Ed Tech UI Guy

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Earlham College and Sakai

I got my Alumni magazine yesterday and saw that Earlham is now using Moodle as their Course Management System. I looked at Course Management @ Earlham website and was startled to read they are also piloting CHEF/Sakai.

Their site has student, faculty and administrator evaluations of CHEF as well as a bunch of interesting reports.

Tom Kirk from Earlham listed several concerns with Sakai.

  1. Large universities are driving Sakai development, small schools like Earlham could get lost.
    I don't think they should worry there too much. MIT and Stanford have a small school feel to them - mostly small classes with lots of faculty/student interaction. Having gone to Earlham and worked for years at MIT, I don't think the difference is so profound that the schools wouldn't use the same software.
  2. Sakai is written Java, which they don't have in-house knowledge of.
    A very valid concern. Not only is it in Java, it's in JSF, an obscure Java specialty. Even Java programmers have a big learning curve approaching Sakai development.
  3. Weak internationalization in Sakai
    It's hard to teach Arabic with Sakai right now. I know that the Sakai developers are working hard on this, and it's a strong requirement for the core schools as well - I'm sure it will be resolved soon.

If I was at Earlham I would favor Moodle as well. At least for now.

Indiana is hitting Sakai with 90,000 users this Fall, I don't think Moodle could handle something like that. Earlham doesn't have to worry about scaling too much because they aren't that big.

Moodle's got similar featuresto Sakai, more actually. Neither of them has a truly inspirational UI.

If I were running Academic Computing at a small college like Earlham I'd make the same decision - use the skills available in house to work with a PHP environment they can easily host locally. But I hope they keep an eye on Sakai, it is bursting with potential.