Sakai tools

Earlier this year we surveyed all the tools available to us in our Sakai VLE, with a view to deciding which were the top candidates for mobilisation (whether by developing a new mobile-friendly interface or by tidying up the existing tool).

When evaluating these tools we tried to consider:

  1. how widely they were used
  2. how relevant they were to mobile use, and
  3. whether they were reasonably implementable within the timeframe of the project

As a result we’ve divided the tools into four categories:

  1. essential
  2. desirable
  3. initially unnecessary
  4. unnecessary or unfeasible

We’ve concentrated on tools which provide the best ratio of participation to user-input (input of extended information is often difficult and time-consuming on the keypads or miniature keyboards of even the most modern smartphones), and on tools which allow the user to perform a single discrete task (e.g. “see what’s new”, “answer a poll”, “sign up for a tutorial”) rather than more complex tasks requiring extensive navigation. These more discrete tasks also allow for atomic operations rather than requiring the preservation of state throughout potentially unreliable network access — hopefully avoiding that only-too-familiar “I got halfway through and then I lost the signal and now I don’t know if it’s sent it or not” user experience.


These tools cover the broadest uses, are most relevant to someone accessing Sakai through a mobile device and have a small enough set of features to be implementable.

1. Announcements

The Announcements tool is used to inform site participants about current items of interest, e.g. new items which have been added to the site. It was felt that this was the most important tool to mobilise, and potentially the simplest, as it obviously lends itself to a simple newsfeed-style application. Authentication may be an issue for private announcements.

2. Search

It is essential for users to be able to search both within individual sites and across all the sites of which they are members.

3. Resources

Minimally, the view to the resources area needs to be developed for easy mobile browsing. The Resources tool also provides the ability for site owners to upload and manage site resources, which may include images, video clips, and web links; these are potentially suited to mobile use, e.g. allowing site participants to upload photos/video directly from a cameraphone, or to push links from a smartphone’s web browser.

4. Schedule

Scheduled events from all of the sites to which you belong are collated and appear in the Schedule tool in My Workspace. This tool was considered likely to be difficult to mobilise, but clearly essential. The aim would be to display a schedule of events (along the lines of the mobile version of Google Calendar), and allow the adding of simple events. The ability to perform more complicated actions such as editing existing events and adding attachments was considered “desirable” rather than “essential”.

5. Tutorial Sign up tool

This is a separate work-package within Erewhon.

6. Help

Contextual help for mobile applications needs to be easy to access.


1. Wiki

The Wiki tool allows anyone with the appropriate permissions to read, create, and edit web pages. There are obvious issues here with authentication and with the difficulty of producing a usable editing interface in a mobile context; however, it should be possible to allow mobile-optimised read-access to wiki pages.

2. Forums

The ability to read and post to forums (ideally with an intuitively ‘mobile’ IM or SMS-like interface) is highly desirable, but the feasibility of this is largely dependent on the desktop version of the tool being improved. Currently the forum tool lacks a useful search and the ability to link to individual posts.

3. Polls

The Polls tool is a simple tool for anonymous voting, where users can vote for one or more of any number of answer options. This is potentially extremely desirable for use in a mobile context, allowing site participants to vote wherever they are.

4. Assignments

As for Schedule (above), it would be useful to be able to see at least a simple overview of which assignments are due and when.

Initially Unnecessary

  • Chat (lots of other chat apps available)
  • Presentation (synced presentation across browsers)
  • Drop Box (sharing of files between student and tutor)
  • Blogger (reflective journal)
  • Evaluations (may be useful when tool is more mature)
  • Messages (depends on overall weblearn messaging strategy)

Unnecessary and/or unfeasible

  • E-Mail Archive (users are expected to use e-mail client instead)
  • Web content (adding an iframe for internal/external content)
  • Section Info (purely administrative)
  • Site Info (purely administrative)
  • Podcasts (overlap with other services, also accessible via resources)
  • Mailtool (users are expected to use e-mail client instead)
  • Site Status (provides administrators with stats about overall usage of the current site)
  • Post Em (allows posting of marks back to students based on data from a spreadsheet)
  • Tests & Quizzes (full functional assessment engine and authoring tool)
  • Syllabus (structured creation of a syllabus for the site)
  • Site Members (allows non administrators of the site to view the members and their profiles)

Further information:

One Response to Sakai tools

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