Brace Yourself in Lessons

So everyone likes new features – as long as they add value and they’re not too hard to use.  A new feature in Sakai is a special set of ‘codes’ you can use to refer to the logged in user by first name. This neat feature was developed by the good folks over at University of Dayton based on an effort to personalize the interaction students have with course content. Dayton later shared the feature with the larger open-source Sakai global community.

The feature works in any rich text edit window of the Lessons tool and it’s simple to use.  Let’s say you’d like to welcome students to a course with something like the following:

Welcome to the course! I’m so glad you’ve registered and checked into the course!

It’d be great if you could draw the student’s attention to something in the content using their first name or something like this:

Welcome to the course! David I’m so glad you’ve registered and checked into the course!

You can use the following text to do so:

Welcome to the course! {{firstname}} I’m so glad you’ve registered and checked into the course!

entering the text right in the rich text edit area. Don’t use the SOURCE toggle button.  Once you save the change, you’ll see the result with your name – and anyone else who logs into the course will see their name in that area. You can even change the font color of {{firstname}} or {{lastname}} or {{fullname}} to draw even more attention.

Here’s a 73 second video showing the feature:

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Organizing Favorites in Sakai

With the recent upgrade to Sakai 12.1, faculty and students are starting to notice some of the nuance and changes from Sakai 11.

autoaddfavoritesites

One of the new features in Sakai is in the Organize Favorites tab under the Sites area.  Here you can now elect to have your newly added sites automatically added as favorites.  Essentially this acts as a way to keep tabs on courses you’re in without having to look under the Sites menu.

toomanyfavorites

This is a user preference – which means turning it on or off only affects you – the person changing it – not your students (if you’re a faculty member) and not faculty (if you’re a student).  With the setting turned on, you can still manage your favorite sites by selecting to turn the star next to a site yellow (favorited) or white (un-favorited). This setting can be very handy though, because when a new semester or session begins, as instructors (faculty) make course sites available, they’ll automatically show up as favorited sites in the top banner on your login.

reloadtoseenewfavoriteselections

There is a limit to the number of favorites you can have though – 15 in fact. If there are more than 15 sites favorited (either by you selecting that many or by way of having the “automatically add new sites to favorites” checked), you’ll get a notice on the Organize Favorites tab.  You can then review your favorited sites, unselecting specific ones or by using the star at the top of any term to unselect or select a whole term’s worth of sites.

select multiple favorites

Keep in mind that if you don’t see a site, it’s because it:

  1. hasn’t started yet, and therefore hasn’t been published by the instructor
  2. has concluded and the instructor has un-published the site
  3. as an instructor – you may not have been assigned to teach it yet
  4. you have the “automatically add new sites to favorites” turned off
  5. you have the “automatically add new sites to favorites” turned on, but you have too many sites favorited
  6. OR you may have it hidden in your Preferences>Sites area

Here’s a quick video over the concept and of course you can always check out the Users Guide on Sites organization here.

Importing Assessment Content – from Cengage

If you’ve ever had an issue pulling content into your course – especially assessment content the know you’re not alone.  Assessment content can be a really great win for you and your time, especially if you’re looking to provide some low-level assessment to check for student comprehension or understanding of material.

The real problem is when you get them from the publisher and go to put them into your course site.  Having played and worked with several learning management systems, I’m well aware of the phrase, “Not all learning management systems are created equal,” but I’m also aware that not all publishers are the same, nor is their implementation of standards, especially the QTI standard, used to provide formatting to assessments and the assessment question types so they’re portable and reusable in different learning management systems.

I’d like to say that there’s one full-proof/fool-proof way of doing this for every publisher, textbook, and question set – but there’s not.  There are lots of great tools out there like these:

  • Respondus
  • Cognero
  • TestGen

And yet sometimes it requires the use of multiple tools to get the assessment content into a course site. Here’s one such episode I recently encountered in an online course where the instructor needed multiple chapters of content imported from the newly minted next edition to the course and Cengage didn’t provide a Sakai labeled import file – just one for Angel and Blackboard (not even one for Canvas).

In short you may have to try several things or a combination of things. I’ve even taken content from one publisher in a format specific to another LMS, imported to that LMS, exported it and then was able to bring it into a course site. Just goes to show, nothing is standard in the world of publisher-created assessments, despite use of QTI as a standard.

If you have questions, or need help with importing your assessment content contact Dave Eveland of the Department of Online Education.

Will Sakai look different following the upgrade?

While there are some improvements to accessibility and some on-going tweaks to improve color contrast issues, the upgrade to Sakai will not affect the overall appearance that much.  For mobile users – the difference in course navigation will be much-improved.

Desktop/Laptop view:

Sakai 11
Sakai - Pre Upgrade Desktop View

Following Upgrade:
Sakai - Post Upgrade Desktop View

Mobile view (Sakai 11/Post-Upgrade):
Sakai - Pre Upgrade Mobile View  Sakai - Post Upgrade Mobile View

More detail will be distributed in the coming weeks and those following the upgrade.

Gradebook Calculation Anomoly

In what appears to be a gradebook calculation anomaly, be sure items are categorized appropriately even if you course is only using categories for organization – otherwise final course grade calculations may be inaccurate – as the following video explains.

 

To address categorization of an item, check the Gradebook>Settings>Categories and Weighting to insure you’ve setup the gradebook correctly (specific to each course).  Next insure all items which have bearing on the overall grade are INCLUDED in the course grade calculation – making sure they DO NOT have a calculator with a slash through it AND that they are not in an uncategorized category:

edititemdetailsgradebookuncategorized

Sakai Upgrade Scheduled

NEW INFORMATION – updated 10 May 2018 @3:30pm EST

Sakai will undergo an upgrade on May 14, 2018 May 15 starting at 8:00am. The last upgrade to Sakai was done on December 19, 2016. Students and faculty are encouraged to be logged out of Sakai by 7am the day of the upgrade.

This is a change from the previously announced date.

Sakai will not be accessible during the upgrade.  You should plan on being logged out of Sakai by 7:00am May 15. Email notification (sent to your JohnsonU.edu email address) will be sent once the upgrade is complete – currently planned for 1pm, May 15th.

Here are things that are not changing:

  1. Where you go tologin.
  2. The secondarylogin will continue to work as well.
  3. Usernames and passwords will be unchanged.
  4. Classes/Courses you’re a current member of – until they’re unpublished by the instructor of record – typically a few days or weeks after the course concludes.

FAQ:

Question: When will I still see my courses for the Summer 2018 term?

Answer: Instructors are responsible to make the course available on or by the first official day of class as published by the Registrar’s Office of the university. Summer Session 1 began May 7, and published courses will remain published and available to students officially registered to take them. The same thing applies for Summer 2 courses, which are scheduled to begin on June 25, 2018. This upgrade should not affect Summer 2 courses but those courses will use the new version of Sakai. All “Sakai 11 courses” will still be available following the upgrade.

Question: As an instructor, grades are due May 14 by 5pm – how does the upgrade affect getting my grades turned into the Registrar?

Answer: Faculty are strongly encouraged to turn in final course grades as soon as possible at My.JohnsonU.edu – under the Faculty tab (Grade Entry) by May 14, 11:59pm. You can also create a backup (CSV or PDF) of your whole gradebook by following these directions, prior to the upgrade date and time if you wish. You should likely also insure the calculated grade scale (Gradebook>Settings>Grading Schema) matches what you published in your course syllabus.

Question: Does anyone else use Sakai besides Johnson University?

AnswerYes, several other institutions around the world use Sakai – including other prestigious institutions such as Marist, Duke, Covenant Theological, Bethel University, Jiangsu University,University of Notre DamePepperdine University and others.

Question: Is there a way to know when Sakai (or other Johnson University services) are online or possibly having issues?

Answer: Yes, check out the service status page available here.

May 15th is just after the Summer 1 session begins (May 7). Final grades for the Spring 2018 term (and Spring Session 2) are to be submitted to my.johnsonu.edu and faculty are encouraged to do so prior to the Sakai upgrade date. The upgrade to the next version of Sakai is not expected to affect grades or course gradebook calculations. Several other adopting institutions have upgrades planned, including Duke University. If you wish to download a back up of your finalized grades, but before the upgrade, you can do so following these directions.

If you’d like to check out Sakai 12 prior to the upgrade, contact Dave Eveland for details on how to check it out.

full-fledged help-section is already available for both students and instructors on Sakai 12, and several other major universities have already gone through the upgrade process.

Stay tuned in for more information in the coming weeks and thank you for your patience as we move forward with this upgrade.

This Year’s Sakai Upgrade

This year’s upgrade to Sakai will involve far more subtle changes to the interface and feature set.  While Sakai will still benefit from a global community of developers contributing to and improving the code, you will also benefit from the support of the Department of Online Education and the related support resources and services you’ve come to expect.

While the feature set will remain largely the same look forward to a few enhancements, improvements in security and the addition of a few new features:

Sakai12 Prototype

This upgrade will be from Sakai 11.3 to Sakai 12.1. Some things you’ll see include:

  • Improved color specification and contrast in the overall look and feel
  • Streamlined course navigation
  • Addition of the Commons tool
  • Provision of extended assessment time for specific individuals or groups of individuals
  • Improved mobile integration
  • Question Type: Hotspot selection improved on mobile devices
  • Accessibility improvements
  • Lessons subpage option
  • Added widget availability in Lessons: Announcements, Forums and Calendar
  • Gradebook performance enhancements
  • and more!

More information will be made available in the coming weeks and months.