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.

I got a demo from the team and it does much of what I want from my uses cases in the “Content Authoring” conversation (which reminds me, it’s time for the followup to the Paris BOF…).  It’s not the complete answer to my needs, but it looks to be really useful. You can check out their wiki page for more information.

The second project is from North-West University in South Africa. They’ve engaged a commercial partner (Psybergate) to develop “offline” capabilities for Sakai.  Codenamed “Solo”, the application will be contributed to the Sakai Community upon its release.

The idea behind Solo is to create a “disconnected” version of Sakai  that would permit students to better control  their internet usage  in bandwidth-challenged environments like South Africa. NWU’s initial thinking involves distributing a Solo client application and set of course materials to their students on a CD/DVD.  The client would permit students to sync with their Sakai course sites when new or updated course materials become available.  Handling inherently “live” interaction like chat are, of course, complicated and the offline client would include facades for synchronous tools such as chat that would warn the student that using such functionality would require (re)connecting to the internet.

This is obviously useful in places like Africa where constant high-bandwidth internet connectivity remains a luxury. But I’ve heard other in the community mention that it would be nice for faculty to grade assignments while riding on the train (for example). And with the emergence of Google Gears, users expectations about web applications working offline are only going to increase–its time to get ahead of the curve. It would be terrific if all the major tools in Sakai could at least do something intelligent when there was no connectivity. Or when it costs 20 euros a day (are you reading this Jim?).

The Solo project has a brief wiki entry or you can check out the source code:

svn co https://source.sakaiproject.org/contrib/nwu/solo/trunk/

It is also notable to me that both of these developments are coming from outside the United States and from outside the founding Sakai organizations. Its a great indicator of the increasing diversity in the Sakai community which, in the long run, will benefit everyone.

So, check them both out…and if you’re wondering why I didn’t highlight your project well, drop me a line! I may be planning to or I may just need some education.

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One Response

  1. I want to add one technical point., both projects are based on the Google Web Toolkit (GWT). http://code.google.com/webtoolkit/

    GWT lets you write Rich Web applications in Java and compile them down to JavaScript, to be executed in the browser.

    Check my recent post on the blog OnGWT
    http://www.ongwt.com/post/2008/07/21/SAKAI-community-warmly-welcomes-GWT-in-Paris

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