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Sakai tip: Use it or turn it off!

August 16, 2013

sakai-logo2As the beginning of the fall semester approaches, many instructors at Notre Dame are using Sakai to develop an online presence for a course. There are lots of things to think about, but the most basic choice is which tools to use. You may be tempted to simply leave the default set of tools alone, but my advice is:

If you’re not going to use a tool, hide it!

This simplifies the course menu for everyone, and you won’t be presenting students with empty options. You don’t put a “Bibliography” heading on your syllabus and then leave it blank, so don’t include the Forums tool in Sakai without starting a discussion. If you display the syllabus tool, you imply that a student will see the syllabus there. If you show the calendar, students will look for events. After students click on several tools and find nothing, they may begin to think you are disorganized.

Here’s what I suggest:

  • Log into Sakai and enter the course
  • Click “Site Editor” on the side menu
  • Click “Edit Tools” on the horizontal menu
  • Click “All tools” to select all of the tools, then click it again to select none
  • Check only the tools you plan to use right away – even the Home page may not be necessary.
  • Click “Continue” and then confirm your choices

You don’t have to worry about losing information when you remove a tool. All you are doing is hiding it. The exceptions are tools you have to create, such as web content, email archive, news, and lesson builder. If you delete a web content tool, for example, you will have to re-create it if you want it back.

Sakai tool choices

On the left side of the illustration above you see the instructor’s view of the course menu with Notre Dame’s default tool selection. On the right is the menu a student will see after the instructor has hidden all but the three tools she plans to use right away. If she decides to use the quiz tool later, she can go back to the Site Editor and turn it on.

If you’re not going to use Sakai, leave it off!

An even more basic choice is whether or not you want to use Sakai at all. At Notre Dame, instructors must “publish” any Sakai course spaces that they want students to see. If you don’t plan to use Sakai with a particular course, leave it unpublished and students won’t see anything.

Here’s how to publish a course:

  • Log into Sakai and enter the course
  • Click “Site Editor” on the side menu
  • Click “Mange Access” on the horizontal menu
  • Select “Publish Site”
  • Click “Update”

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