Most faculty switches from Blackboard to Sakai

The university’s plan to switch to Sakai in place of Blackboard is in its final stages, though some faculty and students are reluctant to make the switch.
But come May 21, 2010, those who don’t use Sakai will be out of luck when the university’s licensing agreement with Blackboard permanently expires.
With nearly four times the number of course Web sites in Sakai as there are in Blackboard since the start of the semester, Instructional Technology Assistant Center Director Barb Kerns said the transition between learning systems has gone “extremely well.”
Though the university has used Blackboard since 2000, in spring 2008 ITAC and the Instructional Technology and Media Services departments began a pilot of Sakai, an open-source system with high flexibility levels and customization capabilities.
Since then, further piloting programs and transitions have occurred, spurring 630 course sites in Sakai in fall 2009. 
Kerns said professors and students choose Sakai over Blackboard because of its flexibility.
“[With Sakai,] it’s quicker to add content, with a lot more tools and capabilities,” Kerns said.
Features of Sakai include the ability to create, administer and correct tests and quizzes online, a wiki feature allowing users to collaborate on Web sites and a chat room, she said.
Director of Social Work Wayne Evens said he uses Sakai because of its many features and options.
“I haven’t used Blackboard for two to three years,” Evens said, as he was involved in the initial pilot program.
With Sakai, Evens has the ability to create discussion groups for group projects and grade papers online. He also said the wiki feature was valuable.
Still, some faculty continue to use Blackboard, including Associate Professor of English Peter Dusenbery.
“I chose Blackboard over Sakai this semester mainly because I’m familiar with Blackboard, know its quirks and can navigate it comfortably,” Dusenbery said.
But he added that though he hasn’t used Sakai in the past, he likes the software’s flexibility.
The Blackboard system is still an option until the license with the university expires. The university last renewed its license with Blackboard in May 2009, Kerns said.
“Cost is always a factor,” she said. “Blackboard has a license fee that we don’t have with Sakai, but the startup costs with Sakai were expensive – investments in people power.”
Kerns said students have been embracing Sakai, though some said their feelings are mixed.
“I prefer Blackboard, but Sakai is growing on me,” junior English major Alfredo Rodriguez said.
He said there weren’t any particular features on either system that made him choose one over the other, just that “simply because more teachers use [Blackboard], so I can get more out of it.”
Senior political science major Ted Orphan said he didn’t have a preference either way.
“My professors haven’t really used either of the sites’ features other than posting the syllabi and sometimes grades,” he said. “I haven’t used Sakai enough to say for sure, but for what my professors use it for, it doesn’t seem to be much different from Blackboard.”