Tag: Sakai

Linked in Lessons: Internal & External Tools 

Linked in Lessons: Internal & External Tools 

This blog post is about the Sakai Lessons tool, links to other Sakai tools, VoiceThread, Top Hat, and how to maximize the effectiveness of a course using your Sakai site. Just as the main purpose of an LMS is to enhance the learning process, you can – and absolutely should – utilize Lessons in Sakai to deliver educational resources to your course in an orderly, easily navigable fashion. Of all the internal tools available in Sakai, Lessons plays a special role by enabling you to organize the learning materials in your course and minimize student confusion in locating readings, assignments, assessments, discussion forums, and even external tools.  

When assisting faculty with Sakai one-on-one or in the context of an orientation/group presentation, my colleagues in Instructional Technology and Research Support (ITRS) and I often explain to faculty that Lessons is a “three ring binder” that allows you to arrange the content in all the other tools. You can create a Lessons page for each week (Week 1, Week 2, etc.) or module (Module 1, Module 2, etc.) or any other increment that you use in your class.  

Why Lessons? 

To obtain a more detailed and extremely specific understanding of the value Lessons can bring to your course, imagine yourself in the following (quite cumbersome) scenario: 

You are teaching a course with a Sakai site and it is Week 3 of the academic term. You just finished uploading the Week 3 Readings to the Resources tool, creating the Week 3 Assignment in the Assignments tool, added a Week 3 Topic to the Discussions tool, published your Week 3 Quiz in the Tests & Quizzes tool, built a “project idea” recording assignment in VoiceThread, and made an icebreaker activity for in-class completion using Top Hat. To notify your students, you compose a message using Announcements and ask your students to…: 

  • Go to Resources and locate the assigned readings in the Week 3 Readings folder. 
  • Submit your Week 3 Assignment in Assignments 
  • Access the Week 3 Topic in the Weekly Discussions forum and post your reading response (and respond to a classmate) in the Discussions tool.  
  • Take the Week 3 Quiz in Tests & Quizzes 
  • Go to VoiceThread and “record yourself.”  
  • Complete the icebreaker in Top Hat during the class meeting.  

Do you feel fatigued from reading that scenario? I feel that way from writing it. In this scenario, it is also not difficult to imagine that a sizable portion of your students reported problems with finding and completing the assigned content. Fortunately, there is a much more effective strategy for simplifying the process.  

Internal Tools in Lessons 

As an alternative to the situation described in the previous section, you can include links to all the activities in different Sakai tools within a Lessons page. Once you’ve uploaded/created the weekly content, you can create a new lessons page titled “Week 3”, add the weekly assignment/quiz/discussion/readings to the page, mark each item as a prerequisite for advancing to the next week’s page (if applicable), and direct your students to “Complete the activities in ‘Week 3.’”The majority of Sakai tools are linkable within a Lessons page and can potentially reduce confusion (and the process of navigating to so many different tools, of course). Using this habit, you may not even need to send so many announcements (and hope everyone reads them).  

VoiceThread & Top Hat: Interactive, Asynchronous Learning 

Along with the tools available within Sakai, some of the external tools available to you can now be added to a Lessons page thanks to recent upgrades and enhancements. For instance, several enhancements to the VoiceThread tool such as new assignment types and a deeper integration in Sakai have resulted in a much more streamlined experience for assigning, completing, and grading work. As of 2022, Assignments in VoiceThread – a multimedia recording/uploading tool for collaborative learning via asynchronous interaction – can now link directly from a Lessons page. Instead of requiring students to select the VoiceThread tool (to authenticate their account) and directing them to complete the assignment in the VoiceThread tab in Sakai, you can now add a link to a VoiceThread assignment such as creating a recording, commenting on a recording, or just watching one. Once completed and graded, scores for these assignments will also populate in the Sakai Gradebook tool directly.  

In addition to this improvement, a much more recent upgrade to Top Hat now enables you to link to assigned content through a Lessons page using the same method as linking to VoiceThread. As a tool for interactive learning with a vast array of features to facilitate and track student engagement, you can use Top Hat for live, interactive quizzes as well as tracking attendance, creating assessments, sharing reading materials, and more. Although it is important to note that Top Hat requires a student fee and for users to create their accounts directly through the tool, grades for assigned content will now populate the Gradebook just like VoiceThread.  

Going Forward: Help & Resources 

Based on the (perhaps excessive) details provided in the sections above, the value and purpose of Lessons pages is apparent. In short, there are many ways you can incorporate content from other sections to simplify the process of navigating Sakai for your students.  

For assistance with Sakai, VoiceThread, Top Hat, or any other instructional technology, please schedule a consultation with an ITRS team member. Here are some additional help resources for Sakai Lessons, VoiceThread, and Top Hat: 

Sakai Lessons Documentation 

VoiceThread Documentation  

Top Hat Documentation 

Top Hat Support 

Christmas is around the corner, and so is Sakai 22!

Christmas is around the corner, and so is Sakai 22!

Don’t let final exams put a damper on your holiday spirit! Instructional Technology & Research Support (ITRS) is hard at work and preparing to unveil a new version of the Sakai LMS just in time for the holidays. Loyola will upgrade to Sakai version 22 on Wednesday, December 21st. During the upgrade process, Sakai will be unavailable (approximately 7am-11am Central Time). Faculty, staff, and students are not required to make any changes for the upgrade; all course and project sites will be intact and ready for use in Sakai 22. 

The annual Sakai upgrade ensures that Loyola can take advantage of the latest Sakai features and functionality, and we can eliminate pesky software bugs that have been squashed by the Sakai community. A few highlights you can anticipate in Sakai 22 include:

  • A new tool, Conversations, allows for threaded Q&A and discussions. Conversations enables users to filter and bookmark posts so it’s easy to find the content that matters most. 
  • New page layout options in the Lessons tool. 
  • A new integration with Gradescope, an AI-supported grading platform that streamlines grading of paper-based, bubble sheet, and coding assessments. 

Want to learn more? Visit Sakai 22 Upgrade. Here, you’ll find registration links for informational sessions conducted by your friendly ITRS colleagues, a promotional video highlighting new Sakai features, and more! 

Are you ready for Sakai 21?

Are you ready for Sakai 21?

Sakai 21 is coming to Loyola, fittingly, on December 21st, 2021. This change is an upgrade-in-place, meaning that Loyola faculty, staff, and students do not need to make any changes to their Sakai sites or accounts. All good things take time, so Sakai will be unavailable from approximately 7am to 12pm on 12/21/21. 

When Sakai returns, better than ever, here are a few things to look forward to: 

  • Dark Theme (also known as Dark Mode) to give tired eyes a break 
  • Enhancements to Lessons (e.g., a reorganized Add Item dialog), Gradebook (e.g., message students directly from the Gradebook), and Rubrics (e.g., search for rubrics by title) 
  • Certifications, a new tool for awarding micro-credentials 

Intrigued? Check out the Sakai 21 Upgrade page to learn more and to register for an upcoming infosession. This page also includes a promotional video showcasing the most exciting improvements, complete Sakai 21 release notes, and other resources. 

As always, ITRS is here to help Loyolans make the most of Sakai 21. Schedule a virtual consultation to work one-on-one with ITRS staff. 

What’s New in Sakai 20?

What’s New in Sakai 20?

Sakai 20 is coming to Loyola on Monday, December 21st, 2020! On 12/21 from 7am to 12pm, Sakai will be unavailable. 

Once the upgrade is complete, the following new and improved features will be available: 

  • Sakai Grader with a document preview for the Assignments tool 
  • A date manager that allows instructors to quickly modify all due dates in the Site Info tool 
  • An auto-groups wizard that takes the guesswork out of creating groups 
  • A brand-new Rubrics tool that integrates with Assignments, Forums, and Tests & Quizzes 
  • Gradebook enhancements, including the ability to equally weight items within a Gradebook category 
  • Rich text editor templates to easily create stylized Lessons pages 
  • And more! For a full list of new features, see the Sakai LMS blog

Faculty, staff, and students who would like to learn more about the changes coming to Sakai are invited to attend a “What’s New in Sakai 20?” info-session or a Q&A open forum with ITRS staff. For dates and registration information, see Sakai 20 Upgrade

4th Annual Information & Technology Showcase

4th Annual Information & Technology Showcase

The 4th Annual Loyola Information & Technology Showcase will be held on Thursday, February 21st from 9:30 am to 3:00 pm in the Damen Student Center.

Come learn about library and technology resources available to the University community. Take advantage of a variety of breakout sessions and a full array of resource tables from vendors like DocFinity, Oracle/LOCUS, ProQuest, and Gartner. All Loyola students, faculty, and staff are invited to attend. Registered participants will receive a box lunch and have an opportunity to win raffle prizes including a new laptop computer.

Visit the Info & Tech Showcase Registration page to register for the event.

For more information, please visit the ITS Info & Tech Showcase Event page. See you there!

Info Tech Showcase Resource Table