Online Course Delivery

Monday, January 23, 2006


Sakai is an Open Source academically oriented educational software. The Sakai Project, launched in 2003, is a $6.8M community source project with a purpose to design, build and deploy a new Collaboration and Learning Environment (CLE) for higher education not only as a course management system but also a platform to support research collaboration. Current Sakai release is 2.1.0.

Software development project of
Sakai is founded by the University of Michigan, Indiana University, MIT, Stanford, the uPortal Consortium, and the Open Knowledge Initiative (OKI) with the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The number of SEPP, a for-fee community that is open to educational institutions, currently is around 80. It is supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and SEPP member contributions. IBM, Apple, SUN, Pearson and other leading companies have become Sakai commercial affiliates.

Strength & Limitation

Although it is less than two years since Sakai announced it's version 1.0, Sakai is improving quickly to compete with the best LMS available. One of the reasons is because Sakai was created from ground zero. It builds on previous works, including OnCourse of Indiana University, Stellar of MIT, CourseWorks of Stanford University, CHEF of University of Michigan, and UPortal of Open Knowledge Initiative (OKI). As Sakai 2.1 was released to public last December (2005), Sakai become ready to be used systems. Discussion forums, file exchange, internal e-mail, real-time chat, calendar, progress review, and help/search features provide users handy communication and productivity tools; tools for building course site and project site, self-assessment, student community building and personal home page help to improve student involvement; multiple options for testing, scoring and grading provide instructors practical assessment tools. Some weakness or missing features reported on Edutools evaluation was improved in version 2.1.

However, currently, Sakai can be considered as a platform that under pilot test, exploring and adopting by tens or maybe hundreds of user sites instead of a widely deployed and stable platform. Technical support might be limited to user communities and newsgroups.

A standard environment for running
Sakai includes Java, Tomcat and MySQL. Users might need Java engineers to configure and fine-tune the system.

Cost of acquisition

Sakai is free for download and distributed under the Educational Community License Version 1.0. Due to limited installation, hosted services might be able to only be found from Sakai Commercial Affiliates.

Teaching Practice
Rice University
is in the process of piloting Sakai for deployment named OWL-Space.
Various institutions that are exploring or adoption Sakai are listed here.

Sakai put more emphasis on supporting research collaboration than other platform. Sakai not only allows instructors or students to create course site, but also allows them to create project sites. Each project site can have its own shared file exchange, discussion tool, calendar, announcements, chat, and group email list. Also, users can maintain their own passwords. These features help users constructing a comparatively independent project working space. This is a good support for constructivism and problem-based learning approaches.

You can find a video introduction to start using Sakai: Getting Started with Sakai



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