Notes from Educause (Part II, Sakai community)

This is part 2 of a summary experiences at Educause last week. This one focuses primarily on individual connections I had with members of the Sakai community. These included:

Pierre et Marie Curie Université (Paris 6) — Yves Epelboin and I had dinner on Monday night. I’m always intimidated taking a Parisian to dinner, but Yves is an amiable and gracious companion and the restaurant did a fine job with some Pacific Northwest specialties. We are exploring the possibility of the Summer 2008 conference in Paris, perhaps partially held at UPMC. They’ve gone into production with Sakai and are Jean-François Leveque seems to be on his way to becoming an active contributor, especially in the area of internationalization.

Georgia Tech — I spent some good time with Clay Fenlason from Georgia Tech. As you may know, Georgia Tech is undertaking a very rapid migration from WebCT to Sakai. This was their first term in production and they were working on some performance tuning of their Sakai installation. I think one of the most exciting things going on is the Conditional Release project, which will allow instructors to create rules for when content should be made available to individual learners. That’s the CMS view of the world, of course, and right now that’s the focus of their effort. One can imagine many uses cases in project sites as well (e.g. allow access to the research data only once a non-disclosure agreement is signed).


Indiana — Lance Speelmon and I had a good conversations as well. Indiana has lots of plans, of course, as one of the most active Sakai development institutions. I won’t detail those here (Lance has made some of these available on the Sakai lists and wiki) but instead mention that we talked quite a bit about release and quality processes in Sakai. You may have seen my recent proposal on this subject. In any case, Lance is very thoughtful about issues like this and I’m always grateful for his advice and

University of Windsor, CampusEAI and FIDM — I attended and briefly spoke at a CampusEAI consortium breakfast meeting on Thursday morning. Sakai was a featured topic and I was able to speak briefly with Purita Bristow from University of Windsor. She also spoke at the very nice breakfast session about their Sakai implementation. We also heard from David Melone of FIDM, the Fashion Institute from Design and Manufacturing, who have recently implemented Sakai with CampusEAI help. I didn’t talk to David, unfortunately, but his presentation was excellent and he has a very interesting student population to work with.

I know we’ll see several folks from Windsor at the 8th Sakai Conference in Newport Beach, and CampusEAI is giving a presentation. I don’t see that anyone from FIDM has registered yet, but they are based in California so I’m hopeful they’ll be attending.

Which reminds me, if you haven’t registered yet you should do so right now.

Mark Norton — I had not enough time with Mark, but we were able to go over some of his thoughts on the requirements process in Sakai. As usual, his ideas and proposals were well thought out and timely. The requirements process is one of several major themes that have emerged for me in my first 90 days as Executive Director and I look forward to conversations in Newport Beach about whether and how we should change our current practices.

Cengage Learning (formerly Thomson) — Lunch with Pat Call, VP of Engineering from Cengage Technology Services was really informative and encouraging. As you may know, Cengage has previously announced that they will be using Sakai for some of their customer-facing offerings. While it is still early days for Cengage, they will be presenting (with the aforementioned Mark Norton) at Newport Beach. Pat and I had a good conversation about how they can engage and support the community and how the community can help Cengage. One specific area that was discussed was performance testing. But we generally talked about the important of making their requirements known to the community so that they could minimize the amount of customizations they would need to apply from release to release.

HEC Montréal & Université de Montréal — I met with Ghilaine Roquet, Hervé Goyette and Emmanuel Vigne from Montreal. Ghilaine is from the Université and Hervé and Emmanuel are from HEC, which is a business school close by. HEC has developed an internal syllabus presentation tool called Course Zone (I think, actually, “Zone Cours”) and were very interested in moving it too a Sakai tool, which would pave the way for a potential adoption of Sakai there. They should be giving a presentation on this at Newport Beach. With Sakai Quebec, UPMC, Université de Montréal and HEC we’re establishing a solid French-language community in Sakai, which is great to see. As you may know, I have a personal interest in this.

There were several others as well, including Johns Hopkins (who I’m visiting next week and will provide more info, if appropriate, at that time), Michael Feldstein and others from Oracle, and the booth patrols at both rSmart and Unicon. But I’m out of my allotted time and already past the word quota for a blog post. So, until next time….

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