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Move to Sakai to come next spring

Despite efforts to replace Blackboard with a new program by fall, students will have to wait another year before all classes are switched to Sakai.
Although the goal early last fall was to complete the switch this spring, the move is taking longer than expected, Associate Provost for Information Resources and Technology Chuck Ruch said.
“It is a lot of work in converting to Sakai – a lot of work for the faculty,” he said. “We have renewed Blackboard for another year because we want to give them a chance to move to Sakai at their own pace.”
Although the program is now available to all professors who want to make the switch, senior electrical engineering major Spencer Leeds said he has only had one class that used the program.
“Last year, one of my classes was one of the trial classes they used to decide if we were actually going to get it or not,” he said. “I like it so much better than Blackboard – it’s easier to use and has better features like a calendar where teachers can post due dates.”
Ruch said he thinks the conversion to Sakai is going smoothly, and he expects more instructors will begin using it during the fall semester.
“Faculty have the choice now between Blackboard and Sakai, but as of now we have about 50 faculty members and about 152 classes using [Sakai] to some extent,” he said. “Since we introduced Sakai people have been moving onto it at a very nice pace.”
Leeds said he thinks Sakai is a better program than Blackboard, but he doesn’t think switching will cause more teachers to use the site.
“If a professor doesn’t use Blackboard, then switching to Sakai isn’t going to get them to start using a Web site to post grades or assignments,” he said. “It seems like they are switching because Blackboard was so expensive and Sakai is free. Why are they going to pay for something the teachers won’t even use?”
Although Sakai has proven to be more work than previously thought, Ruch said the university is pleased with the progress being made in switching the campus to Sakai.
“It’s just in the last couple of weeks that we have really been satisfied with the product service for Sakai,” he said.
Ruch also said Bradley is not discouraged by the fact that eliminating Blackboard has taken longer – rather he said he is glad the university continued on with the project despite the setbacks.
“It really was a lot more work than we anticipated, we are very happy with where we are now,” he said.
Despite the fact he said he doesn’t think more teachers will use Sakai than Blackboard, Leeds said he thinks the new program will benefit the students of those professors that do.
“If a teacher is using Blackboard now, they will continue using Sakai after the switch,” he said. “It really will benefit students. I’m surprised they stuck with Blackboard so long after seeing what Sakai can do.”
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