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How to Support Sakai with No New Staff or Money


Birds of a Feather


Kim Eke, UNC-Chapel Hill


2011 June 16


11:00 am


Palos Verdes


While university budgets and the number of staff resources continue to shrink, many of us are piloting, migrating, or fully supporting Sakai. Given the "new realities" of K-12 and higher education, how can we "work smarter, not harder" together?

This Birds of a Feather Session invites discussion about key questions including:

  1. How can we leverage the collective wisdom at our home institutions as well as within the Sakai Community to help support our campus clients?
  2. What strategies and tactics could we use to raise awareness of Sakai and spotlight exemplary faculty or teaching examples "across institutions?"
  3. How can we can extend or build upon the excellent work of the Sakai End-User Support Group?

We'll share some promising strategies being used at UNC to share support responsibilities across Schools and groups. More importantly, we hope to learn from those who attend!

Session Notes

Greatest Current Support Challenges

Institutions running Sakai for a year or more as SOLE LMS

Institutions in process of evaluating or MIGRATING to Sakai

  • Increasing teacher involvement
  • How to better distribute support
    • "Coaches" in depts/schools
    • Knowledge Base (IU)
    • Training others like students, librarians, Tier 1 help desk staff
    • Adapt/build documentation based on questions asked & help tickets filed
  • How to promote innovation
  • How smaller institutions can get buy-in from larger institutions to assign developer resources to fix bugs of interest to them?
  • Jira = Geek Speak -- not easy for non-developers to decode and understand
  • Tech support issues (including content migration)
  • $$$
  • Lack people (i.e., instructional designers, faculty champions)
  • Must support 2 systems
  • Must integrate new system with existing products (i.e., ePortfolios, Turnitin, Wimba, SIS, etc.)
  • How to provide incentives w/o funding?
  • Need to change the culture of the campus (i.e., more frequent upgrades, self-service help)
  • Managing expectations appropriately
  • Unknowns (aka We don't know what we don't know!)
  • Want to create a positive first experience for everyone who uses Sakai
  • How to handle surprised faculty?

Support Processes & Tactics We Already Have Today

Institutions running Sakai for a year or more as SOLE LMS

Institutions in process of evaluating or MIGRATING to Sakai

  •  Liaison Model/Peer Support Network
    • Library & tech support roles throughout institution support Sakai
    • There is an expert identified for each Sakai tool
    • Cross-training & documentation keeps engagement with support staff going
    • Involve in QA testing
  • Engage your local community: have CompSci students fix JIRAs - talk to professors about course projects
  • Create a user group at your institution
  • Focus on pedagogy first. Talk to people about T&L rather than about Sakai (and sneak in Sakai tips)
  • "Second Generation Training" - go beyond point and click to transformational T&L strategies & techniques
  • Establish Sakai Governance
  • Work with your help desk so they are able to answer easy questions quickly.
  • Hold Sakai Retreats -- perhaps off-site and off-line!
  • Web sites documenting pilot process, support structure
  • Establish a budget and submit the formal request 
  • If possible, select early adopters who will become champions (i.e., not afraid of change, "glitches," etc.
  • Provide (and get signatures on) a contract or MoU with pilot participants
  • Have leadership buy-in & governance (a communication plan for leadership is important, too)
  • Provide information about the change in as many venues, formats, and intervals as you and your campus can stand.

Emergent Support Themes

(Note from Kim: the intent of this session was to identify areas where we could most easily leverage community resources to help us at our home institutions. Blue text indicates areas particularly well-suited for future collaborations and shared projects.)

  • Technical support issues: We can't do this alone. Strategies to distribute, track and resolve technical support issues include "sharing the love" with existing help desk staff and with colleagues in support roles in the institution; improving/building/borrowing documentation to allow end-users to help themselves; researching and connecting with the Sakai community to solve institution-specific technical issues and/or working with commercial partners to bear some of the support burden at a cost lower than the institution would pay in new hires (and faster), etc.
  • Faculty development: Many of us are developing tutorials, workshops, and online courses to help faculty learn to use Sakai for effective teaching and learning. There are many materials "out there" and there are opportunities for collaboration to spotlight or showcase what faculty are doing well at our respective institutions (see this Confluence page on Faculty Showcase to schedule live, online web conferences each month). In addition, there are opportunities to work together on new initiatives coming out of the T&L group like Peer Online Observation and other Distance Ed activities to name a few. Join the group & share their events and progress with your campus!
  • Communication: Do you have a blog or Twitter account to announce changes and spread the word? Have you created faculty or student interviews, reports, cartoons, or other things? We can recycle and bring new life to existing materials. ADD YOUR CONTENT to the page below if you are willing to share what you have!
  • Students & staff: Students & staff are often less vocal in migrating and using Sakai -- but also can be our best advocates, sources of shared support as well as sources of innovation and Sakai improvements. How can/should we embrace and leverage their considerable energy and insights?
  • Participating in broader Sakai community: One of the greatest benefits -- as we hear continually in a conference like this -- is one another. By creating a few, strategic collaborations with like-minded colleagues, you can open doors to innovation, spotlight what others are doing and communicate excitement to your campus, and learn more than you could, all alone, at your home institution. Each of us has unique needs but clearly, there are others who share yours. Find them, create something great, and let the rest of us know about it so we can tweet it! ;)

Next Steps

  1. Check out the Teaching & Learning Group
  2. If you haven't subscribed to listservs like Announcements and Sakai-User, you should
  3. Create an account in Confluence so you can edit this page and others with your ideas. Go to the Dashboard (look left).
  4. Fill out the section below with anything you are willing to share!

Your Donated Materials & Resources

Note: The ideas generated here serve as a good complement to the "Resisting Change" session held the day prior.