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Sakai 2 and/or 3?

My institution is entering the Sakai community at a time that is both awkward and exciting. Sakai is now a two-product world. Sakai 2 is well-developed and stable: the LMS we have now. Sakai 3, on the other hand, is the emergent next-generation LMS: incredibly promising, but not yet ready for wide-scale deployment.

Given our roadmap to transition over the next year or so and have Sakai fully deployed in the Fall of 2011, the obvious question all of us that attended the Sakai 2010 conference were asking was: should we just look to jump straight to 3? Ultimately, after all the discussions, we ended up with about four different possibilities:

  1. do Sakai 2, and effectively ignore Sakai 3
  2. do Sakai 3, and ignore Sakai 2
  3. run Sakai 3 for the nice new social-networking features to act as a kind of portal with Facebook-like features, but run Sakai 2 in “hybrid mode” for the more traditional LMS functionality that may not be ready when we need it
  4. similar to the above, but run the two instances completely separately
Each approach has its trade-offs. The first ensures a longer transition to Sakai 3, where I think many of our faculty and students would really like to at least experiment with it ASAP. It would also insure another, somewhat abrupt, transition. The second is probably not realistic in our time-frame; some LMS functionality that some faculty will need will likely not be ready by Fall of 2011.

I got the feeling that our group was more attracted to the last two options, both of which would present faculty and students with the new face and the unique features of Sakai 3, and allow a more incremental and seamless transition to the next-generation LMS functionality as it became available. I also personally gathered that the ultimate decision will have to come down to facts on the ground, as they evolve. In short, we probably ought to concentrate on Sakai 2 now, but monitor the progress of Sakai 3. If the project moves at the pace projected in the roadmap then running 2 and 3 together in hybrid mode may well be a viable option. If not, running them separately initially might make more sense.

Another related important question will be what we use for portal functionality. Sakai 3 could hypothetically serve as a nice, flexible, portal interface. It is substantially more ambitious than the traditional LMS model. Certainly some of our people were thinking about this idea. And other institutions have as well. UC Berkeley, for example, is deploying Sakai 3 as its portal system for the coming Fall. But such a move at my campus would likely require a rethink of what our portal functionality should provide, and unlike Berkeley, we already have a portal constituency on campus. So I can imagine some political challenges as well.

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3 Comments

  1. I agree with you that Sakai is in a weird spot right now. Especially for schools like yours just jumping in.

    My belief is that you’re better off starting with Sakai 2. It’s a stable, mature product that will be good enough for you for a year or two. And then you can switch to the hybrid mode and let faculty migrate and evolve with the product.

    When you’re a Sakai school, you can’t avoid change. Change is a part of the product. You incrementally add new features to make the product better, which is radically different from my previous experience with WebCT, which changed every 4 years. The worst part is getting started.

  2. darcusb says:

    Thanks for the input.

    The issue is that each decision introduces an inertia of sorts, in what is already a rather conservative culture (academia in general, and my institution in particular). So, for example. we need to do something about existing portal functionality (as with our current LMS, provided by Blackboard). Do we just go with uPortal and Sakai 2, then? Then what does that close off in terms of possibilities for really exploiting the social networking and collaboration functionality in Sakai 3?

    Just to be clear if I wasn’t above, the idea for the mixed environment was to use Sakai 2 for the LMS stuff (at least mostly; I might like to be able to experiment earlier ;-)), but use Sakai 3 for basic collaboration, networking, portal, page/site-creation sort of stuff if its ready.

  3. darcusb says:

    BTW, there’s a screencast of a session in Denver on the “hybrid mode” at http://vimeo.com/12618381