Momenta Learning

A blog on topics related to Elearning, online education, and instructional design.

Friday, January 18, 2013

How to insert activities and assessments outside the Assessments tool in Sakai...

I have been using Sakai as my LMS for close to four years now. A few years ago, Sakai replaced Blackboard as the official LMS and e-learning tool. I did not have the chance to use Blackboard that much to say anything about it. Sakai does the same thing I was able to do with the version of Blackboard we had here. Since I became an Instructional Designer in 2011, I have had the chance to dig deeper into Sakai and I have learned a lot about it. Sakai has many tools that allow you to build a decent (but not the best) online course. What makes Sakai the best is that it allows me to upload content that can work inside the LMS. You can create HTML pages with Javascript and they will work in Sakai. One drawback of using Sakai is that you are limited to the type of activities and assessments you can build. The assessment tool in Sakai (as well as the test and quizzes tool) has a limited set of types of questions you can insert (multiple choice, fill in the blank, and so on). You cannot add a new type of question in Sakai, at least not using the LMS only without altering the actual programming language in which Sakai is built. Not all is lost, though. I can insert an assessment within my course pages, but this will serve only as self-assessment and will not count towards the final grade, the grade from this activity cannot be recorded in the gradebook (another Sakai tool). But you can use this self-assessment nonetheless, because at the end of the activity you can show the student a measure of their performance and the option to repeat the activity, if needed. You might want to create your self-assessments in Flash (which limits your audience) or in pure HTML and Javascript (we use Lectora here). One big project I have is to create activities that require mastering a skill before going to the next level in the course. The big challenge here is that Sakai does not remember where a student left off. You might be able to solve this by using cookies, but that is learner-dependent. If a student leaves at any point during the activity, when the student comes back, the pages will start from the front or landing page, and then it is required to navigate to the site where the student left off and then continue, but if there is a final grade to report, the assessment will have to be started from the beginning since the accumulated grade will be lost when the student logs out. This is just one of the challenges of using Sakai, I will talk about a couple more later on. To be fair, I will also mention two advantages of using Sakai as you LMS.

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