Activity Monitor II will allow you to select by group and more flexibility in date ranges. This is similar to a "Activity Meter" tool currently under development by a group in California. This Activity Monitor is a more robust version of Angel's "Activity at a glance" widget. These tools act like reminder tools for the students. This is interesting because in the past, students were only held accountable for the content of a course (a student could take a class at UC Berkeley by reading the notes and coming to the midterm and final).

Social network analysis will drive further research.

There was a Fall 09 study on four courses using this tool.

Invitation to participate (possible stipends)

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Kamentz at the Sakai Conference

In season six's "Sideshow Bob Roberts&quo...Image via Wikipedia

These are my notes from this morning's keynote at the Sakai Conference. This is not a transcript but notes that highlight my interest in her work. Anya Kamenetz, author of "Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education" was the keynote speaker at the Sakai conference.

She said that she sees herself as a reporter of generation "Y" and a reporter; a member of the print journalism industry. She gets her "revolutionary cred" from her Yale father who got in to Yale on the strength of his SAT scores.

The revolution in education is being fueled by the growth in the demand in education - there is not enough money to meet that demand. The United States is no longer #1 in education but #10. Will our model translate internationally? No one believes that college is really affordable anymore. The cost of education is outstripping medical care. There is an unprecedented melt-down in access to education. States have defunded education and raising tuition.

She mentions the social problem - "The dumbest rich kids are more likely to attend college than the smartest poor kids." She brought up "Speak: The Miseducation of College Students"

Question: I think she referred to herself as an "outsider." How does graduating from Yale and having two faculty members for parents make one an outsider?

She sees Walmart U and Khan Academy as disruptive technology and included some of the counter-arguments to her book. She does not seem to like online learning much - it has to be hybrid for "socialization" reasons.

She asks about how those who create content are meant to get paid for their work; there is a value in "live performances" that the ipod will not replace.

Currently students cannot get credit for experience, prior learning, or what they know. She thinks that portfolio based assessment is a solution. We still have the problem that employers still consider degrees.

She gave examples of sites like "Koda: The Opportunity Community" - a reputation based network.

We no longer have a linear path through education.

She was at the OER conference in Yale where the Hewlitt Foundation announced their priorities in funding open education projects and access to college.

I like the attention that she is able to give to alternative and collaborative education.

The material in her book is not news to many of those who have been working in education for years. The real news is that this book is coming out of the mainstream press from a writer from an ivy league college. Someone could comfortably read the Chronicle of Higher Education and never really address these questions.

The mark that some kind of transformation has been made will be when the "edupunks" and autodidacts are given the same level of access to the media as those who have followed more traditional and conservative paths.

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Friday, June 04, 2010

What I Mean When I Say the iPad Isn't It.

Steve Jobs while presenting the iPad in San Fr...Image via Wikipedia

I have been looking at ebook readers and netbooks for the k-20 market. The iPad has been suggested as a solution to that in a few places. Those who know me know that I have been a big proponent of Apple in the past. I think a college really loses something when they do not support multiple platforms: they lose out on innovation, creativity, and ultimately, money. I have said in a couple of places that I can't consider the iPad as a platform for elearning. I am saying this not just because I am an advocate for open source: I have always had an iMac at home, my jobs generally insist on PCs, and I am currently travelling with a netbook that uses Linux-based Jolicloud (which I enthusiastically recommend to anyone who will sit still long enough to listen to me rant). So I am basically trilingual. I try to make a difference where I can and I am currently working towards opening up education in an area with little infrastructure, virtually no money, with widely dispersed population of about 9000 students with a potential 3 or 4 thousand more.

The iPad is a great platform for consuming content. But if you define education as more than the consumption of content - the problems come in:

1. No Camera
The quality of web cams on netbooks is increasing and their prices are going down. Early in this decade, cameras cost a thousand dollars a megapixel. Now you can get a 12 megapixel camera for $200. Seeing someone's face and making a human connection in distance learning is an important consideration.

2. Connectivity
As of my last look, the iPad does not support 3G Skype calls "due to contractual obligations with ATT." The platform of choice can't be tied to a phone contract. It has to work well with any VOIP program and Google Voice. This really ties in with the first one: computers should be essentially tools for connecting with others, interacting with content, remixing, and sharing. This is much easier to do on a netbook.

3. Censorship in the App Store
I read a story last week about an artist who altered his work (a comic book based on James Joyce's Ulysses) so it would be acceptable to the app store. It was cartoon nudity!

4. No Flash
Many web 2.0 sites rely (for good or ill) on Flash. I am not saying that every site out there that uses Flash is great, I just don't want anyone to be limited right out of the box with content they can't access.

5. The Price
What I really want for our students is a $100 netbook. We are almost there. I want the students to be able to connect with one another, subject matter experts, their instructors, course content, and access ANY etext or content (unfiltered by commercial interests). On top of that, I want them to be able to use Open Office or any other open source tool to create and share content. I want all of this in one machine for under $200. And yes, I will get it. I have already bought a used netbook for that price and the On Laptop Per Child program has inspired others such as the Marvell Moby.

I am sure all of this will change in the future, but until then, in a time of economic hardship, another closed platform, expensive tablet is not an answer to for students and educators.

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