Sakai Solo Correction

It’s been pointed out to me (and I should have remembered anyways) that Solo, the offline Sakai, is a collaboration between NWU and UNISA. I’d left UNISA out of the equation in my recent post on the subject. Sorry about that!

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No roles: Latest in the D2L patent suit

This isn’t really an update on the overall progress of the D2L/Bb lawsuit or an update on the USPTO reexamination of the patent, but I was interested, technically, in what D2L would do to its latest version to render it non-infringing.

Basically, they’ve eliminated all roles from their system at the time of installation. The customer has to set them up from scratch. They had been providing “sample roles” that could be used as the basis of creating the roles that would actually be used–even those were judged to be “predetermined roles,” one of the key elements in the lawsuit.  D2L provided the court with a relatively (by legal standards) brief and clear description of what they did, which is worth a read.  Their recent post on their patent blog also includes links to more documents, including Bb’s contempt filing (saying that D2L hadn’t addressed the injunction requiring them to stop selling/using an infringing version).

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Sakai Solo and OpenSyllabus

There are two projects inside Sakai that have attracted my attention and I think should have yours as well. The first, which I’ve written about before, is OpenSyllabus from HEC Montréal. In Newport Beach this was really only at the conceptual stage but in Paris the team demonstrated a working version. For those who have been wanting a structured syllabus publishing tool with a link to assigments and resources, OpenSyllabus may fit the bill.

The Open Syllabus system is based on a successful home grown tool called ZoneCours that HEC Montréal used for several year. It’s really a great Sakai story–HEC wins by leveraging the Sakai platform and getting a larger community using their tool and the community wins by getting a tool that has proven useful at another institution.

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Blackboard-Sakai Connector

Well, I’m sure you’ve all seen the article about the Bb-Sakai connector in Inside Higher Education. Both Chuck and I were quoted and Chuck has since blogged about it.  I have a bit of additional perspective of my own I thought was worth sharing.

One of the questions on the email lists was “Is this a good thing for Higher Education?” There are a variety of ways to answer this question but, as you can probably guess from the quote selected for the article, a lot of it depends on why you think Blackboard is doing this. Do they really mean to be more open/interoperable than they have seemed to many in the past? Or are they again trying to wear a cloak of openness while really meaning to keep everyone else out?

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Paris conference highlights

Sakai Paris Logo

Sakai Paris Logo

I’m sitting at the Cambridge Hackathon with an amazing group of Sakai contributors and I’m sure there will be a variety of good outcomes and stories from this week, but I’m remiss in providing a summary of last week’s 9th Sakai Conference in Paris.

Despite some logistical challenges (the hotel was too far away from the University) and unwelcome heat & humidity (and insufficient air conditioning in some rooms), I thought it was a very successful week. It was all made possible by our colleagues at Université Pierre et Marie Curie who really can’t be thanked too much for all the work they did.

Everyone has a different experience of the conference, of course, and mine is probably one of the most unusual. There area a few things I wanted to note a few highlights from my week at the conference:

  • The project coordination meetings are working a lot better than they did last year. While some portions fell flat (notably my session on 2.6 and beyond), overall there were productive sessions that resulted in deliverables and action items.
  • The teaching and learning community emerged. Wednesday was emblematic of this. The morning opened with the presentation of the first Sakai Teaching and Learning Innovation Awards, followed by Diana Laurillard’s excellent keynote address, presentations from both of the Sakai T&L Award winners and, finally, an excellent panel discussion with Diana, Josh Baron, Chuck Severance and Maggie Lynch. You can see these presentations (and others!) on the page UPMC used for webcasting the conference.
  • The “Better, Faster, Lighter Sakai UX” presentation from the folks at CARET and Nathan Pearson’s UX Improvement presentation. CARET has been working on a new way of developing Sakai tools using JavaScript “gadgets” that consume JSON formatted data provided by the underlying Java services. We’re using this approach at the hackathon to, among other things, implement Nathan’s UX Improvement project designs. And the good news is that some folks from Fluid are here as well. All this work is clearly an important development for Sakai and that should produce a number of significant benefits for the community. CARET has a (slightly out of date) page on the Sakai wiki. The Sakai Foundation staff will help them improve this and disseminate the knowledge throughout the community.
  • The focus on building a “content/page authoring” capability for Sakai. A number of folks are working on this and have tool prototypes available. These range from structured (OpenSyllabus by University of Montreal and HEC Montreal…I’ll say more about this later) to semi-structured (the Subject Research Guides from Sakaibrary) to unstructured (free form editing in OSP and some interesting widget-based work from Cambridge). We all agreed that there is an underlying set of capabilities that are shared and that we should be able to combine efforts in some way. Stay tuned.

I need to get back to the hackathon now. More posts about Paris and Cambridge as I have time (and think of them)!