Sakai and its Competitors - Evolution, Online Learning and New Possibilities
September 17, 2015

Sakai and its Competitors - Evolution, Online Learning and New Possibilities

Raymond J. Uzwyshyn | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 5 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User

Overall Satisfaction with Sakai

I have used Sakai now at two organizations, American Public University (APUS), an online for profit university and Texas State University, a large campus state university. At American Public University Sakai was the main online Learning Management system. It was utilized across the organization as the main tool and engine for students and faculty as the online learning system for the university. At Texas State, Sakai is used on a more selective and limited scale. Here, it is used for a smaller cohort of online classes but it is also used as a support (resource) system for hybrid courses. Sakai addresses the business problem of 'online classroom' management. Essentially, the system can build an infrastructure for faculty and students for learning. For faculty, it provides an infrastructure system for say a semester 'course' arcs and online learning infrastructures. For students, it is the main online system for receiving assignments, taking tests, dialoguing through forums with other students etc.
  • Easy to Use Basic Online Learning System: Sakai does the basics for learning online well. Outlining course lecture material uploading, linking for faculty, forums for students
  • Pragmatic Text Based System: Sakai is solid for text based assignments, both student entry and faculty presentation and overview.
  • Familiar Interface: The Interface for Sakai will be more immediately familiar to both faculty teachers and students as the model is well established in interface design.
  • Lack of Multimedia Features: Sakai is not great for video integration, either uploading or chat based video or integrating new video features into the interface and shell. It is not particularly good for say recording audio or more sophisticated multimedia integration.
  • Lack of Web 2.0 features. Sakai is not great as a Web 2.0 social media learning application. It is definitely from an early but still present model of learning management systems and has remnants of its first generation architecture.
  • Lack of User Experience Design: Sakai is basic in its user interface design. In this way it is approximately a generation back with regards to web 2.0 interface design or higher attention to 'learning' design aesthetics and integrating with online 'learning methodologies.
  • For American Public University System, Sakai seemed an effective tool. As with any technology though, times change and with changing times comes new technological possibilities. At its implementation stage, Sakai had a positive effect in adding to the ROI and is built as a desktop online learning system. Currently, there are many competitors in the market probably worth looking at further if one wishes to push the leading edge with regards to mobile possibilities, multimedia etc.
  • Sakai was useful as a resource system in tying online library resources to the university online curriculum. It allowed for library/university curriculum connections that otherwise would not be possible. We actually won several awards with our Sakai/Online Library/Libguides online curriculum integration.
  • For an online for-profit university in the early days of online learning Sakai was a great tool. For land based universities transitioning to online learning modalities, Sakai is still a fair option in terms of hybrid learning possibilities and enabling an online resource folder for every physical class. Sakai is definitely not leading edge but more proven system stability undergoing versioning processes.
Sakai is a fair competitor to other online learning systems (i.e. Blackboard, Canvas, Desire-to-Learn). Essentially, Sakai is simply a different flavor of similar models for online learning management systems. It is more different from Moodle and Moodle's social networking possibilities but not quantitatively better or worse. Having said that Sakai does not present a new 'paradigm' for online learning but essentially presents a standard 'learning management system' with a few different bells and whistles. There are areas from a newer generation of LMS systems, say EdX, Coursera, Udemy models that shine brighter in certain respects (collaboration, Web 2.0 possibilities, incorporation of video) and there are areas that other systems do better. It would be beneficial when doing a learning management system comparison to look at the pragmatic goals of your institution and learning program infrastructure and conduct a cost benefit analysis. The other larger point that should be made is that Sakai is an open source application compared to say other vendor hosted or purchased applications with the associated possibilities and challenges therein.
Sakai is a fair standard learning management system. It is very well suited to standard 'text' based asynchronous online learning modalities. It is less appropriate for 'live' online learning classes. It is not overly suitable for scenarios where the learning requires a lot of 'collaborative' group work or large classroom 'MOOC' like environments. In this way, it is more of a first generation learning management system.

Using Sakai

1800 - At my previous institution, American Public University, most of the infrastructure staff used Sakai. At that time, this was approximately 1800 faculty, a department of instructional technology designers, a media department, an online library of 22 librarians, all students at the university (at that time, 125,000, circa 2013). Other business areas represented, university marketing, business analytics and core IT.
Because American Public University System was based around Sakai, there were a large amount of staff devoted to the program. These were divided into core IT and backend systems, multimedia designers, instructional designers, online librarians, technical support staff, various staff connected to backend server and database operations, system security and other IT functions required for LMS management. A smaller online program at a physical university would require decidedly less.
  • Online Learning: Teaching Classes (Main Framework)
  • Archiving Classes: Main Framework
  • Courses and Larger Undergraduate and Graduate Degree Programs
  • Sakai was used as a framework for a larger faculty MOOC (APUS)
  • Sakai was used as a shell for resources for hybrid physical/online classes (Texas State)
  • Sakai was used for large section introductory university classes (introduction to Research, Freshman experience etc)
  • Expansion of physical classes into online modalities
  • Non traditional workshops
  • Frameworks for learning symposia
Sakai is a good general learning management system - it is not leading edge but rather a stable system with standard learning management system features. It can be fairly easily customized and is fairly easy to learn from both student learning and faculty administrative vantage points. New paradigms for online learning though are emergent so the current field should also be investigated with competitors.

Using Sakai

Sakai possesses a standard user interface. It is generally usable but not great in terms of innovation or user experience. There are opportunities for customization but the experience from the user standpoint does not provide a 'next generation' learning platform but rather one that is a little more than what one expects regarding 'distance' ed on the web. Forums are really threaded discussions not say multimedia voice threads. Sakai is a good tool for say the next level of correspondence course online. It is also good in terms of ease of use. It's clunkinesss is something one gets used to as one works with the application from student, faculty and designer levels. Having said that, Sakai cannot be considered an amazing experience in terms of 'user' experience by any stretch of the imagination. Basic standard tool.
Technical support not required
Quick to learn
  • Adding Forum Comments
  • Setting up Textual Assignments
  • Submitting assignments
  • Multimedia is challenging in Sakai
  • Web 2.0 collaborative functions are challenging in Sakai
  • Mobile Learning possibilities are challenging in the Sakai interface