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Bottom-Up Guidance for Support

Top 5 Issues Working Summary: This document organizes the contributions below, and shows interested parties and work in progress.

Here are questions that have come to user-support staff from end users (instructors or students).

  1. Can the e-mail notification from the Assignments tool identify the source worksite? (R. Hill, U.Wyo, rSmart 2.5.1)
  2. Why is the font too small/large on one student's Sakai pages, when it's fine on other students' browsers? (R. Hill, U.Wyo, rSmart 2.5.1)
  3. How do I use the Wiki? This is a request for a more direct message showing how easy it is; for some reason, people are looking for some other mechanism. (R. Hill, U. Wyo, rSmart 2.5.1)

(answer) Delaware has a useful doc here

Community members are invited to take these issues in any direction:

  • To answer the questions herein, providing material for documentation, or
  • To formulate them as suggestions to developers, or
  • To question whether such a feature is necessary or tenable, or
  • To propose some other treatment.
  • No labels


  1. UC Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine.
    We run Sakai 2.5.x branch with MySQL.

    1. WebDAV is poorly integrated and requires a lot of refactor/code updates to mature/become solid.
    suggest: implement an adjunct WebDAV package or rewrite the ailing sakai servlet based WebDAV. Drag and Drop resources are key to support sites.

    2. Documentation proliferation vs. Best Practices pulled into a coherent place.
    Support staff read good situation specific advice from many sources but cannot always tell if the advice is applicable to their institution. If institutions could follow a more well defined implementation this could be minimized. Where possible work the B.P. into the OOB Sakai release.

    Other items pending local discussion.

  2. Multiple Institutions
    Sakai 2.5.x

    1. Profile / Roster - permissions around these tools, uploading images, image permissions

    2. Assignment - Gradebook confusion (editing the grade in both tools)

    3. WebDAV won't work correctly in Windows (no solid 3rd-party program to recommend)

    4. Forums - confusion regarding topics / threads (difficult to get started without training)

    5. Tests & Quizzes - default templates and the many possible settings (inability to change a setting because the template does not allow it)

  3. University of Virginia
    We run Sakai 2.5.0 branch with MySQL

    1. Site wide Student view (
    2. Allow multiple revisions for Assignment submissions (
    3. Ability to customize home page layout.
    4. Problems with blank email messages.
    5. Ability to have a different grading scale per Student (
  4. Charles Sturt University, Australia
    We run Sakai 2.4.x with Oracle on Solaris.

    I trust that our 9 issues will be considered (smile)

    1. WEBDAV does not work properly for Windows and Mac
    2. Change the focus of the home page away from the standard worksite info/calendar/chat section. For example, if it was a subject designed around the collaborative development of resources/projects, then the wiki needs to be upfront as a signal to that. If it was a subject designed around discussion, then the forum need to be right up there at the front.
    3. Replace Chat on the home page with 'recent activity' running across all tools.
    4. The 'clunkiness' or 'user-unfriendlieness' of some tools is an issue. As an example - the FCK Text editor has a lot of issues with the templates and styles and headings not working? The text editor works slightly differently in a number of tools? In particular adding a link or an image in some tools is very laborious and clunky, especially for students. This also relates to the Resources tool. Eg. placing an image into a blog posting. Users either have to (a.) upload a file into the subject site Resources folder, if the appropriate permissions are adjusted by the S.C. - which may or may not be appropriate in all circumstances eg. if the blog entries are academic/individual student access only and/or assessable etc...Or (b.) upload the file into the student's 'My Workspace' Resources folder and link from there (that is if the user has figured out the 'browse to file' option which is extremely user unfriendly)- after remembering to change the 'details of the file' from 'only members of this site can see this file' to 'this file is publicly viewable' - which confuses people at that point because actually the file isn't publicly viewable it is still only viewable to those who have access to the subject site. Surely the act of uploading and attaching a file to a tool is implicit in making it viewable to all those who have access to the site and you should not have to go through another process (especially one that is very well hidden) to do so.
    5. Presence: The listing of people currently visiting a site looks as if it should 'do something'. It would be great if there could be a way to send an instant message.
    6. The wiki :
      1. needs more icons for formatting etc
      2. Inbuilt help in the wiki needs an overhaul (Delaware have a useful doc at
      3. The wiki needs the same capacity as Blogs to have pages private to a group and tutor and public to the cohort. Permissions need to recognise groups. So group work can be private until complete.
      4. Need page-level control over permissions in the wiki - i.e. so that some pages are made accessible only to individual student groups.
      5. Also need to remove all wiki syntax and just have WYSIWYG editing
    7. Chat tool:
      1.  with ability to create private breakout rooms
      2. the first thing you should see when you access the chat tool is the list of rooms created for the subject and how many people are currently in them 
    8. Blog: should have user tags (labels or categories) for each type of entry and the ability to upload and link in podcasts and vodcasts.
    9. There too many different ways of adding text in the different tools: When you use the chat room, you are extremely limited in your formatting options; when adding an announcement it is just like using Word; when we use the Wiki we have an entirely new, difficult to use interface with alternative formatting options; some tools have a spell check option, others do not. It would be good if all tools use the same - relatively user friendly, Word like - interface as the announcement tool.
  5. University of Michigan
    Running Sakai 2.5.x

    1. Ability to Instant Message / Chat with users who appear in the "users online" window - SAK-816

    2. WebDAV - Provide a workable solution or alternative for Windows Vista users. Also, fix the "runaway" WebDAV issue for Mac (users do not log off and the session continues to ping the Sakai DB).

    3. Make all tools group aware

    4. Add intuitive email notification to all tools that do not have this feature (e.g., forums, gradebook, etc.)

    5. The FCK editor workflow (which assumes, first, that you know the image URL, then allows you to "browse" for the image in your resource area by filename instead of resource title without previewing until you pick it).  Test Center does a little bit better, with a visual preview before picking the image, but still assumes you know the URL first).

  6. 1/ Fix the Wiki WYSIWYG editor; the current attempt doesnt work properly on all platforms

    2/ Add ZIP / UNZIP facilities to resources - SAK-800 goes partway there but is full of holes and doesnt save to a user's desktop like it should.

    3/ allow specific folders in resources to be marked as non-searchable

    4/ sort out HTML pages / HTML page fragments in Resources

    4a/ pages created by the WYSIWYG editor in resources are NOT HTML pages - they're page fragments with no CSS or <head> part. The access servlet should be modified to top and tail the page fragment with the standard Sakai page header including CSS references (or even better, the edit details page for a page fragment should allow CSS's to be specified or the default Sakai CSS to be attached - the latter option should be preselected as the default)

    4a1/ (whilst I'm here!!) there should be a 'Save and continue editing' button on page fragment editing pages to encourage frequent saving of work.

    4b/ true HTML pages (created outside of Sakai and uploaded) are allowed to be edited via the WYSIWYG editor but this editor totally destroys them by ripping out the <head> block and therefore removing all carefully inserted CSS information; such pages should not be allowed to be edited by FCKeditor - there should be no edit details option.

    5/ New MS Office XML files are not recognised

    5a/ .docx etc files should be recognised and the correct icon displayed

    5b/ the search tool POI should be updated to v3.5 so that these XML files will be indexed

    6/ The 'find sites' tool should present a link to a site if the person doing the searching has access.

    I would have also added the following if Cape town hadn't just announced that they would be doing the work anyway:

    A/ User receives a notification when forum posting is made

    B/ Forums searchable via search tool

    I'm quite happy to explain any of these points if it isnt clear here! Adam

  7. Stanford University
    Sakai 2.4.x

    1. Student View - There is no student view capability for instructors to verify what students see.
    2. Tab Management/Finding Sites - It is not clear to users that additional sites are in the "more" drop-down menu and it is not clear how to reorganize them. Users would prefer that the current term course sites automatically appear on top. The course site naming convention is also confusing to our users.
    3. Search - The search function is terrible. Users can not easily find joinable sites since the search entry needs to match site title string without errors and other information can not be searched (e.g., cross-listings, instructor names, course long title). There is no easy way to browse all sites once logged into the system either.
    4. Time-out reminders - There are no timeout reminders or ability for a user to refresh their session. This can cause disastrous loss of data (instructors creating content or students taking tests).
    5. General usability of Tests & Quizzes - Users feel there are too many options and are not clear on what to do.

  8. Rice University
    Running Sakai 2.5.x with Oracle

    1.  Allow Group Assignment Submission - A number of courses allow students to work on assignments as a group.  Users have requested the ability for one student to submit the assignment for the entire group and for the instructor to submit the grade and comments once and have it be sent to all the students in the group.
    2. The ability to visually see which files have not been viewed in Resources.
    3. Tests and Quizzes data loss - Since the answers are not saved on a page until a student hits the Save and Continue button, students have lost some of their answers when Sakai's time-out was reached.
    4. Forums - Very difficult to start using/set up.
    5. Lack of accessibility with FCK Editor - Our users that use JAWS, etc can not use the FCK Editor features within the tools.
  9. Unknown User (

    Institution: University of Guadalajara
    Sakai version: 2.4.x (early X)
    DB engine: MySQL 5


    1. Lack of documentation (particularly in Spanish) or inaccesibility of it on how to use Sakai.
    2. Uploaded files (and folders) with non ASCII characters on their names generated inaccessible URL's.
    3. Hardwired English through the system (it should not be a problem, since it is the level of English everyone should have, but the latter is not the case).
    4. Chat close to useless. Basically, it does not work, or does it very slowly.



  10. Institution: Mount Holyoke College
    Sakai Version: 2.5.x
    Database: Oracle 10g

    • The same exact file, when saved as a resource in different sites, is serialized to disk multiple times. I would love to see each unique file serialized to a file name based on the digest of the file contents (e.g. SHA1 hash), so that files are only ever saved to disk one time. Use reference counting to keep track of whether any sites use the file or not, so that it can be safely deleted when no longer used by any site. It's common to create sites by copying old sites, so this would greatly reduce disk usage.
    • On a related but different note, a number of our faculty would like to more easily share resources between sites.
  11. Institution: Australian National University
    Sakai: version 2.4.x
    Database: MySQL

    1) Recent changes in Resources: new/edited content in Resources should look more prominent to users. For example, last 10 edited/added files listed in "sakai.synoptic.resources" tool.

    2) Forums: notification when someone post to forum.

    3) Wiki:
    3a) ability to delete comments
    3b) ability to rename and delete pages

    4) Resources versioning. In resources tool, upload a new version overwrites the old version.

    5) Instructions in page "Manage Access" of "Site Info" tool are confusing, e.g. publish vs. list in site directory. We can provide our version of it.

  12. Institution: Virginia Tech
    Sakai: rSmart CLE 2.5.x
    Database: Oracle 10i


    • Do not have a description or paragraph "blurb" to explain what it is about.
    • Automatically create at least two folders from the start: "_Private," and "Public Website" with appropriate permission settings.


    • Not all grading can be done in the the Gradebook. This makes it confusing for faculty who use Assignments. (Grading must occur in Assignments and only when the grades are released to students will the grades appear in the Gradebook.)


    • We should create a link to a template they can download


    • Huge host of bugs and problems
  13. On behalf of David Minugh, Stockholm University:

    Forums: Show Threads and Contents

    I see a neatly organized and labeled filing cabinet. This is fine for admin purposes, like seeing whether students have responded.

    But what I as a teacher, and my students as students, really want to see is the contents of these messages: we'd like to read a thread and follow it, more like the way you follow a chat.

    Ideally, it would be possible to paste in text and tables right into the forum, rather than having to open the forum entry or Word or Adobe Reader for each new entry.

    I suspect that wikis could possibly do much of this, but I like the thread organization, especially for a class where multiple short assignments are used primarily to increase student awareness and knowledge via discussions outside the classroom, but inside Sakai.

  14. I just have one right now: The Forum. The forum has one too many levels before the threads start and no email notification when a change or addition is made to a topic or thread. It would be good to have a forced subscription that students could opt out of later, or self-directed subscription notifications. And, as always, include a way to "bundle" notifications coming out of Sakai to reduce info-glut.  Thanks!

  15. These from 2.4x (most are probably still relevant):

    1) Need a more conventional threaded view of discussions. The comments section in the Sakai wiki uses this approach. But also look at the way it's done in Blackboard, Luminus or Nabble:

    2) Lack of authoring tools that allow an instructor to create learning modules. While a design inspired by Google sites caters to some of this need, it doesn't do so entirely. Here for example is a very common course layout that a learning module authoring tool should be able to deliver: (10 second screencast)

    3) WebDav continues to be quirky (and has been this way since version 2.2).

    4) No calculated column in the gradebook. See:


  16. On behalf of the Claremont Colleges, we'd like to see improvements regarding the following:

    1. Ability to use the browser's 'back' button
    2. Gradebook more robust, flexible, and better integration with the assignments tool
    3. Better interlinking between tools
    4. Obvious and more flexible customization options for tools and interface
    5. Multiple wikis set up like the web content tool, easier subpages in the wiki, and WYSIWIG editing

  17. University of Delaware's Top 5
    1. All Sakai tools should easily allow relative linking to resources within a site (like wiki does), and do it by default
    2. Samigo usability needs general improvements
    3. Gradebook should allow more flexibility in column types (alpha, calculated, etc) and allow sorting in All Grades view.
    4. Sakai tools need selective release based on quiz/assignment/gradebook completion or grade
    5. Calculated Samigo question types needed

    And a number 6: I believe Student View is coming in 2.6. It should be a real student view showing broken links if such exist.

  18. 1. 'View as student' feature so lecturers can see what they've created - as Delaware says, this needs to show broken links, wrong permissions, etc
    2. Improvements to Permissions UI - at the very least, a 'reset to default' would be a start, but we should really be offering 'permissions templates' based on common pedagogical methods. Stop people 'locking themselves out' by making too far reaching permission changes.
    3. Much better interlinking between tools, so that people can write (perhaps in the WYSIWYG wiki) things like 'read this and then complete your assignment', and can link directly to the appropriate assignment
    4. UI of forums should be simpler and it should be more obvious 'what to click next', especially when they are first being set up by the lecturer. They are frequently confused as to what they need to do and what the terminology means!
    5. Allow group assignment submission - we haven't yet had this request come in, but we are pretty sure from looking at other UK Universities that it will be needed soon.

    ( 6. The Admin tools, in particular Sites and Realms, put a terrible burden on the staff supporting Sakai. We have to spend far too long training new support staff, and senior staff are doing a lot of fairly routine work because they are the only ones who understand the tools. )

  19. on behalf of Mount Holyoke College (Thanks for asking!)
    Sakai 2.5.x

    1. More explicit error messages for users, especially notification of exceeding character limits on tools such as Profile rather than silent failure. (might be mitigated by a notice of character limits).
    2. More reliable WebDAV client for both Mac and PC.
    3. True WYSIWYG editor for the wiki tool.
    4. Improve usability for designing quizzes in Samigo (better explanation of test types and repair of browser reload) and more flexible question types including multi-part and calculated questions. Ability to hide images/documents used in quizzes from students.
    5. More flexible Gradebook, allowing for mixed mode grading and flexible columns.
    6. Ability to display role within site to user (allow user to know they are a student/instructor/ TA in a given site).

  20. on behalf of Indiana University
    Sakai 2.5 in production

    Here are the top six issues at Indiana University for the Sakai (Oncourse) environment. Our data was gathered through survey of the Oncourse Priorities and Functional Requirements Committees, teaching center consultations with faculty, support staff reports and interaction with students through surveys and consultation:

    1. The need for Gradebook enhancements, including the ability to drop low/high grade(s), add bonus points/extra credit setup wizard, and simplifying setup through optional use of a wizard
    2. Overall User interface improvements, for example, reducing scrolling throughout the application, making the browser Back button functional and consistent across applications, making restoration of deleted items simpler for site owners
    3. Adding the ability to save/archive all site setup information to an external file, and the ability to import settings from that file into a site
    4. Chat room improvements, including the need for accurate chat room presence information
    5. Fixing Webdav functionality on Vista and Mac OS
    6. Improving FCK editor functionality for copy/paste from Word and generic copy/paste

    There is one Gradebook/Assignments tool fix we're moving into our environment SAK-14549 (ONC475), on November 20th: a fix to the problem of assignments grades failing to upload to the Gradebook, when "release to gradebook" is chosen in the Assignments tool.

  21. Top 5 issues for Pacific Lutheran University
    Sakai Version: 2.5.x
    Database: MySQL 4

    1. Team Assignment issue: Instructors create groups or sections to mimic teams, but students are handled as individuals. One student submits for the group and they are the only person that can receive feedback. The grade can be easily applied to all students, but the comments are only available to the submitter.
      • Requirement: A method for team assignments, team posting, and team grading that completes the loop for each team.
    2. Extra Credit Assignments: Providing students with optional extra credit assignments requires creating an assignment and gradebook items valued at .01 points. This way students who choose not to participate are not penalized.
      • Requirement: The ability to create assignments which are calculated only if the student submits.
    3. Images in Wiki/Blog: There is not a simple process to include an image in a wiki or blog right now. The student has to upload a resource to their "My Workspace" and make it publicly viewable or the instructor has to make them a place in the class Resources to post images. They then link to the resource from the blog or wiki. A lot of the time we end up with students that can see their image, but no one else can.
      • Requirement: A simple, intuitive workflow to add an image to a blog or wiki.
    4. Button Naming Conventions: Buttons across tools offering similar functionality should share a naming convention. For example, the Assignment tool's button to submit is labeled "Post," which saves and publishes the assignment, in Test and Quizes the button performing a similiar function is labaled "Save Setting and Publish."
      • Requirement: Set forth naming convention of buttons to provide more consistent user interface.
    5. Tests & Quizzes Table of Contents: Navigating a Test or Quiz that utilizes the table of contents has several issues: 1. The button navigation is not intuitive, the user will either mistakenly leave the examination or submit before completing. 2. The Table of contents is cluttered and difficult to read as well as hard to locate.
      • Requirement: Rename the buttons so they are more intuitive. Also provide pop ups or warning to catch user before they commit to any course of action. 2. Reformat the table of contents so that it is easy to read. I suggest a table with alternating row colors, as well as not using the full text of the question as a link, rather an icon in front of each question. It would make sense to use the answered or marked for review icons.