NY/NJ Sakai Visits

Wow, what a week. I have a new appreciation of Chuck’s ability to stay as cheerful and energetic as he always seemed to be given the vagaries associated with getting from here to there. I visited Columbia, NYU, Rutgers, Wimba, Marist College, LaGuardia Community College and the Fluid Summit (too briefly, but still a separate entry coming next week). I also spent a little time with Jonathan Markow from JA-SIG.

There are so many things to share about this trip it is hard to pick out a single theme. What stands out most, upon reflection, was the diversity of schools in the Sakai Community and how much we all can learn (and have already learned) from each other. In my experience, it is not that often that major research institutions, small liberal arts colleges, community colleges, large companies (IBM was present at the Marist meeting) and small companies all work together as they do in Sakai. As peers. While we could certainly do more in the Sakai community to bring everyone together, the existing degree of collaboration is remarkable and something we definitely need to continue to leverage.

A few highlights, in chronological order:

  • At Columbia, I met with a team of knowledgeable and enthusiastic folks (including senior leadership and individual contributors) from their IT organization, the Center for New Media and Technology and the Library System who are looking at a possible change from their existing CMS (they’ve been running Sakai as a pilot). They currently use a highly customized version of Promethus, which was end-of-lifed after Blackboard acquired that company in 2002. The work the Columbia team has done to meet local requirements is impressive and I certainly hope we’ll see them contributing even more of that talent to the Sakai community in the coming years.
  • At NYU, I learned more about their Sakai pilot and the fact that the Medical School there is moving into full production. They also hosted the first, NYU meet-up, where Wimba demonstrated their integration with Sakai! Hopefully, a Wimba representative will come to Newport Beach so more people can see how this works.
  • I had a great talk with Jonathan Markow, Executive Director of JA-SIG. Among other things, we talked about the possibility of a single “Community Source” conference in the future that would combine JA-SIG and Sakai (and hopefully Kuali, eventually). While littered with practical complications, I think this idea has a lot of merit—I know the community suffers from conference overload. JA-SIG also came up later in the week at the Fluid Summit, of course, as uPortal is one of the participating projects.
  • Rutgers runs Sakai with an incredibly lean team, which is clearly well respected by the community they serve. I know this because of had the honor of meeting with several faculty members who use Sakai, and their obvious appreciation of the team was great to see. The faculty, of course, brought a list of things they’d like to see changed. Most of these were already either existing features the users didn’t know about, coming in 2.5, or in the product but not exposed in Rutgers’ implementation. I’ll mention one thing that we don’t have that I think we should work on solving quickly, namely, the ability to “Preview as Student.” While the preview feature within tools is great, the instructors really want to be able to see the whole site as if they were a student. Any takers?
  • Marist College, a liberal arts college of about 5,500 students, has an impressively sophisticated technology team and a very deep partnership with IBM. They’ve been doing good work to make Sakai run on the IBM technology stack, which I think is terrific but has been a challenge for them. One of the things I hope they’ll do, eventually, is educate the developer community on what can be done to make Sakai as agnostic as possible. Marist, mainly in the form of Joshua Baron, is also taking a lead role in the pedagogy discussions in Sakai.
  • LaGuardia Community College is, in and of itself, one of the most diverse places I’ve ever visited. The 14,000 credit and 40,000 continuing education students come from 160 different nations and speak 119 different primary languages. All crammed into a few big buildings in Queens. LaGuardia is working to move their groundbreaking portfolio work onto OSP (they are piloting now). We should help them get the few features they need to make this happen. They recently received news that they have been awarded additional grant money to move this work forward and disseminate it. Hopefully we’ll see a presentation from them in Newport Beach so you can learn more.

More next week on the Fluid Summit, which was really inspiring and encouraging…

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2 Responses

  1. We were psyched to have you visit and have the opportunity to converse too 🙂

  2. Our users also asked for “Preview as Student.”

    Michael’s Paris Sakai Visit was also a pleasure. 🙂

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