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3 Canoes and Longsight Resources
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Sakai: Open Source Portfolio Tools

Developer/Company Name: Three Canoes LLC / The Longsight Group LLC

Date of webinar: 3/28/12


Thanks to Patricia Donohue with ePortfolio California for making the above resources available.


The following questions represent the needs and concerns identified in an informal polling of eportfolio community members during spring 2011. The answers are the vendor's responses

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What vision or understanding of learning informed the design of your tool?

Over the past decade Open Source Portfolio (OSP) community members have articulated a broad array of overlapping visions that are now embodied in the portfolio tools in Sakai. These tools offer incredible flexibility to serve a diverse community with very different portfolio needs. The greatest strength of the portfolio tools in Sakai is their flexibility in capturing a wide variety of portfolio work flows. This flexibility allows each program or institution to implement portfolios in ways that work best for their particular educational context.Over the past decade Open Source Portfolio (OSP) community members have articulated a broad array of overlapping visions that are now embodied in the portfolio tools in Sakai. These tools offer incredible flexibility to serve a diverse community with very different portfolio needs. The greatest strength of the portfolio tools in Sakai is their flexibility in capturing a wide variety of portfolio work flows. This flexibility allows each program or institution to implement portfolios in ways that work best for their particular educational context.

How does your vision of learning promote a student-centered approach to education? (e.g. student ownership of his/her learning)

The portfolio tools in Sakai offer one of the strongest student-centered models for authoring and selection of content and control of sharing. When creating a portfolio using Sakai, students have the right to select and upload materials at their discretion and fully control the sharing of their portfolios.

Does your tool allow students to control permissions? Can they share with people outside of the institution? How? (e.g., advisor, prospective employer, etc.).

Students decide what to include in an assessment matrix, when to ask for feedback or submit the work in their matrix for evaluation, who to share a portfolio with, and when to share it. Students may share portfolios with other users in the system, via password-protected email notification, as a public URL, or as a downloaded set of navigable html files and attachments.Students decide what to include in an assessment matrix, when to ask for feedback or submit the work in their matrix for evaluation, who to share a portfolio with, and when to share it. Students may share portfolios with other users in the system, via password-protected email notification, as a public URL, or as a downloaded set of navigable html files and attachments.

What is the process for inviting feedback on work or artifacts?

Users may allow comments on shared portfolios, request formative feedback on content they have included in an assessment matrix, and/or submit the content of a cell in the assessment matrix for summative evaluation.

Describe how your tool promotes and supports student-to-student collaboration.

Student users may ask for comments on portfolios they have shared with peers, create a collaborative portfolio with others, and/or provide peer feedback on content they have added to cells in a matrix to assess their learning.

Describe how your tool promotes and supports student-to-faculty collaboration.

Students and faculty may create collaborative portfolios together, ask for comments on portfolios they have shared with each other, provide formative and/or summative feedback on the content of cells in the assessment matrices of others, and use a variety of other collaborative tools in the Sakai Collaboration and Learning Environment.

How does your tool support and encourage the reflection process for students and faculty?

In Sakai reflection may be built into any stage of the portfolio process. The most common way to encourage reflection is to create one or more customized reflection forms with specific prompts to encourage reflection in relation to the learning artifacts that users choose to associate with cells in an assessment matrix. Reflection can also be encouraged when users choose artifacts to share with others in a portfolio

How does your tool address and support institutional level assessment needs (e.g., aggregating student data and generating reports for accreditation)?

Portfolio coordinators for courses, programs, and institutions may use assessment matrices to invite learners to document and reflect upon artifacts of their learning in relation to identified learning outcomes. Faculty then provide formative feedback and summative evaluation on the degree to which learners have met the learning outcomes. The associations of artifacts, reflections, and evaluations for each learner are then aggregated and analyzed to form reports that can be used to demonstrate student learning for an accreditation process.

Does your application integrate with enterprise systems? Which ones? Do you have examples of effective integration in support of advising or other student services you can share?

The Open Source Portfolio tools are fully integrated into the Sakai Collaboration and Learning Environment. Sakai can be integrated with LDAP, Active Directory, CAS, other commercial tools like Kaltura and Turnitin, and with a variety of databases, business reporting engines, and student information systems. One effective way to use the portfolio tools in Sakai is to allow data reported from a student information system to be displayed in read-only forms to be associated with an assessment matrix or shared in a portfolio for use in advising, career development, and the job search. Another way is to integrate a service like Kaltura to allow embedded videos in shared portfolios. A third option would be to integrate a reporting engine like Pentaho to provide sophisticated reporting capabilities for assessment data.

What is the main strength of your application?

The main strength of the portfolio tools in Sakai are their flexibility in capturing almost any intended portfolio work flow, allowing different courses, programs, and institutions to implement portfolios suitable for their own educational contexts

What weaknesses have been identified relative to the user experience and shared with you?

The most difficult aspect in using that portfolio tools in Sakai is that often portfolio coordinators don’t know where to begin. Sakai offers a framework with portfolio components that require customization in order to implement the portfolio work flow you want. This requires knowing what you want and how to design a portfolio work flow to achieve your desired outcome.

Please share some examples of user feedback.

Students typically have no problem working with the portfolio tools in Sakai but may lack the motivation to create portfolios. This is more of a people problem than a software problem. Faculty, on the other hand, often want portfolio software that is, on the one hand, far more intuitive than Sakai currently is and, on the other hand, does exactly what they want it to do with the fewest number of clicks possible.

Please share examples of the successful use of your application to help students achieve their goals undefined admission to graduate school, career placement and advancement, etc.

The most obvious use of the portfolio tools in Sakai to benefit students is the opportunity to share showcase portfolios with faculty, peers, mentors, parents, admissions officers, and potential employers. Flexible portfolio templates allow students to share evidence of their learning, skills, and accomplishments with anyone willing to take the time to view their portfolios. Students can use the portfolio tools in Sakai for individual purposes or to meet course, program, or graduation requirements. The usefulness of the portfolio functionality provided to students is very much dependent on the vision of the functional and technical leadership charged with creating a specific customized implementation of the portfolio tools in Sakai.

What key changes or features do you plan to introduce in the near future?

An international group of institutional users of Sakai have funded a managed project to create the next version of Sakai to be known as the Sakai Open Academic Environment (Sakai OAE). New York University has led the way in creating showcase portfolio functionality to function in this new system. The first version of Sakai OAE to be released allows users to create any number of pages to share with others using an editor and a variety of widgets. Social networking functionality and flexible content authoring are dramatically realized in this new version of Sakai. Future versions of the application will offer new ways of assessing learning to complement the showcasing of learning already well-supported by Sakai OAE.


Business Operations

Company profile: Three Canoes LLC wants your institution to become self-sufficient in using Sakai and the Open Source Portfolio (OSP) for teaching, learning, and assessment. We offer on-site and virtual services for assessment planning, ePortfolio design, OSP customization, and documentation and training for your use of Sakai. We are fellow educators with years of experience working with higher ed and K-12 institutions and have been a part of the Sakai and OSP communities since their inception. The Longsight Group LLC: Like Three Canoes, Longsight staff comes from and understands education. Longsight has been hosting and supporting Sakai, its precursors and OSP longer than any firm. Longsight is a Sakai Commercial Affiliate filling a leadership role in the Sakai community for maintaining and extending the Sakai Collaboration and Learning Environment (Sakai CLE). We host, support and customize Sakai and OSP.

Customer base/size:Three Canoes LLC works directly with your institution or partners with companies like Longsight to deliver services for designing and customizing portfolios in Sakai. We are a small consulting company and work agilely with a small number of institutions at a time. The Longsight Group LLC: Longsight hosts or manages Sakai for more than seventy institutions in North America. Our services are comprehensive including support for LMS piloting and selection, migration planning, implementation, hosting, management services, on-going support, training and customization. Our 100+ clients range from large research universities to small colleges and public school districts.

Student license pricing model: Three Canoes LLC assumes that the institution or a Three Canoes partner company like Longsight will host the institution’s use of Sakai. There are no licensing fees for students using Sakai. The Longsight Group LLC: Longsight’s highly competitive pricing model for hosting and support is based on institutional needs, not on a per-student basis.

Institutional pricing model:Three Canoes LLC assumes that the institution will host their own instance of Sakai or work with a Three Canoes partner company like Longsight to host the institution’s use of Sakai. There are no licensing fees for using Sakai but a specific hosting company may charge subscription fees for their particular release of Sakai. The Longsight Group LLC: Hosting and support from Longsight is priced based on the level of provisioning required to ensure super-adequate performance. A baseline deployment of Sakai (with OSP) is less than $15,000 per year. OSP technical customizations (if needed) are estimated, approved and implemented on an hourly basis.

Postgraduate/transfer student license model: Three Canoes LLC encourages institutions to make accounts in Sakai available to their graduates, but this decision is one to be made by individual institutions using Sakai. The Longsight Group LLC: Longsight’s pricing model is based on levels of provisioning which may be affected by the institution’s choice to sustain portfolios after graduation, but there is no per-student charge.

Institution service agreement model: Three Canoes LLC provides services to higher ed and K-12 institutions for design, customization, materials, and training for use of the portfolio tools in Sakai. Our contracts guarantee the delivery of specific services for a specific price. We can build a portfolio implementation for you, work with you in customizing the portfolio tools in Sakai for your specific purposes, or offer a one-week training event on your campus to help your team become self-sufficient in customizing the Sakai portfolio tools on your own. The Longsight Group LLC: Longsight provides hosting with a service level agreement that provides 99.999% uptime guarantee and unmatched, premium support services with a four-hour response target.

Online support information: Three Canoes LLC works directly with customers in need of our services. The Longsight Group LLC: Longsight works hard to provide our clients with choices and control over their technological future by customizing open source solutions.

Institutional support services (Free): Three Canoes LLC offers a free demo instance of the portfolio tools in Sakai (http://demo.threecanoes.com/portal) and free webinars to introduce faculty and staff to Sakai portfolio capabilities. The Longsight Group LLC: Please register at https://trysakai.longsight.com to explore Sakai through your own course and as a student.

Institutional support services (Feebased): Three Canoes LLC is available to provide support for the portfolio tools in Sakai anytime on a fee for service basis. Contact us at consultants@threecanoes.com or check out our website at http://threecanoes.com. The Longsight Group LLC: Contact Longsight ( information@longsight.com ) with information about the scale of your LMS needs; we will prepare a draft proposal describing the many options.

IT staffing requirements: Three Canoes LLC: Three Canoes works with available functional and technical staff at each institution. We can build a portfolio implementation for you, work with you in customizing the portfolio tools in Sakai for your specific purposes, or offer a one-week training event on your campus to help your team become self-sufficient in customizing the Sakai portfolio tools on your own. The Longsight Group LLC: Longsight’s open source applications allow you to define how much or how little you wish to engage with the maintenance of these important technologies. From a technical standpoint, IT staffing requirements can be minimal (less than 0.25 FTE) however any portfolio program will benefit from (if not require) a substantial commitment to program leadership.


Technical Information

  • System Requirements End User: The Open Source Portfolio tools in Sakai (OSP/Sakai) are authored and shared as a web application through nearly all current web browsers.
  • System Requirements Server:OSP (running within an instance of Sakai) is a Java application that is most typically run on the open source LAMP stack – Red Hat or CentOS Linux, MySQL 5.1 or later or Oracle 10g or later, Apache 2.2 and Tomcat 5.5 or later. Virtually any modern server with at least 3GB of RAM and 50GB of mass storage, with ample network connectivity, should be sufficient. As mission critical services, eportfolio systems should be redundant to ensure the highest possible reliability.
  • Hosted service? Because OSP/Sakai is an open source application, it can be self-hosted by the institution or hosted in the cloud by a service provider. It is important to contract for qualified hosting for OSP/Sakai through a Sakai Commercial Affiliate.
  • Storage Capacity (per account):This varies depending on program goals, but there is no technical limit to quota or duration of storage.
  • Privacy policy relative to student accounts and underage users: Again, as open source software, OSP/Sakai can be configured flexibly as institutional needs dictate. Portfolios in Sakai follow Sakai’s proven authentication and permission structures that ensure appropriate access at all levels. Some recent developments in the European Sakai community have added the "parent” role to Sakai which may enhance the delivery of Sakai portfolios in the K-12 sector. Because it is open source backed by an enormous community of educational institutions, OSP can be extended to meet local needs or extended to meet universal needs in the context of the global OSP/Sakai community.
  • Standards compliance:OSP/Sakai supports IMS Global Learning Consortium standards such as Content Packaging, Learning Tools Interoperability, Question and Test Interoperability, etc. Where international standards don’t exist, OSP/Sakai takes a common sense approach to minimize "lock-in” of data.
  • Section 508 compliance: OSP/Sakai adheres to most of the Section 508 requirements as evidenced in the publicly accessible table at https://confluence.sakaiproject.org/display/2ACC/Sakai%27s+Current+Accessibility
  • Published API: OSP/Sakai is based on fully open and published APIs which are documented at https://confluence.sakaiproject.org/dosearchsite.action?queryString=API
  • Migration/Exportation: OSP/Sakai can render portfolios for distribution as static HTML sites. Once created by a user, portfolios can be downloaded to the user desktop as HTML files with accompanying navigation.
  • Systems Integration: OSP is a core subsystem of Sakai and as such, can be integrated with third-party tools and services that are integrated themselves with Sakai such as TurnItIn, BigBlueButton, Adobe Connect, Elluminate, Panopto, Matterhorn, Turning Technologies, Tegrity, iRubrics and many others.
  • Accepted artifacts/media (pictures, video, audio, text, html, documents, etc.): OSP is essentially file format agnostic, accepting any digital format and rendering in the client browser any file for which a MIME type has been defined on the hosting server. OSP can access documents stored by students as part of their course work or in their private content repository in Sakai, or in integrated third-party tools such as Matterhorn or Kaltura.

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