Sakai and e-Portfolios in K-12

I sometimes get asked about K-12 uses of Sakai. What I tell people is that we’re very interested in K-12 applications of Sakai and there are some examples of usage in the K-12 world, but that the current development resources are focused on Higher Education. So right now Sakai’s K-12 (or P-80 as I think Sam DiGangi at Arizona State put it to me one day over lunch) activities should be focused on building a working group and assembling potential development resources. There’s a lot of great potential here and one entry-point into the K-12 worlds is through e-portfolios, as exemplified in Rhode Island by the RINET Educational Portfolio System, a project which is supported in part by The rSmart Group, a Sakai Commercial Affiliate .

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January Sakai Board Meeting

First, my apologies to anyone who has been trying to reach me over the past few days. I’ve come down with a nice bout of the flu and have been pretty much avoiding contact, including electronic contact, with other living things…but I’m (mostly) back in business now.

In any case we had our first Sakai Board of Directors Meeting on January 10th. The main order of business was the approval of the 2008 budget. If you’ve seen my Sakai Foundation Update presentation from Newport Beach, you’ll know that I set out some 2008 budget priorities, including:

  • Reducing conference expenses significantly
  • Increasing spending on product development (especially UX and QA)
  • Executing on the UX initiative and supporting Fluid work
  • Re-energizing the Sakai Fellows program

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Product Management in Sakai

(for those who read the Sakai email lists, the content of this post also appeared there)

Prior to my becoming Executive Director I participated in the 2007 Requirements process. This process was quite different from what I expected, despite the capable coordination provided by Mark Norton. I expected that it would strongly inform a roadmap for the next release of Sakai. It didn’t do that. It did other valuable things, like organize feature requests in jira, so perhaps the only problem was with the expectation the word “requirements” created in me. In a past life I spent some time as a product manager and have written Product Requirements Documents (PRDs). I guess I was expecting something more like that.  In any case, I digress…
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Indiana Oncourse Priorities Committee

As I hinted at in my last blog post, Indiana University established a development planning process for Sakai that I think is fairly interesting. Their instance of Sakai is called “Oncourse” and gets extensive use on campus. Of course, even with the talented team IU has, they can’t do everything their users want. So they’ve put into place the “Oncourse Priorities Committee” with works with the development organization to decide how resources will be deployed. The OPC is headed by Stacey Morrone, Associate Dean of Teaching and Learning Information Technologies.

The overall process is documented on the IU website, but essentially this is a group of faculty and faculty support resources who meet occasionally to decide what projects the IU team will work on. The input to this meeting is a list of potential projects, each of which has an approximate cost expressed in terms of effort hours. This list is developed by a related group called the Functional Requirements Committee, headed by David Goodrum, Director of the Teaching and Learning Centers. The FRC takes suggestions via an on-line form, cluster related issues into meaningful groups, clarify the requirements and then estimate the effort hours that it will take to tackle them.

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Visiting Indiana, quality and release schedules

I just got back from a short but great visit to Indiana University in Indianapolis, where many of the IU resources that work on Sakai are based. It was a combination of a staff meeting (Mary, Peter and Anthony came down from Michigan to join Megan, who was already there) and community visit.

On the staff side, we spent the most time talking about quality(!) and our release schedule. On the quality assurance front we discussed how to spend the additional budget that the Foundation has allocated for 2008. We decided we would start with looking for someone to help write test procedures and document test coverage. Test procedures make it easier for everyone to participate in QA and are a good starting point for automated testing as well. Before the holidays we spoke with rSmart who has started this process internally. Our approach will be to create a community effort, with a standard template for test procedures, so we don’t duplicate efforts. In the coming weeks you can expect to see a job posting for this position (a contractor position, in all likelihood) and more details about the community test procedure effort.

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Campus EAI Joins Sakai Foundation

I’m pleased to let you know that CampusEAI has officially joined the Sakai Foundation as a commercial affiliate. As you may have seen at the Newport Beach conference, CampusEAI recently helped the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) implement Sakai. They are also hosting the Sakai instance for FIDM.

CampusEAI is also hosting a series of webinars about Sakai featuring David Melone, E-Learning Supervisor at FIDM. I’ll be a guest speaker at a few of them as well. See the “Events” section of the CampusEAI website for details on dates and times.

If you’ve read my past posts you’ll know I think Sakai Commercial Affiliates are critical to the success of the community. Many institutions don’t have the resources or inclination to undertake a technology implementation project on their own. And while the academic members of a community source project like Sakai provide a lot of informal help for each other, implementing and hosting course management systems for other schools isn’t something they’ll be doing on a regular basis, to say the least.

So please join me in welcoming CampusEAI to the foundation. I’ll be visiting them in Cleveland, I hope, at the beginning of February. It’s part of a trip I’ll be making to Ohio as a featured speaker at the eTech Ohio Conference. I’m originally from Cleveland, but my business travels have almost never taken me there, so I’m really looking forward to it. This despite the fact that Northeastern Ohio is not known for its terrific February weather…average high of 36 and average low of 21 degrees Farenheit (2 and -6 celcius). Yeah, I grew up there, but you get soft quickly in California.