Why Sakai?

Sakai offers many significant advantages as an LMS, particularly its flexibility and its rich array of features.  Sakai not only has more features than other LMS systems, it also has the best versions of those features in many cases. Two primary examples of this are its superior visual editor and the Tests & Quizzes tool.

Indeed, one of the most important considerations in authoring an online course (or any web-based presentation of text) is where the actual writing takes place.  Most LMS’s seem to assume that faculty will compose their text in the online visual editor, but most faculty prefer to do this in their word processor, most commonly Microsoft Word.

Word, however, tends to not play well with these editors, adding a lot of “garbage code” in the background, making control of formatting almost impossible. Sakai’s visual editor contains a “Paste from Word” button that filters out most of that background code (Moodle also has this feature, but it does not do as good a job of cleaning up the code or of preserving the intended formatting).

The Sakai Test & Quizzes tool also allows for pasting appropriately formatted exams directly from Word, turning a long and tedious process of copying and pasting each question stem and answer option individually into a couple of clicks.

Another one of its advantages is its gradebook.  Its sophisticated gradebook offers distributing, weighting and grouping of gradable items, all in a familiar, spreadsheet-style design that allows for easy and efficient setup.

Sakai offers several Web 2.0 elements, most notably integration with Google Docs (and other Google tools) and the most sophisticated and useful RSS feed offerings (including the capability of instructors and students to subscribe to discussions, blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other course tools, as well as the ability of instructors to import RSS feeds from other sites). Sakai’s blog and wiki tools are on par with any other systems’, and its podcasts feature exceeds any of the capabilities of other systems.

Sakai’s syllabus tool allows for either the posting of a file (e.g., a PDF or Word document) or a section-by-section option that allows for parts of the syllabus to be made public.  Its help pages are excellent; its content repository features are highly functional and easy to use; its search feature is rich and global; and it has built-in portfolio and a project collaboration systems.

Sakai does not have many weaknesses, and one of its main weaknesses could also be considered a strength:  Sakai is so flexible with so many tools that faculty could be overwhelmed or confused by the abundance of options.  Sakai’s templating options, however, allow faculty to choose from a more digestible menu of choices

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