Sakai

Staying on leading edge of learning technology, while containing costs, is a goal most institutions and organizations strive to achieve. In order to remain competitive, institutions and organizations must continue to deliver innovative approaches to teaching and learning.  Limited resources and shrinking budgets are quickly putting proprietary software options out of reach. The open source Sakai Collaboration and Learning Environment (CLE) is an alternative to proprietary learning management systems (LMS) and supports teaching and learning, research, and collaboration across the enterprise. 

What is Sakai?
The Sakai project is a community source software development effort to design, build and deploy a new Collaboration and Learning Environment (CLE) for higher education. Built by higher education for higher education, Sakai provides a framework and pluggable tool modules for managing, delivering, and assessing student learning. It is designed to bring students and instructors together for knowledge sharing, discussion, and shared learning.  Users of Sakai deploy it to support teaching and learning, ad hoc group collaboration, and research collaboration.  Sakai has standards-based APIs for integration. Visit sakaiproject.org to learn more about the tools and features that make up Sakai.

Whatever the goal of the Sakai deployment, Unicon provides the expertise required to give the confidence that comes with a professional implementation. Please read about Unicon’s services for Sakai, in the tabs below.

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Associated Services for Sakai

Consulting for Sakai

Unicon's consulting services help in advising institutions and organizations on how to take full advantage of Sakai to meet their business objectives. Unicon assigns an experienced Project Manager to oversee expert project teams as they work to deploy and support custom enterprise Sakai instances that solve business challenges.

Unicon relies on software engineering and systems integration expertise to offer consulting and custom development services. These services assist customers with projects such as a major migration from other LMS solutions to Sakai. Unicon’s experienced LMS development experts can meet aggressive deadlines, even when integrating Sakai with several different systems.

Evaluation
Whether an institution or organization is in the process of implementing, updating, or maintaining Sakai, assessing and evaluating options can impact the success of Sakai. Unicon understands the importance of documenting goals, needs, and wants, and offers an evaluation service to institutions and organizations.

This first-step service provides a snap-shot of where the institution or organization is or to help clarify a need for Sakai. An evaluation session can determine and prioritize the conditions and needs required for a new implementation, update, or customization to an existing Sakai instance. Unicon’s evaluation service includes surveys, reporting, and analysis, all helping institutions and organizations decide their business needs for the LMS. Unicon also provides best practices for evaluation based on functionality, finances, support/maintenance, performance, usability, and security.

Mentoring
General Sakai mentorship affords institutions and organizations access to a Unicon developer/ consultant experienced in working with Sakai. Consultants are made available to assist and mentor staff. Consultants provide general mentorship and consulting support, answer questions, help staff to execute on development and configuration tasks, perform research and produce documentation as requested. Mentorship assists in knowledge transfer to grow an institution’s expertise in the development of the Sakai collaborative and learning environment and for maintaining the Sakai instance.

Customization Services for Sakai

Sakai meets the needs of the institution and organization, the individual instructor, and the group leader through its highly customizable nature. Sakai has a modular architecture with additional tools available for installation, and APIs for site management, user accounts, tooling, and authentication integrations.

Engage Unicon's experienced team to create a custom learning environment according to the unique needs of the institution or organization. The Sakai toolset can be customized to meet the growing and diverse needs of each institution and organization. Clients can enlist Unicon to create new institutional tools and design custom enhancements, and to configure provisional tools, such as JForum or blogging, that are not included in the base tool set.

Unicon offers software engineering expertise, to customize the flexible and extensible Sakai framework. Available site types, site skins, sets of tooling associated with site types, groups and sections, permissions, and terms are all configurable and customizable to deliver an institution or organization-specific Sakai experience.

Systems Integration for Sakai

Using standards-based specifications for integration, Sakai can be integrated with various applications and systems. Integration with learning applications created by publishers, and other companies seeking to provide users with information from within Sakai, is one way users can take advantage of systems integration services for Sakai. These standards-based integrations are made possible through the IMS LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability) specification. 

Unicon has experience customizing and integrating the SCORM cloud plug-in for Sakai. Learn more here.

One of the most important enterprise integrations is between the student information system (SIS) and Sakai. The SIS and Sakai should exchange information about courses, students, faculty, enrollment, and outcomes automatically. This integration is accomplished by the Sakora Project. Unicon assists institutions in strategic and tactical planning for the implementation of Sakora.

Sakai can also be integrated with rich-media video platforms such as Kaltura, which allows for video to be added to course sites within Sakai to enhance teaching and learning. Another common integration is with authentication technologies. Unicon can integrate Sakai with CAS and Shibboleth for single sign-on capabilities.

Unicon’s systems integration services integrate Sakai with most applications and platforms, open source or proprietary. Clients can count on Unicon to extend Sakai through systems integration services, maximizing the investment in Sakai.

 

Solution Delivery Services for Sakai

Unicon has extensive experience deploying Sakai. Unicon has developed best practices to help facilitate a successful, stable implementation for clients. Expert Project Managers guide clients through each phase of implementation, from brainstorming and planning to maintenance and support. While each of these services may be purchased separately, investing in the full package is ideal to avoid common pitfalls and ensure a seamless execution.

A successful deployment depends on taking advantage of the complete set of services listed below.

Support for Open Source Sakai

Protect the investment in Sakai and gain all of the advantages of this open source software designed specifically for institutions and organizations plus top-quality, professional support from a commercial vendor. Unicon’s Open Source Support program is SLA-driven and backed by an accountable team of open source experts. Take advantage of a flexible, customizable open source support service with direct access to dedicated developers, consultants, and system administrators each possessing deep experience within the select open source projects. Get the backing of technical expertise and professional service all at an affordable price.

Support for Sakai can also be found through the Apereo community resources, which include email lists and wiki.

Training Services for Sakai

A central but fundamental way to promote adoption is to educate faculty and staff on the Sakai environment. By building their confidence and showing them how to use Sakai’s powerful capabilities, clients can deliver a truly collaborative learning environment for constituents. Unicon provides expert Sakai training through seasoned instructors. With Unicon’s training services, clients can deliver well-rounded courses for every user, including staff, system administrators, and software developers. Each module features hands-on tasks and real-world scenarios to help achieve a comfort level with the Sakai environment.

Functional Training for Sakai
Functional Training covers basic navigation and instruction for how to use the tools and features of Sakai.

System Administration Training for Sakai
System Administration Training covers an overview of Sakai architecture, installation, maintenance, and support.

Other Services for Sakai

Hosting
Unicon can host an institution’s or organization’s instance of Sakai. Unicon’s hosting service is designed to maximize productivity, performance, and security, with a state-of-the-art data center and a team of experienced service delivery veterans.

Performance Testing
Enlist Unicon to optimize the performance of applications through on-going (iterative) application performance testing. Unicon’s proven methodology ensures applications will perform as expected to meet business needs.

Upgrades
As the open source community continues to make enhancements and adjustments to Sakai, new versions are released. These upgrades can be difficult for institutions or organizations to complete without a strong commercial vendor. Unicon’s services offer an ease of migration to the newest release of Sakai.

Prior to upgrade, Unicon recommends a thorough review of the client's environment, to determine the scope of the upgrade based on the extent of customization. Services can include integration of existing configuration and/or customizations in one or more client environments.

User Experience
Unicon offers a user experience service to help institutions and organizations deliver a polished, visually appealing application that follows the key principles of user experience design: useful, useable, desirable, findable, accessible, credible, and valuable.

History of Sakai

Named after Iron Chef Hiroyuki Sakai, the Sakai Project began in January 2004 as a collaboration between the University of Michigan, Indiana University, MIT, and Stanford. These institutions joined forces to integrate and synchronize their considerable educational software into a pre-integrated collection of open source tools.  What resulted is a community-source model that relies on the interplay between academic institutions, commercial enterprises, and individuals to ensure sustainability and stimulate and advance software development and distribution. Today the Sakai project is run by the Sakai Foundation: a vibrant and growing community of more than 100 members representing universities, colleges, and institutions worldwide. Since its inception, the Sakai community has successfully achieved multiple releases and hundreds of enterprise production deployments.