Sakai offers a multitude of possibilities when it comes to course website design. It is crucial to look at your learning objectives and activities to determine the best approach. But whatever the approach, Sakai has the tools to help faculty develop a course site that can help students meet a course's learning objectives.
The results of our faculty survey (March 2008) indicate that the main reason UD's faculty members use a learning management system is to deliver learning content. (97% of the participants indicated that they would use an LMS to deliver course content.) The following diagram shows a layered approach to content delivery in Sakai.
Most faculty members will start by creating their courses from the bottom of the pyramid, and might be satisfied by simply using the Resources tool to deliver content (layer 1). Others might want to edit some content from within Sakai, using the Wiki tool, or the built-in WYSIWYG editor (layer 2). Web-savvy faculty might prefer to edit their content using authoring tools outside of Sakai, using their Sakai course as a link to external content (layer 3).
In Sakai, there is a tool called "Resources" that acts as the file repository for any site. It is one of the required tools when a faculty member creates a course site. In Resources, you can upload any kind of content: presentation slides, handouts, spreadsheets, audio and video files, etc. There are two way to upload and manage content in Resources:
- Using the graphic web interface (useful to upload a limited number of resources - see screenshot on the right).
- Using WebDAV (useful for batch uploads using drag and drop from your computer).
Once the files are in the Resources tool for in a specific course, you can organize, reorder, and rename files and folders. Unless you hide the files, your students will have immediate access to the files you have uploaded to the Resources area.
Training and self-help material will be available shortly to demonstrate these processes.
Dan Severson's (Department of Animal Sciences) course is a classic example of a content-driven course site. Karen Kral, from IT-User Services, took his WebCT course content and organized it in Sakai, mostly using the Resources tool.
- Mathieu Plourde's Demontration Video (Camtasia video, 4 minutes)
The next logical step if you find necessary to enhance the content delivery experience is to use the tools and features that are available within Sakai. There are two ways to edit content in Sakai: using a wiki and using a WYSIWYG editor. (Note: There are additional ways to build learning activities.)
WYSIWYG Editor: Sakai uses a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor throughout most of its tools. The editor shows up as a tool bar on top of an editing box (see screenshot below) and includes basic formatting functions (font styles, tables, links, images, etc.). It is possible to edit text fields within certain tools, like Announcements, Home, Syllabus, Assignments, Tests and Quizzes, etc., or create or edit HTML pages in Resources.
Wiki: Mathieu Plourde, from IT-User Services, has spent a considerable amount of time investigating the wiki technology, and the usage of wikis at University of Delaware. He has produced a report about the use of wikis in higher education. Following the link to his report will also give you access to audio interviews with and material from several UD faculty members who have used wikis with their students.
- Wikis in Higher Education (web link)
Lou Rossi is now considered a veteran of wiki usage at University of Delaware. He used wikis in his Calculus undergraduate course and his Applied Mathematics graduate course. Because it's an easy tool for publishing course content, a wiki helps students spend time on solving problems outside the classroom in a motivating collaborative environment. Publishing in a wiki gets students aware of the fact that they are writing for an audience. In Lou's classes, the students were able to use common mathematical language and formulas, using LaTeX format within the Sakai wiki. Click the following thumbnail and links to know more.
- Audio interview and screenshots of Lou Rossi's courses (web link)
- Lou Rossi's course profile on OpenEd Practices (web link)
Faculty members who are already using external authoring tools are encouraged to continue to do so. Faculty who use web editors (Dreamweaver, N-Vu, GoLive), PowerPoint converters (Impatica, Articulate, iSping), screen recording utilities (Captivate, Camtasia, Wink, CamStudio), and podcasting software (Garage Band, Audacity, Photo Story, Audition, Premiere, iMovie, Final Cut) will be able to present multimedia within Sakai.
Fred Hofstetter (Department of Education), a member of the LMS Committee, has been piloting the use of Sakai in the last year. He created a multimedia-rich web site to distribute his course content, and has also used a lot of the Sakai tools to foster student participation and active learning (Forums, Wiki, blogs, Podcasts, etc.). To develop a successful Sakai course, you do not need to invest the amount of time Fred did. However, his Sakai site is an excellent example of using Sakai as a front-end to complex yet inviting course material.
- Professor Hofstetter's Demonstration Video (Captivate video, 26 minutes)
- Fred Hoftetter's course profile on OpenEd Practices - An Honorable Mention at the 2008 Teaching With Sakai Innovation Award (web link)