Sakai Comes On-Line

Ron J Richard, PhD., CFL

President Ross Paul and Provost Neil Gold have recently announced that, after more than a year of investigation and deliberation by the LMS  Evaluation Committee, a learning management system has been chosen for the University of Windsor to replace the venerable ViCKi on-line course delivery system used for the last eight years.

Sakai is an open source product that offers a number of advantages over more well-known commercial learning management systems . . .

The new system is the Sakai Collaborative Learning Environment (CLE). Sakai is an open source product that offers a number of advantages over more well-known commercial learning management systems (LMS), such as Blackboard, WebCT and Desire2Learn. First among them is flexibility and customizability. Second is cost and scalability. And third is that in choosing Sakai the University of Windsor positions itself at the forefront of Canadian universities joining the burgeoning open source community worldwide. In particular, UofW joins some of the most prestigious educational institutions in the world by contributing to the growth and development of Sakai. To learn more about Sakai visit the website at

The implementation of Sakai as the campus on-line learning environment will take place over at least one full year, or three semesters, beginning this fall. The reasons for this are several and significant:

In order to get the system up and running as soon as possible, the plan includes the engagement of a system integrator (one of the Sakai Commercial Affiliates) to assist with the set up, training and support of the system.

The Four Phases of the Sakai Rollout

The first phase of the roll out is taking place in this summer. Approximately 6 separate courses are being developed over the next 6-8 weeks for delivery in Fall 2006. At the same time the first major push for training and support will begin in earnest for CFL and ITS, as well as the instructors of the selected courses.

The second phase will begin with development of at least twice as many new courses as Phase One and, depending on how well the first phase goes, this number may increase. The development period for these new courses will begin in Fall 2006 and be ready for delivery in Winter 2007. Training for faculty and staff will expand to meet demand. During this phase, we will incorporate SIS integration for some of the components – students and their courses. Instructors and faculty interested in being part of this second phase of the roll out should read the criteria detailed below and contact the LMS Implementation Project as soon as possible.

Use and support of the ViCKi system will remain until the end of Phase Three, but will be gradually phased out beginning in 2008.

Phase Three of the project will see the development during Winter 2007 of the entire compliment of Summer/Intersession 2007 distance education and hybrid (partial distance education) courses. We will also begin introducing support for graduate studies, special projects and non-academic groups.

In Phase Four campus wide training for all interested faculty, students and associations will be taking place in earnest, such that any and all courses or projects that wish to use the system should be able to do so by the Fall 2007.

Use and support of the ViCKi system will remain until the end of Phase Three, but will be gradually phased out beginning in 2008.


Details of Phase One

It should come as no surprise that interest in the new LMS is high, and the number of faculty who wished to be in on the first phase outstripped the number of available spaces.

Phase One is considered a beta test of the system, and as beta-testers of the system participants in Phase One are being asked to actively participate in a program to be set up that will identify and log issues and problems that need to be addressed.

Criteria for Selection into Phase Two

Below are the minimum requirements you will have to meet in order for your course to be included in the Phase Two.

  1. Obviously, your course will have to be one that is slated to be offered in Winter 2007. A preference will be given to distance education and hybrid (partial distance education) courses, but we also want to have variety of course delivery models in Phase One.

  2. Additionally, a preference will be given to courses/instructors who meet the above condition, and who also meet one or more of the following criteria (in no particular order):

  1. Distance education courses that were designed and delivered under the Desire2Learn Pilot Project and which do not have a viable ViCKi equivalent ready;

  2. Courses whose instructors have had previous experience using Sakai at other universities.

  3. Courses already developed in another LMS (other than ViCKi) that need to migrate to a supported system.

Any instructor or AAU who has questions or who wishes to have a course considered for inclusion in Phase Two is asked to contact Ron Richard, co-chair of the LMS Implementation Committee at ext 3050, or

Finally, once all possible candidates have been collected, consideration will be given to balancing the selection from as many different faculties as possible.

Meeting any or all of these criteria will not guarantee inclusion into Phase Two, but will put you on the list. Those who qualify but are not chosen will be given preference in Phase Three.

Details of the final phases will be released as progress on Phase One is assessed.

Ron J Richard is editor of reFLEXions and the Senior Instructional Designer at the CFL

© 2006, Ron J Richard. All rights reserved.

Reader Comments

2006-Jul-10 at 09:18
Paul Grzeszczak
I'm glad to hear that WebCT was not chosen for this. I have used WebCT, and my experience with it has not been positive. The user interface, the email system, the chat are all sub-par. I hope that Sakai provides a better user experience. I am glad to see that we are supporting open-source software. It's about time. Let's see Linux make some more in-roads too.
2006-Jul-10 at 13:20
Lorie Stolarchuk
Could you please consider in the design of this project, a possible link to our Disability Services website, when we need to request notetakers for students with disabilities in particular classes? Also, a method to display this link on certain class websites when needed, and hide when not needed?

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