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Rutter I

Nick Rutter
Fredrik deBoer
wRT 303-0001
7 March2}ll
Editorial: URI Must ContinueElectronicImprovements
The University of Rhode Island has proven to not only be an institution that standsout in
the Northeast Region, but also one which standsout on a national and international scale.That is
not to say that URI is perfect; there are many improvementsbeing made everyday to our
buildings,programs,and the most relevantof thesetimes, our technologicalinfrastructure.More
and more programs' instructors and studentsare dependenton tools that are both common to the
internetas whole, specific to secondaryeducation,and specificto this University. In particular,
our Sakaisystemreceivesa lot of focus as it is the common worksite for all departmentsof study
and providesmany useful tools suchas electronicsubmission,gradebooks,forums,polls and
much more. We recommend that URI continueswork with Sakai, but only in a limited capacity,
as we have committedto be involved in the collaborativecommunity effort. We insteadcall for
an instructor movement to seekalternative software, in particular, the open-sourceprogram,
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The switch to Sakaiinvof itself was an upgradefrom the previously implementedWebCT

system,which The Good 5 Cent Cigar reportedas a result of the WebCT distributorsmderging
with another company and increasingthe cost of operations(Myers). It is difficult to deny that
having sucha variable and accessiblesystemin placewould make the jobs of studentsand
instructorseasier.However, at leastone instructorfelt the opposite.In anotherarticle of The
Good 5 Cent Cigar, ProfessorDonna Hughes expressedstrong objections after running into

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problemswith the softwarewhen trying to run a summercoursein Women's Studies.Particular
problemscited were assignmentsthat couldn't function to be completedbeforethe due date,and
instructorloadedcontentdisappearingon the discussionforums (Broder).
While thoseeventsare over ayear old, problemsstill persistin the Sakaisystem.Here
are somethat we feel make Sakai much too difficult and confusing to navigate-evenwith an
instructorproficient and involved with Sakai:
-Sakaidesignbreaksbasic webpagelayout conceptsof alignment,proximity, rhythm/
repetition,and contrast.
-The layout is very similar to the socialnetworking site Facebook,somethingwhich we
feel only servesto mix classesand dataup like interactionsfrom different people.
-New repliesto forum postsare not reported,hamperingthe back and forth discussion
atmospherewhich facilitateslearning.
-Text in forum postsand in assignmentboxesis not availableif the browseris
accidentallyclicked back or if the Sakaisessiontimes out.
-To go back within forum categories,the back button doesnot function, only clicking on
a return or cancellink will.
-Studentshave to undergoan arduousprocessto remove completedclasses'tabsfrom
display on their space.Someare still accessibleeven after two years.
-An overwhelminglist of features,someof which are not even implementedor that seem
Theseproblemspersist,althoughit is madeclearthat The University hasput a lot
of work in maintaining the site and trying to fix them. Introducing the site is a document
titled "Leaming with Sakai", which not only outlines what Sakai is and what featuresit offers,

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but also a "Programmers'Log: Updates& Fixes" Thereare seventeenbullet points of thesefixes
and updatessince Septemberof 2010. In addition,the documentoutlinesset maintenancetimes:
From 7:00 am to 8:00 am eachmorning, Sakaimay be unavailablefor someor all of
this time period to allow for scheduledmaintenance.The official eCampusrostersfor all
academiccourse sites are updatedautomatically four times a day [during the droplenroll
period]at7:30 am, 12:30pm, 5:30pm and I 1:30pm. Eachupdatetakesapproximately
35 minutesto run. Use of Sakaiis not affectedby this process(Rutherfordand Yang).
We are well awareof work beyond scheduledupdates,suchas the twice ayear Sakaiconference
and workshops to teach and inform instructors on how to use the program.
Additionally, URI is committed to involvement with the Sakai community, as the
program itself is a collaborative effort with other institutions to improve the program, and it is
through decisionsmade through a board of directors that determinewhat updatesare released
when. According to the Sakaiwebsite,"Older versionsmay be in use,but maintainingthe code
becomesthe responsibilityof the individual institutions.Institutionsare encouragedto take
advantageof the latest bug fixes, security patches,and feature enhancementsby upgrading to the
currently supportedversions."This perhapsis the root of all problemsmentionedearlier.URI is
still usingversion2.6 when 2.7 wasreleasedin Augustof 2010.
This is where we feel Moodle shinesthe strongest,in addition to fully addressingthe
list of Sakaiproblemswe listed. On the Moodle wiki, MoogleDocs,Moodle is describedas
operating as an open source program which enthusiastscan createadditional modules and offer
fixes and reportsto bugs and errors,in additionto the company'ssupportand maintenance.So
rather than having the University spendso much time and effort trying to updatethis enormous
program,instructorscan download updatesand bug-fixesto their modules,as well as download

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or even createthird party modules specific to their needswhich may be outside of the vast
amountsalready offered by Moodle. So if instructors, such as ProfessorDonna Hughes feel
frustrated,or even curious about using this alternative alongside Sakai, we encouragethem to do
so and encourageother professorsto do the same.Even if The University administration doesnot
officially endorseit, enough professorsusing Moodle will make this largely irrelevant. However,
we do hope the administration does support this changeand encouragethem to downsize Sakai
as essentiallyan alternative to class email.

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Broder,Elexa. "Professorfed up with Sakai,sayscoursewarehas kinks". The Good 5( Cigar.

The Good 5f, Cigar.4 Feb. 2010.Updated28 Feb.2011.Web. 6 Mar. 2011.

Collman, Chris. "Features".MoodleDocs.Moodle, 5 Dec. 2010. Web. 6 Mar. 2011.

Myers, Noelle. "Sakai to replaceWebCT beginningfall semester".The Good 5QCigar.The

Good 5f, Cigar.10 Apr. 2009.Updated28 Feb.2011.Web. 6 Mar. 2011.

Rutherford, Brett and Charlene Yang. "Learning With Sakai". Sakai@URL The University of
RhodeIsland.Yer.3.2,2 Feb.2011.Web.6 Mar. 2011.

"CLE Release"sakaiproject.org.SakaiFoundation,n.d. Web. 6 Mar. 2011.

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