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  • 2011-06-16 Pilot to Production
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Title of Session




Gerry Flynn, Pepperdine University
Alan Regan, Pepperdine University


June 16, 2011


1:00-2:00 PM


Beaudry B


Considering adopting Sakai? Learn from Pepperdine University's success. At last year's conference, we presented about our pilot. We compared it to climbing a mountain, step by step. This year, we will tell the full story from the summit, and share how we went from needs assessment to full transition in less than 24 months. During this presentation you will learn: how to assess the needs of your campus, how to engage your faculty in the process, and how to work with a hosting partner. We will also share the frank feedback we received from our stakeholders (pros and cons). Finally, we will offer a number of recommendations when moving from Blackboard to Sakai.

Judging from post-mortem feedback, the transition to Sakai has been successful at Pepperdine University. Institutions that are considering a transition or that are currently involved in a pilot test of Sakai, would benefit from following Pepperdine's roadmap to a successful implementation.

Needs Assessment

Consider pre-surveys to determine the satisfaction and usage of your LMS before a pilot. Be sure to survey your faculty and students. If your staff use the service as well, be sure to survey them, too.

  • Resource for survey questions: 2011 MISI
  • Faculty survey issued prior to pilot testing Sakai.  It sought to judge usage and satisfaction with the existing learning management system.
  • Student survey issued during the first semester of the Sakai pilot test.  It sought to judge usage and satisfaction with the existing learning management systems.


A key component of our pilot was to engage a hosting partner with an enterprise-ready solution. Even though we did not roll out the pilot to everyone in the beginning, we wanted to be sure that the automatic course creation and enrollment synchronization would mirror our existing service. This also allowed other faculty that heard about the service through the grapevine to try it out without any hassles. We initially asked for about 30 faculty to participate in our pilot and that number grew to over 90 without any promotion, special training, etc.

We also invited champion faculty to both the 2009 and 2010 Sakai conferences during the pilot. This way, our faculty could partner with us to review the platform and provide guidance on features to enable, default tools for class sites, and more. This level of engagement was critical to the success of our pilot – we can't stress this enough!

During the assessment phase of the pilot, we conducted surveys, focus groups, open question-and-answer sessions, and solicited feedback via email.

  • Faculty Sakai satisfaction survey issued to faculty members who participated in the Sakai pilot test. It sought to judge usage and satisfaction with the Sakai system.
  • Student Sakai satisfaction survey issued to students of who participated in the Sakai pilot test. It sought to judge usage and satisfaction with the Sakai system.
  • Blackboard outreach survey issued to faculty members who displayed moderate to heavy usage of Blackboard. The decision to transition to Sakai had not yet been made. This survey sought to judge the readiness of devout Blackboard users to adopt a new learning management system.


Migrating material from Blackboard to Sakai is a major consideration when moving from pilot to production.  We migrated from the Blackboard Academic Suite 8.0 to Sakai 2.6. We worked closely with our hosting partner, The Longsight Group. The following resources may be useful:

Working with Longsight, they customized the "Import from file" option for Blackboard 6.x. For example, they modified the code to accept archive and export files from organization sites, not just course sites in Blackboard. We also modified some file name and path limits. For files or paths that were exceptionally long on Blackboard (and we didn't have time or personnel to manually modify them on Blackboard manually), we used the bFree utlility from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.


About one year after we started our pilot, we made the decision to adopt Sakai. This decision was informed by feedback from our faculty, students, and staff. The overwhelming sentiment from our community was that Sakai better served their needs.

We hope you find this information helpful!

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