Reflections Newsletter

Migrating to OWL (Powered by Sakai), Fall 2012

By Mike Atkinson, Faculty Associate, Teaching Support Centre

It's the fall and you've put off the redevelopment of your website in Sakai.  The learning curve seems very steep and you're thinking that you'll just use the "basic" site (i.e., grades only) for this year.  After all, WebCT is gone and you will have to report grades through Sakai. If you do decide to take the plunge and develop your site a bit, here are some tips that may help you along the way.

Tip # 1
Call the Instructional Technology Resource Centre (ITRC ) at ext. 85513 and book an appointment with one of the ITRC students. They can show you more about Sakai in one hour than any online tutorial or workshop. Ask them how they would set the site up--they have a great feel for site design in addition to the technical knowledge to make the changes.

Tip # 2
Organize your old site before you transfer the files to Sakai. WebCT uses a different file structure than Sakai. So all those nicely embedded files you had on your WebCT site will not be embedded after the migration. It might be a good idea to copy all of your files to your desktop, create the file structure there (e.g., all files related to chapter 1 or all video files, etc.) and then migrate from your desktop.

Tip # 3
Use Cyberduck to migrate the files. This is a free download utility (cyberduck.  ch) that allows you to move multiple files at once. Great in general, but especially useful if you have 200 or 300 files to migrate or if you use a Mac.

Tip # 4
If you did not organize your files before migration, organize them before doing anything else. It will be difficult for you to create content unless those files are organized in a logical fashion.

Tip # 5
Hide the Resources page. All of your files will end up in Resources. From the Resources page, you will move files into the various lessons, chapters, etc. that students will navigate. If you do not want students to see all of the information that might be in your course, you need to hide this page link. To hide student access to the whole Resources folder: Select Site Info then select the Page Order tab near the top of the page. You will then see a list of all of the tools that you have made active in your course. To hide the tool (Resources) click on the 'light bulb' in the row where you see Resources and it will go dim then click on the save button at the bottom of this page.  Your Resources folder will appear in italics and students will not see it in their OWL site of your course.

For more control of individual items or folders within the resources folder use this method: Go to Resources, click on Permissions (top menu bar), and un-check all the boxes for Student except read resources. When a page link is hidden it appears in italics and slightly faded on the side main menu bar.

Tip # 6
Discussions are called Forums in Sakai.  On the right hand side of your home page, you will see a tool called Message Center (sic.) Notifications. Click on New in Forums link ... you can use the General Discussion or create your own thread. There is a nice statistics tool in the forums that allows you to track posts, replies, reads, etc. for each student.

Tip # 7
Yes you can add images to your pages.  This is actually easy to do. Just go to the page and click on Add Resource. You can browse your own computer for the image or file and upload right away.

Tip # 8
By default, everything you add is viewable unless you change the permissions. I often have files on a particular page that I do not want to be available to students until a specific time. With WebCT I could hide the file or use selective release. In Sakai, you need to change the permissions for a file, upload it manually at the appropriate time, OR use a simple viewing trick. Go to Site Info and select Manage Groups (top menu bar). Create a group called something like "Hidden". Leave this group empty--do not assign any students to the group. Then go to the page where you want to hide material. Click on the Edit button (to the left of the file you are working on), then choose "Edit the groups for which this item should be shown." Two group listings will appear: One for the entire class and one for Hidden. Uncheck the class option and choose Hidden. Click on Update Item and this file will not be available until you reverse this procedure and choose the class for viewing.

Tip # 9
View your site as a student. There is an option in the upper right hand corner on the home page to choose the role you want to view the site in. Typically choices are student, TA, or the default instructor (site reverts to this when you exit a role). This is the best way to see what your students see. Also, it is a good way to check if files are actually hidden.

Tip # 10
Don't forget to call the ITRC (x85513) when you need help. The lines are usually open from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.  Hope that this helps. Remember that we have ITRC students working in the Teaching Support Centre every day if you want to drop by (Room 122 Weldon Library).

Teaching Support Centre
Room 122, The D.B. Weldon Library
Western University
London, Ontario N6A 3K7
(519) 661-2111, ext. 84622