Planet Sakai

December 05, 2016

Michael Feldstein

UT Austin and SMOCs: What these synchronous courses look like and cost

Last month we shared a video describing how the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas at Austin is taking a different approach than some of the courseware-based or other course redesign efforts. In many of these other redesigns, there is an emphasis on the asynchronous elements of lab section and lecture preparation and even fully flipping the classroom (no lectures in class on the course content). In contrast, the UT Austin approach to improving the large lecture course centers on SMOCs – Synchronous Massive Online Courses – where the core of the redesign centers on the synchronous course lecture. Watch episode 1 to get a better feel of what problem they are trying to solve and how this SMOC approach appears to keep faculty in their traditional role, albeit with additional preparation time and video production.

In this episode, we’re taking a deeper look at how SMOCs work as well as high-level course design costs.

(Video source:

As with other episodes and case studies for e-Literate TV, our primary goal is not to be for or against different academic efforts but rather to give a better feel of what various course, program or student service redesigns actually look like, particularly from the perspective of front-line faculty, staff, and students. We hope you enjoy learning more about this synchronous approach in Texas.

In the final episode we’ll explore more around whether we have evidence of SMOCs working in terms of meeting goals and improving learning outcomes.

The post UT Austin and SMOCs: What these synchronous courses look like and cost appeared first on e-Literate.

by Phil Hill at December 05, 2016 05:05 PM

December 01, 2016


What’s Coming in Sakai 11?

In just over two weeks – the Fall 2016 term will end.  At almost the same time, Sakai, the learning management system used by Johnson University (Tennessee, Florida and Online) will undergo an upgrade from Sakai 10.2 to 11.2.


Sakai 11 Interface for Johnson University

This upgrade has been planned for well over 6 months and as with any upgrade hopes to bring better continuity and usefulness to a tool as used by both faculty and students within the context of face to face, hybrid and online courses offered by Johnson University.

So what are the biggest changes you can expect to see?  Apart from reading through the detailed list of changes and new features here’s a simple bullet point list:

  • Gradebook upgrade providing spreadsheet grade entry
  • Clean, modern interface
  • Significantly improved mobile functionality (responsiveness)
  • New and improved features in the Lessons tool
  • Favorite and better organize sites

If you’d like to see an overview provided by New York University – you can see it here. Other videos and tutorial information will be made available in the coming weeks.

by Dave E. at December 01, 2016 06:12 PM

Sakai Project

Sakai 11.2

Even though we have release notes [1], I was wondering if it would be helpful to make a blog post about our maintenance releases. Also motivated by the fact that in 11.2 we had to turn off one of the new features of Sakai 11 for the mobile view, and thought that would be important to communicate. This blog post is really about both Sakai 11.1 and Sakai 11.2 since combined there are 350 improvements since the 11.0 release on 23 July 2016. 


by NealC at December 01, 2016 04:59 PM

Michael Feldstein

New Release of European LMS Market Report

Our Spring 2016 LMS Market Report from our new LMS subscription service focused mostly on the United States and Canada. The LMS market, however is increasingly global in nature. LMS suppliers rely on markets outside of US and Canada for growth, and Moodle in particular has a long history of global adoption. Maintaining a US/Canadian view without additional data can be misleading when forecasting the roadmaps and future states of various LMS solutions.

What we haven’t had until now is a view of the LMS market in Europe. Thanks to our partnership with LISTedTECH, we can now share data from more than 1,600 higher education institutions throughout Europe and provide the first independent market analysis for this region. While this report and future analysis is part of the LMS subscription service, we are sharing the initial version freely with a CC-BY license.

The overall market in Europe has long been dominated by Moodle.


But more recently we are starting to see signs of a changing market.


Overall, the data indicate that Europe can best be thought of as a collection of regional – or even national – markets, rather than a single unified market, and the report includes country-specific analysis. There’s a lot more data and analysis available. You can download the report here. As always, comments welcome.

Download (PDF, 666KB)


The post New Release of European LMS Market Report appeared first on e-Literate.

by Phil Hill at December 01, 2016 10:01 AM

November 30, 2016

Adam Marshall

WebLearn User Group 6 Dec 2016, 14:00


Join us at the next meeting of the WebLearn User Group to share ideas and practices:

Date: Tuesday 6 December 2016
Time: 14:00 – 16:00 followed by tea and cake
Venue: IT Services, 13 Banbury Road
Please book to secure your place: WebLearn User Group booking


  • Kate Lindsay (Head of TEL, Academic IT Services): VLE Review
  • Heath Rose (Dept of Education): Using WebLearn to create a user-friendly, interactive workflow for students learning at a distance
  • Wulf Forrester-Barker (NDORMS): Opening the toolbox
  • Adam Marshall: WebLearn updates

Join the WebLearn User Group site in WebLearn: for regular updates and access to audio recordings of previous presentations.

Any questions? Contact

by Jill Fresen at November 30, 2016 03:01 PM

WebLearn v11-ox3 released on 29 November 2016

responsive-sakaiWebLearn was been upgraded to Version 11-ox3 on the morning on Tuesday 29th November, we apologise for any inconvenience caused by the disruption.


  • Images, iframe, videos and the like should now auto resize on a mobile
  • The “Tools & Subsites” menu on a mobile has a better design – it now matches other WebLearn menus and text is not truncated
  • Resources
    • The file upload limit is now set at 100MB – this means larger files can be uploaded without having to use WebDAV
    • The hyperlink to information about copyright (in Resources) now goes to a special Bodleian Libraries information page
    • One can no longer accidentally edit a Reading List whilst it is loading – this was causing problems
  • You can use the ‘video embed code’ within the Lessons tool and Forums – this makes it easier to use videos as part of a course.
  • Lessons
    • Embedded calendars now shrink correctly when viewed on a mobile phone
    • “Blockquotes” are now displayed correctly
  • Surveys
    • can now be completed on a mobile phone
    • the “stepped display” now has the correct “tool tip” (ie, mouse-over) text
  • The ‘Select Login Route’ page now has the WebLearn logo
  • The Sign-Up tool “Reminder Email” now comes from meeting organiser
  • The Account Validation page (for external users) has been overhauled, it now
    • contains the WebLearn logo
    • has a password strength meter
    • only reports on password mismatch once two passwords have been entered
    • has a better layout with checkboxes aligned correctly
  • “My Home”
    • The “Account” page now has the ‘Cancel’ and ‘Update’ buttons in the expected order
    • Mentions of “My Workspace” have been changed to “My Home”
  • Long lists of Favourite sites now wrap in Internet Explorer
  • Fields in the “Contact Us” tool now have the correct all labels and the browser tab has a name
  • Calendar
    • The tool now has better colours
    • The “synoptic” calendar on the front page of a site (and in My Home) now uses the correct icons
    • The Oxford event types have been added back to the Calendar
  • Suspended students are now removed when the related Participant Group is removed
  • OXAM (the database of past exam papers) is now fully responsive, it will resize correctly on a mobile phone
  • The superfluous “Create New Site” links at the top right of every page have been removed
  • All links to the now defunct Mobile Oxford – WebLearn Gateway have been removed

In addition, all WebLearn work for the “Anonymous Essay Submission” project is now complete – watch this space for more information when the student data becomes available

by Adam Marshall at November 30, 2016 02:28 PM

Schematic of WebLearn Infrastructure

Dave Stewart from the Infrastructure and Hosting team in IT Services sent me this diagram which details all the various hardware components that go to make up WebLearn. I thought it would make an interesting blog post.

Here’s an explanation:

  • Netscalar is a load balancer, it is the fist point of contact when a user goes to WebLearn. It will create a session on the “Sakai Worker” with the smallest load, this worker will be used for the duration of a user’s session
  • Two workers reside on one physical machine
  • WebLearn’s physical machines are split over two data-centres “just in case”
  • Apache is the web server that acts as a front end to the WebLearn instance that is running inside Docker
  • Docker is a “parcel” that contains everything WebLearn needs to run: Tomcat servlet container, WebLearn code, runtime, system tools, system libraries – anything that can be installed on a server
  • We generally only use 6 of the 8 worker nodes so we have spare capacity
  • AFS is the filestore where uploaded documents reside
  • Solr is the “search engine”
  • MySQL is the Database
  • The diagram doesn’t show all the other services that WebLearn uses, the Oak LDAP, Oak Groups Store, HFS back-up and so on



by Adam Marshall at November 30, 2016 12:47 PM

Michael Feldstein

The Remarkable Transformation at UF Online

The University of Florida, based on a plan created by the state legislature, started UF Online in 2013. The original business plan was a case study in optimistic enrollment planning and the road-to-riches through online education. From program inception, UF Online was forecast to grow to a headcount of 24,000 students within 10 years, 43% of whom would be out-of-state high-tuition students, generating $76 million in annual revenue and $14 million of “profit”. Then reality hit. The first executive director quit, enrollment reality did not match plans, they got rid of their Online Program Management partner (Pearson), and they hired a new executive director with no higher education management experience. In my May 2015 coverage, I concluded:

UF Online seems to be institutionally-focused rather than student-focused, and the initiative is shaping up to be a case study in hubris. Without major changes in how the program is managed, including the main campus input into decisions, UF Online risks becoming the new poster child of online education failures. I honestly hope they succeed, but the current outlook is not encouraging.

In a remarkable transformation in the past year originally described at Inside Higher Ed, UF Online appears to have made “major changes to how the program is managed” and is now focusing on students and reality.

Some of the key changes:

  • The original plan called for an unrealistic growth of enrollment to 24,000+ students within 10 years, with 43% coming from out-of-state. These assumptions were based on the fact that out-of-state students pay triple the tuition that in-state students pay. With the revised plan, the program is now forecasting 6,500 students in year 7 (compared to 18,000 students at that same point from the business plan), with 11% coming from out-of-state. This forecast is believable.


  • The original plan had the online students, who pay 75% of in-state tuition compared to those on-campus, not being able to use any of the campus services. Even for those students who lived in and around Gainesville, the plan was to not allow usage of campus services, sporting event tickets, etc. As of Spring 2016, UF Online now allows students to pay additional fees to be treated like an on-campus student. It’s an expensive fee that costs more than $690 per semester for full-time students, but at least they have to option to use campus services.
  • The initial reaction to missing enrollments was to create PaCE – a pathway that allows qualified students not admitted to the traditional campus to enroll in UF Online for two years then transfer to face-to-face program. One element of that plan was to specifically “to populate major areas of study that have been under-enrolled in recent years”. With the revised business plan, there is a new focus on student needs and targeted investment (page 7):

Separately, where we see peak demand and limited capacity, UF Online has been able to divert costs savings to fund additional faculty salaries in the departments with the greatest demand. Ultimately, this strategic use of our funds better supports our faculty and students through high-quality online course content.

There is much more to read in the business plan revisions and 2015-2016 Annual report, but the real transformation we are seeing is a change in mindset. Even with the lower enrollment projects, if UF Online can meet the new plan’s targets (and this now seems quite realistic), we will now have a viable online program that can serve as a model for other schools. Kudos to Evangeline Cummings, the UF Online executive director with no previous higher ed management experience, for leading this transformation. They still have a lot of work to do but now seem to be on track.

The post The Remarkable Transformation at UF Online appeared first on e-Literate.

by Phil Hill at November 30, 2016 02:07 AM

November 28, 2016

Apereo Foundation

November 27, 2016

Apereo Foundation

Opencast Community Summit

Opencast Community Summit

Universitat Politècnica de València is hosting the Opencast Community Summit on March 1-3, 2017. Call for Papers in Now Open!

by Michelle Hall at November 27, 2016 05:56 PM

November 14, 2016

Sakai Project

SakaiCamp Un-conference in Orlando Florida January 21 - 25, 2017

We are pleased to announce a SakaiCamp un-conference in Orlando Florida January 21 - 25, 2017.

SakaiCamp is an informal gathering that is focused solely on Sakai. The people who show up decide on the topics of discussion, and in some cases, working sessions. Attending we get a nice mix of developers, instructional designers, managers, etc. And we have break out sessions so that developers can talk tech and users can talk function. And we all come together in full group debriefs and discussions.

by MHall at November 14, 2016 07:29 PM

October 27, 2016

Sakai Project

Case Study Video: Sakai At University of Virginia

The University of Virginia has released a short promotional video highlighting the power and potential available in its instance of Sakai, as well as the role of its instance in expanding the university’s mission into the digital world.

by MHall at October 27, 2016 03:08 PM

October 19, 2016

Dr. Chuck

Student Programmer Position: Working on Sakai – Open Source

I would like to fill a student programmer position (at the University of Michigan) to help me work on the Sakai open source Learning Management System. Sakai is the most popular open source learning management system for top-level research schools around the world like NYU, Oxford, University of Capetown, Notre Dame, Duke, University of North Carolina and many others. There are well over 200 schools that use Sakai as their primary learning management system and there are millions of daily users of the product.

I am currently working on defining and building the next generation of interoperability standards that allow learning systems to share and exchange data via standard, open protocols. I am also working on making Sakai certified against standards for accessibility like WCAG.

Skills Required

In the position you will make direct contributions to the open source Sakai project in your own name as well as work with me as I develop new and expanded functionality for Sakai.

This will require a pretty significant set of solid programming skills:

– Java
– Java Servlets
– Structured Query Language (SQL)
– Accessibility
– JavaScript
– Git / github

This is not a position where you will learn those skills – you must already have them. Sakai is a million lines of code – much of which is a decade old. Working with real, mature, production code that was developed over time by a team of >100 programmers is both a technical challenge and very gratifying at the same time.

In addition to your skills, you will need solid hardware to do Sakai development. My own laptop is a quad-core-i7 macintosh, 16GB RAM, and 500GB SSD. When you are building and testing a million lines of code – it takes some resources.


You will work with a highly talented and deeply committed team of software designers, end-users, and software developers to tackle the most advanced issues in building software for teaching and learning. I would work as your mentor to bring you into this community. The community is very active. We have several teleconferences per week that are attended by people around the world where we work on topics like development, accessibility, marketing, and teaching and learning with Sakai. I will encourage you to attend these teleconferences to make sure that your work fits well into the community and product. I am not the expert in all things Sakai – much of what you learn about Sakai will come from many others in the Sakai community.

There may be travel to Sakai meetings and/or standards meetings where you will met engineers from all of the major learning management systems like Moodle, Blackboard, Canvas, Desire2Learn, Schoology and others. If you have an interest in working in the educational technology space there is potential to make many good contacts that might lead to an internship or a job. My goal is to be your mentor rather than your boss and in time for you to be a respected contributor in your own right.

When you have mastered the Sakai code base – you will know what it takes to understand a million lines of code and develop in a professional manner. You also will know that your contributions have advanced the cause of teaching and learning with technology worldwide.

This is a student programming position – not a full time professional position but the work you do will be at a professional level.

Getting Started

The best way for you to figure out if you have the skills and development environment to handle Sakai is to download it and get it up and running in your development environment. You can follow the official installation instructions at:

(Start with the git repository)

I have built a set of scripts that allow me to check out and set up an instance of Sakai with a few scripts. They work on Mac or Linux and make things easier:

Please feel free to send me a resume or ask a clarifying question.

by Charles Severance at October 19, 2016 05:20 PM

October 18, 2016

Dr. Chuck

What is static, double colon (::), $this, and arrow(->) in PHP OO

I wrote this code to answer some PHP Object Oriented questions during office hours.

function plus($x, $y) {
    return $x + $y;

class Thing {
    public $value;
    private $a;
    protected $b;

    function __construct($start=0) {
        $this->value = $start;
        $value = 12345;

    public static function add($x, $y) {
        // Cannot use $this
        echo("Adding $x $y \n");
        return $x + $y;

    public function increment($x) {
        $this->value += $x;
        echo("New:" . $this->value . "\n");

    public function inc2($x, $y) {

    public function add10() {
        $this->value = self::add($this->value, 10);
        $this->value = $this->add($this->value, 10);

    function __destruct() {


$y = plus(3,4);

$y = Thing::add(3,4);

$z = new Thing(7);
$a = new Thing(10);



$y = $z->add(5,6);

echo("The last line\n");

by Charles Severance at October 18, 2016 08:05 PM

October 09, 2016

Dr. Chuck

Fixing when a jQuery UI Modal Shows Behind Fixed Bootstrap Navigation

I am blogging this because I searched stack overflow and Google and no one had the answer. Too bad I can’t just state something in StackOverflow after hours of research and a bunch of “close” questions and answers. But ah well – here it is.

I am working on my Tsugi OER site

What I am trying to do is use the modal capabilities of jQueryUI modal dialogs (mostly because I do not like the overblown markup of BootStrap modals) while the rest of the site is styled with BootStrap. All goes well until the modal is larger than the overall window vertically and the modal slides under the BootStrap fixed navigation bar.

Here are some images:

Navigation with enough vertical space (good): good_nav

Not enough vertical space, modal slides below the navigation (bad):bad_nav

Not enough vertical space, modal atop the navigation (good): better_nav


The key is to set the z-index of the *generated* markup created by the jQuery UI dialog call after the dialog was created:

function showModal(title, modalId) {
    console.log("showModal "+modalId);
        title: title,
        width: modalDialogWidth(),
        position: { my: "center top+30px", at: "center top+30px", of: window },
        modal: true,
        draggable: false

    // In order to float above the BootStrap navigation

    $(window).resize(function() {
        $("#"+modalId).dialog("option", "width", modalDialogWidth());

I figured out the generated elements and changed their z-index.

Working code: (Log in and go to “Use this service”, and press “Using Your Key”).

Code in github: tsugiscripts.js

by Charles Severance at October 09, 2016 07:41 PM

August 25, 2016

Steve Swinsburg

Migrating to GradebookNG?

GradebookNG is now included in the recently released Sakai 11!

If you want to use the Import From Site feature to migrate content from previous sites to new sites, you need to have GradebookNG in the previous site.

You can do this in two ways:

  1. Add GradebookNG to the sites you are migrating FROM. You can do this manually, or via a database script or a web service.
  2. Convert all of the Gradebook Classic tools in the existing sites to GradebookNG.
    In the upgrade from Sakai 10 to Sakai 11 there is an optional database conversion that you can run that will do this:

    UPDATE SAKAI_SITE_TOOL SET REGISTRATION='sakai.gradebookng' WHERE REGISTRATION='sakai.gradebook.tool';

Note: If you don’t have GradebookNG in the site you are migrating content TO, you can add this to to have it added automatically when you use Import From Site.


by steveswinsburg at August 25, 2016 10:02 PM

August 24, 2016

Steve Swinsburg

Oracle 12c via Vagrant

I’ve just finished building a new Vagrant box for Oracle 12c. This one uses only Vagrant and a shell script.

Grab it from github:

During the course of this install I came up against several issues with the Oracle silent installer itself. There were files missing, an incomplete compilation of binaries (but Oracle reports a successful install!) and then problems running scripts that ship with the installer. The issues were buried in log files, and sometimes those log files pointed at other log files!

Oracle, if you are listening, you really need to work on your installer…

Check it out, I would love to know what you think.

N.B. For reference, the problems I encountered are here and here.


by steveswinsburg at August 24, 2016 11:59 AM

June 28, 2016

Ian Boston

Referendums are binary so should be advisory

If you ask the for the solution to the multi faceted question with a binary question you will get the wrong answer with a probability of 50%. Like a quantum bit, the general population can be in any state based on the last input or observation, and so a Referendum, like the EU Referendum just held in the UK should only ever be advisory.  In that Referendum there were several themes. Immigration, the economy and UK Sovereignty. The inputs the general population were given, by various politicians on both sides of the argument, were exaggerated or untrue. It was no real surprise to hear some promises retracted once the winning side had to commit to deliver on them. No £350m per week for the NHS. No free trade deal with the EU without the same rights for EU workers as before. Migration unchanged. The Economy was hit, we don’t know how much it will be hit over the coming years and we are all, globally, hoping that in spite of a shock more severe than Lehman Brothers in 2008, the central banks, have quietly taken their own experts advice and put in place sufficient plans to deal with the situation. Had the Bank of England not intervened on Friday morning, the sheer cliff the FTSE100 was falling off, would have continued to near 0.  When it did, the index did an impression of a base jumper, parachute open drifting gently upwards.

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 20.08.07

The remaining theme is UK Sovereignty. Geoffrey Robertson QC  makes an interesting argument in the Guardian Newspaper, that in order to exit the EU, the UK must under its unwritten constitution vote in parliament to enact Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. He argues that the Referendum was always advisory. It will be interesting, given that many of those who have voted now regret their decision, if they try and abandon the last theme that caused so many to want to leave. The one remaining thing so close to their heart that they were prepared to ignore all the experts, believe the most charismatic individuals willing to tell them what they wanted to hear. UK Sovereignty, enacted by parliament by grant of the Sovereign. I watched with interest not least because the characters involved have many of the characteristics of one of the US presidential candidates.

If you live in the UK, and have time to read the opinion, please make your own mind up how you will ask your MP to vote on your behalf. That is democracy and sovereignty in action. Something we all hold dear.

by Ian at June 28, 2016 07:09 PM

June 21, 2016


Upgrade Date Announced

DATE CHANGED: Original Date was August 6, 2016

Sakai has been re-scheduled to be upgraded on:

December 19, 2016 from 12am to 1pm EST.

The upgrade will take several hours. During this time Sakai will be completely inaccessible to faculty and to students.

A confirmation email will be sent following the upgrade, letting you know that you can again login to Sakai.

The upgrade will take Sakai from version 10 to version 11, and includes updates some new features and most of all a new look that’s meant to make accessing Sakai on mobile and tablet devices much easier. See this list for a full list of the new features and changes. You can track availability of Sakai using the Johnson University Internet Services page. Login credentials will not be affected.

The User Guide is a good place to start when you have immediate questions.

Contact the Help Desk if you have issues following the upgrade.

by Dave E. at June 21, 2016 03:36 PM