Sakai Status – 10 May 2017

Some faculty and students have reported an issue with Sakai’s Sites button and Favorites list.  The issue has been identified and is being worked on presently.  Faculty and students can still access their courses by using Overview>Membership after logging in:

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A status with new information will be posted as soon as it’s available.

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Take away to Help Students in Course Sites

Just as it’s important at the end of the term or session to turn in grades to the Registrar’s Office via my.johnsonu.edu – it’s important to close out course sites in Sakai, specifically to unpublish them.

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The immediate question I typically get from faculty is, “Why?” Well here’s a few reasons:

  • Keeps you and students organized.  Sakai provides all users with the ability to favorite sites (place a star next to them using the Sites button) per user. Favorite sites appear in the top blue banner of Sakai. Leaving sites in a published state, crowds out and creates confusion for students.
  • Helps protect against plagiarism and cheating. By unpublishing course sites you protect your own courses and similar or identical courses taught by other instructors from students being tempted to or fully deciding to share their papers or assessments with other students who may be taking the course in the future.
  • Sakai doesn’t automatically surface or show the most current term courses (though this has been discussed as a feature to implement), so it’s important to unpublish courses so students are less confused about where to look for their current courses.

Unpublishing a course takes about 7 seconds:

  1. In the course site go to Site Info
  2. In Site Info select “Manage Access”
  3. Change the selection from “Publish site – accessible to all site participants” to “Leave as Draft – accessible only to site maintainers”
  4. Select Update

Unpublishing a course doesn’t remove your (instructor) access to a course site, it only does so for students who were officially enrolled in the course. Student’s data (grades, forum posts, assignments) will all remain in the course site. By design, Sakai does not delete data – several protections are put in place to prevent or wholly disallow data removal.

There’s obvious room for leaving some course sites published – esp. at the graduate or PhD level, but by and large, most sites should be unpublished at the end of each term or session – a few days or weeks following the official end date of the course.

AWS Reports Issue Resolved

According Amazon’s Dashboard (screenshot below), the issue which affected some portions of access to course sites in Sakai has been resolved (5:08 EST).

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Faculty and students are encouraged to continue to working in Sakai normally. If you experience any issues logging in, accessing course content, submitting grades or assignments, to contact the HelpDesk. Students experiencing issues related to submitting assignments, discussions, tests or quizzes late should contact their course instructor for direction on how to proceed.

 

What does Amazon have to do with Sakai?

amazonA lot of people seem to be asking this question.  Most students (and faculty) tend to think of Amazon as the online equivalent of Walmart (though Walmart has it’s own online presence) – as just a seller of retail items.  Amazon however is far more.

sticker375x360Amazon not only sells retail items (and space) it also provides internet services or hosting for thousands of companies, institutions and other entities.  This hosting essentially allows and provides easy, fast and often redundant access to content on a global scale through something called a content delivery network.  Essentially through an extreme set of complex algorithms, security and other layers the paper just submitted in your course ‘lives’ on an Amazon web server through their S3 platform (Simple Storage Service). It was most evident to me in my role with the university when I noticed images in courses ‘disappearing’.

Think of it this way. Lets say you’re going to a friends house for dinner – they’re hosting you. They ask you to come over to see them. They even tell you that their niece, Nozama is going to be bringing desert in the form of those great scout cookies you enjoy so much. You arrive on time to the dinner and everything seems to be going just fine until it’s time for desert. Sadly, your friend tells you, Nozama couldn’t bring the cookies just yet, because her parents car had trouble on the way over. Sadly (presently) the cookies you love so much are missing in action.

In some ways you could look at this as the host’s problem is that the host of the cookies is having a problem.  For more on understanding the nuts and bolts of hosts, check out this explainer from CommonCraft.

Course Sites Access – Update

As of 4:20pm EST, the impact of Amazon Web Services (AWS S3) continues to impact online, face to face and blended courses sites in Sakai (http://sakai.johnsonu.edu | https://sakai.lampschools.org).

You can find out more about the AWS S3 issue here.

After further research, the issue not only affected image content in courses – it also affected student’s ability to upload or access files in courses – including but not limited to, access to course syllabi, files in course Resources, upload of assignments as attachments, entry of forum and blog posts and and submission of assignments. Other areas may have also been affected as well.

What does Amazon have to do with Sakai anyways?

While it’s expected that the issue will be resolved soon, instructors are asked to use discretion when accepting assignments and other grade-impacting tasks which rely on electronic submission via Sakai. While not preferable, some instructors may decide to correspond with students via standard email about changes/adjustments to assignment submission processes due to the AWS issue, including extending the due or accept until date(s). Instructor’s ability to access student submissions, files and related gradable digital content is also an issue in some cases.

Students are encouraged to create and author content using an offline editor (such as in Word or Pages) and save their work so they have a back up and can potentially submit their work later or using a different means.

Instructors and students can continue to check the JohnsonU_Online Twitter feed for continued updates on this issue. Additional status update information is available directly from Amazon here.

 

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.

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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.

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.