Relaunch of Sakaiproject.org

I’m extremely pleased to announce the re-launch of the Sakai website. It’s the product of a great deal of hard work over the past several months. There is still a good deal of work to do in terms of adding content and improving what is already there, so don’t hesitate to send us your feedback and suggestions for improvement (a jira is appreciated). Still, we feel it is a big improvement and are happy to be going live with a few issues and gaps remaining.

Of course, we always need more hands to create content and improve the visual appeal of the site. In particular, we’ll be asking for organizational and individual profiles–you can see where they will go on the “Community” tab. We’d love to see as many organizations represented as possible and we’ll be sending out a template you can use to create one–for your organization or for yourself. This would also be a good time to check to see if you’re on the Sakai map. If not, send an email to Anthony Whyte.

In addition to being a big improvement over the previous site, the new site is built on Sakai itself (2.5.x). This, and a lot of the content, is thanks to Anthony. While Sakai isn’t designed to be a content management system, it has worked fairly well for our purposes. Moreover, our goals included both understanding Sakai’s limitations as a content authoring platform and, if possible, improving Sakai itself. Anthony has ably demonstrated the flexibility that Sakai offers and has built a simple new “markup” tool (in contrib) that makes it fairly easy to add HTML content.  Please join me in congratulating and thanking him for the new Sakai website!

I hope you’ll take a look.

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Chronicle Article: Bb customers looking elsewhere?

The Chronicle of Higher Education just published an interesting article about Blackboard in which Sakai is mentioned several times (along with Moodle and D2L). Overall, the article is well written and balanced. It’s rare that I read news coverage about something I know well and end up feeling the reporter did a good job of capturing the issues. This article does an excellent job, so hats off to Jeffrey Young.The basic topic of the article is this:

“There are a lot of institutions right now that are upset with Blackboard, to say the least, and looking for alternatives,” says Michael Zastrocky, vice president for research at Gartner Inc., a consulting firm that tracks trends in higher-education technology. “They caused a backlash that’s been very difficult for them to overcome.”

Blackboard is heading for a showdown with the free-software movement, according to some observers. Although Blackboard remains the clear market leader — about 66 percent of American colleges use its software as their standard, says the Campus Computing Project, an annual survey — there are signs that open-source alternatives are starting to gain ground.

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Sakai Foundation Quality Assurance Director

If you follow the Sakai lists you may know that Megan May, Sakai’s director of Quality Assurance, has been offered a promotion at Indiana University and thus, will be stepping down from her role in the Sakai community. Megan has been working 50% for IU and 50% for Sakai–a situation that was not sustainable in the long run.

Those of us who have worked with Megan over the past years and months are obviously disappointed that she won’t be full time with the Sakai Foundation, but I’m pleased to report that  her duties at IU will mean that she is still working on Sakai and will stay involved in the community. We are still working on a transition plan but rest assured, Megan will be helping us get ready for the release of Sakai 2.6 and will participate on the search committee for her successor.

That means we now have an open position for a Quality Assurance Director at the Sakai Foundation.  I am excited to announce that after conversations with Megan and others in the community, this position will now be fulltime as a part of the iniative to increase resources and attention on software quality!  I will be posting the job description sometime tomorrow. As usual, this position can be as an independent consultant or the Sakai Foundation can reimburse an institution for the employee’s salary and benefits for the duration of the appointment. If you’re interested in pursuing this, please see the official job posting on LinkedIn and send me a note.

Netspot: New Commercial Affiliate in Australia

Netspot Logo

I’m pleased to announce the newest Sakai Commercial Affiliate, NetSpot in Austrailia. NetSpot is an Australian eLearning technology services company for the Higher Education market in the Asia Pacific region. They offer include managed hosting and managed applications, help desk, technical support, training, migration, integration, software development and implementation consulting. NetSpot has a specialty in Learning Management Systems and currently manages such systems for over 100,000 students including Sakai pilots with the University of Melbourne and Central Queensland University. They also connect to AARNet, Australia’s high speed education network.

You can see their Sakai offering at http://www.netspot.com.au/man_sakai.htm.

Please join me in welcoming NetSpot to the Sakai community!

10th Sakai Conference: Boston

Boston from above

Boston from above

Well, actually, Cambridge.  But if I say “Cambridge” and Sakai in the same sentence, most people will think England.  So, we’ll be in Cambridge, Massachusetts next summer, right across the river from Boston and just next to MIT. The conference dates are Wednesday-Friday, July 8 – 10, with pre-conference sessions on Tuesday the 7th.  Note that due to US Independence Day, we’ve shifted our usual Monday-Thursday schedule.

The official conference hotel, which will also contain most of the conference sessions and receptions, will be the Cambridge Hyatt. It’s a spectacular location and we will have a conference rate of $199/night, which includes internet access (normally $10/day). More information on registration will be forthcoming.

In the meantime, don’t forget about the Sakai Meetings at Virginia Tech on November 11 & 12.  Registration is now open so please sign up!

Finally, the proposed meetings in Berkeley are being repurposed to be a smaller working session, so there currently isn’t a plan for a more general meeting in the Western USA this year. If you’d like to help make one happen, please contact me as soon as possible.