Skip to end of metadata
Go to start of metadata

What is this page about?

This page is being used to document the Sakai Teaching and Learning Group's initial Capability Review of the Lessons or Lesson Builder tool that Rutgers University is leading the development on.  This is our first attempt at what we are calling a Teaching and Learning Capability Review Report and thus the information here should be considered draft materials that will change over time.

Screen Movies of Lesson Builder Use

In this section put in ways that you've seen Lessons used effectively. Feel free to make new pages to link to screen shots or screencasts.

Preliminary Capability Enhancement Ideas

NOTE:  The list below is our very early and initial PRELIMINARY list of ideas.  It represents "raw information" that has not necessarily been discussed or reviewed by the Teaching and Learning Group and is intended simply as a starting point to engage with others within the community (Sakai TCC, PMC, Lead Developer(s), Users, etc.).  It is important to also note that as the list is refined, capabilities will be edited so as to express "user needs" and "use cases" rather than lists of requirements (see the Resources Folder bullet as an example).

Link to google spreadsheet where the items below now reside:

In this section put suggestions for future development and any issues you can identify that could make Lessons better.

  • Add Table of Contents as a hideable overlay viewable from any content item, rather than requiring students to navigate to a separate page to access.
  • Ability to add captions to uploaded video added through Add Multimedia.  Integrating with Amara widget may be easiest way to go. 
  • Ability to duplicate a course and have links to entities not break.
  • Create a Lesson Builder "parent" folder in Resources to better organize the content that gets added to Resources as you build LB pages.
  • Navigation suggestions: (Please give feedback on these).
    1. Change "Add Multimedia" to "Embed".  This is always fouling people up. They think video but it could mean web page, pdf, image.
    2. Change  "Add Resource" to "Add Link".   This would be clearer. They could link to file, website, etc.
    3. Add one pull down named "Add Activity". Below it have Assignment, Quiz, Forum topic, Question,Comments, Student Content"
    4. Add one pull down called "Manage Pages". Underneath have Add top level page, add subpage, reorder, remove page.
    5. Under "more tools" use "add website", Import CC, Export CC, Add External Tool.
    6. Keep settings but perhaps underneath you can have Permissions.
    To me, these navigation changes would save me a lot of angst in teaching new users the system. 
  • Add new add image choices
    • In modern tools it is becoming increasingly common to be able to upload a photo, paying no attention to original size and the program takes it and resizes it. You can post it at a certain size and then the user can enlarge it by clicking a little magnifying glass.
    • Also, it is common to be able to add a gallery or at least multiple images at once.
  • Resources folders
    • USER NEED #1: Avoid accidental changes/deletions to Lessons files stored in Resources.
      • USER RELATED STORY > Dr. Smith has just started to use Lessons for the first time this semester.  She notices after setting up her first Lesson module that a new folder appeared in Resources titled with the same name and assumes that the two are related.  The following week she is in a rush and rather than updating an article she wanted her students to read directly in Lessons she decides to just delete the file that is in the Lesson's folder in Resources and upload the new article, not realizing that the file name is different.  She is then surprised when her students email her complaining that the article is not appearing for them.  After a few phone calls with her help desk she has been able to correct the issue but is frustrated by the time that was "wasted".
    • USER NEED #2: Avoid information overload that can result from multiple Lesson-related folders appearing in Resources.
    • USER NEED #3: Avoid XXXX when resuing content from previous courses.
    • Prior Comment > I'm wondering if it is possible to create a single folder in Resources called "Lessons files - do not touch" and make this file  hidden from students. This folder could then hold all the Lessons content but just one level deeper.  If someone makes a lot of top level lesson builder pages and names them things like 1, 2 ,3 you can very easily get an unwieldy batch of folders in Resources.  Users are apt to start adding and deleting because the titles of the folders match their content.  And it gets even more hairy when reusing content from a previous course.
  • We need to import zip files exported from Melete into Lessons with the option to have each module become a main page with a sub page for each section in the module.
  • Rubric:
    • Instructors would benefit from being able to to evaluate student work using the peer evaluation rubric capability
    • Assessment using rubrics will be more effective if 1. Instructors can add performance statements to each cell in the rubric that describe the performance required to meet each performance rating or each criteria (see example here). 2. Students can see the rubrics before they submit their work
  • It is easy to forget where/whether conditional release has been set. A global view that shows where and what dependencies have been set would be helpful, including the ability to establish requirements and conditional releases in that same view. Perhaps this could be incorporated into the table of contents .
  • Comments tool on student pages:  The comments tool is great but can't be added for Student content pages.
  • Easier way to move content around.  Now you can go to Reorder and then click "Add items from another page"  this allows you to first pick the page, then it shows you all the items on the page. You can pick and choose which you want to copy to the page.  It isn't that clear because you are actually deleting things you don't want to move and that is counter intuitive. If you do nothing it will copy everything including links to subpages.   It also leaves a copy on the originating page so then you have to  go back and delete every item. It would be nice if moving content around was something more like a copy/paste or move where you are on the element you want to copy or move and then indicate the destination.
  • Easier way to promote and demote pages and subpages. It would be nice if you could have a view of the heirarchy of all lessons pages and promote or demote pages.
  • If a more sophisticated method of "painting" pages or dragging and dropping content in order to author pages is adopted, consider doing this at a higher level in Sakai so that more tools (like the OSP tools) could take advantage of such authoring capabilities.
  • Allow more flexible web page creation, while maintaining Lesson Builder's underlying infrastructure. For example, instead of the Lesson Builder's current block-by-block (div-by-div?) approach, allow a top-level page to be a subway map, with students clicking different "stations" to reach parts of an individual lesson. Another example of such flexible use include using an image map for navigating lessons in an Art class.
  • Better assistance to instructor/site designer. For example, add Search and Replace capability spanning entire Lesson Builder structure, including replacing URLs, etc. Add test feature to check if all links on a page or in a Builder site are accessible to students enrolled in the course. Etc.
  • Add the ability to generate summary and detailed reports on student progress in terms of item completion and meeting requirements.  The summary report would provide counts and percentage of students who have completed  (or in the case of items with requirements, met the requirements for) each item in the module.  The detailed report would provide similar information on a per student basis, including grades for graded activities.  These reports would allow instructors to see at a glance how the entire class is progressing and easily identify students who aren't keeping up or meeting the requirements for advancing.



Marilyn notes that after using Add Multimedia to add video you can click Edit and then anything you put in the description box will show up as a caption.  However, there may be issues with this approach (see comments, below, for details)

  • No labels


  1. By caption, above, I mean an actual closed caption.  Text beneath a video would likely not be an adequate substitute, unfortunately.  Really, lack of captions is a show stopper for any institution seeking to comply with the law.  Has anyone tried adding a .mov file with an embedded text track?  How would that work?  I don't have a sample handy and don't have Quicktime Pro, which, I think, is the standard way of adding those.  Even if that works, though, it would not be ideal, since we can't count on our faculty to have access to Pro.  Therefore, it would not be a scalable solution for us.

  2. I have a good enough description of the table of contents to do something. It's too late for 2.10 probably, but say for Spring.

    If there are things I can do to improve accessibility of media I'd love to do it, but I'd like some consensus that it's an approach that lots of people will find appropriate. Currently my thought was that the description could be used for a paragraph explanation. However we'd really like a transcript. That could be done by adding a resource link right below the video, though if you think there should be a transript link as part of the multiimedia tool that's not hard to do. 

    Once 2.9.3 is out, which shoiuld be about a week,I'm going to branch Lessons. The current trunk will become the production version. It will ship with 2.10 and any later 2.9 versions. The new trunk, 1.6 will be where this work is done.


    1. Thanks for adding the TOC thing to the plans and for being receptive to addressing the accessibility issues.  There are a lot of constituencies to address and limited resources, I know.

      The problem with a transcript (and even more a short description) is that it is not likely to be an equivalent alternative, in this instance.  Video is usually (or should be) used because there is value in the synchronous presentation of the verbal and visual components of a message that would be lost if the two streams of information were disassociated.

      Let me make a two-sentence case for using Amara, at least as a stop-gap solution (a longer-term solution would include support for audio descriptions using an HTML5 based video player with support for TTML and ARIA):

      The advantage of using Amara is that it would allow a university's disability services office (or instructional design group, or anyone, really) to more easily assist in captioning in a distributed fashion, without having to deal with the time-consuming hassle of having to exchange files.  And I think the way Amara does things seems like it would make it easy to integrate the captions into the player, though I haven't looked at how the Lessons tool does it, so I could be totally wrong there.

      1. First, I just want to note that I think it is great that this type of interaction is starting to happen.

        Here at Marist we've begun to pilot Lesson Builder and although I'm not sure that it is our highest priority, the issue of needing to create accessible videos that include things like closed captioning has already come up.  In one case we are using Lesson Builder in a MOOC and at least one blind student has asked for this specifically.  So, it is something we'd like to see.  An integration with Amara sound like an interesting strategy to consider.

        I think this exchange and Chuck's comments do point to a need for us to figure out how we might go about identifying a list of capabilities and reaching some consensus around priorities.  That might be something to bring up on a future call.

  3. I like the Navigation Suggestions, Marilyn.  One caution is that it muddies the waters a bit, in that if you used Embed, there would no longer be the consistency of "Add X."  Perhaps "Add Embedded Item"?  But that is probably too long.  I dunno.  Maybe not a big deal, but something to think about...

  4. Robert,

    I can see your point about keeping the consistency of "Add..."  Because I think my suggestions cut back on the number of menus there would be room.  Alternatively, we could just have an "Add item" menu and below have a list of things people can relate to like, Link, embed, file, audio, video, image, gallery. This would allow Lessons to grow without changing the menus all the time.

    1. Its great to see these suggestions being added.

      One thing that I do want to share as a "lesson learned" from the Learning Design Lenses work (and prior efforts) is the benefits of trying to described end goals in terms of new capabilities or user designs without getting into the details of how these end goals should be achieved.  For example, instead of saying that we wanted to add the ability to set permissions on forums discussions so that they could be shared with the general public, we would state that instructors should be able to open forums to the public.  This is a subtle but important difference as in the later description I did not specify that the way to do this had to be by adding a new type of permissions to the Forum tool.  The value in this approach is that it allows those with expertise in programming or user interface design to propose solutions without possible constraints that we might impose without even realizing that we had done so (e.g. suggest that the solution for forums had to be adding more permissions).

      So, we might consider something along the lines of "We would like an improved user experience when adding content to a Lesson Module" and then providing some users cases/stories that explain the type of confusion that is occurring.  I'm not suggesting that the ideas you and Robert are listing aren't good ones and I think we should find ways to provide that type of information...I'm just suggesting that we try and keep things focused on the end goal and not the details of technically how we get to that goal.

      My two cents...which we could discuss on a future call.

  5. Josh, OK you make a good point. If you want me to put it that way.  I think that these changes actually help achieve the "design lens" goals.

    Instead of thinking about tools and multimedia you think about your lessons CONTENT and  the ACTIVITIES that the student is prompted to do to engage with that content. I might even say one menu is "Add content", and beneath it is text, multimedia, documents etc. And the other menu is Add Activity - and underneath that forum, question, assignment etc. I can see Lesson builder.  Instructor can focus on that lesson instead of trying to guess the media type or the tool.

    Of course there has to be management and sequencing tools like adding pages, subpages, selective release permissions.

  6. This is a long comment.  Sorry.  I'm not sure about it, so I did not put it in the body of this page.  I am experimenting with the new way of describing "end goals" using "user needs" and "user related stories."  I simply went through the bullet points above and tried my hand at each suggestion using myself as the newbie professor.  They are not all of equal strength, but maybe one or two might be on target.

    1. User Need:  Make Table of Contents  in Lesson Builder (LB) accessible from any LB page.
    User Related Story: Professor Firdyiwek is working on an LB page.  Suddenly he needs to see the overall organization of the pages he has already constructed -- i.e., the Table of Contents.  But he does not want to leave the page he is working on, or he will loose his train of thought.   

    2.User Need: Provide a way to easily subtitle a video.
    User Related Story: Professor Firdyiwek has uploaded some videos for the students in his foreign language course.  Suddenly he realizes that the some of the language used in the video might be too difficult for the interlanguage of his students. He can go back to his video editing tool and add the annotations, but he does not have time to fiddle with that industrial strength editor.  He would prefer to be able to work in LB to quickly annotate the video with translations in the places where the difficult words and phrases appear.  

    3.User Need: When a site is duplicted, the links in it should continue to work in the new site.
    User Related Story:  Professor Firdyiwek and his students have worked very hard all semester building their LB pages.  They have added links to external web sites as well as to items uploaded into Resources.  He has also linked activities such as writing assignments, discussion topics, and quizzes both to the LB pages as well as within some of the texts interlinearly.  The site is quite complex -- a marvel, really -- that can be navigated smoothly in all sorts of ways.  At the end of the semester, Professor Firdyiwek decides he wants to not only teach the course again, but to also use and build on the same content.  He thinks this second iteration of the process will be even better than the first becasue the new students will be able to benefit from the work done by the previous class.  After he duplicates the site, however, he finds out that many of the internal links do not work. Not only that, but the links seemed to work for him when he set up the new site.  It was the students that complained about the links.  Sure enough, when he logged in as a student into his site (using his fake-student gmail account) the links did not work.  Very confusing!

    4.User Need: Avoid lables that are confusing or unclear.
    User Related Story: Professor Firdyiwek has been working on an LB page.  He wants to embed (or upload, he can never be sure) an image into the page.  He searches for the right tool to get the job done.  Should he choose "Add Multimedia" or "Add Resource"?  Is one only for links and the other for embedding?  Is there uploading involved in both?  Is multimedia a resources when it's a link?  This is all so confusing!

    5.User Need: Organize tools so they can be found more easily.
    User Related Story: Professor Firdyiwek is done adding text to his LB page.  He is proud of himself for having found the tool and accomplished his goal.  Then he remembers that the page is not supposed to be visible to his students until the following week.  He clicks on the Edit button next to the text to go back in and set the release date, but there is nothing there.  He looks at the menu and decides maybe he needs to click on the "Add Text" button again, but he only gets a new editor.   He  tries the other "Add... Tool"  buttons , but they are all the same.  He sees the "More Tools"  button and tries it.  He sees the other "Add xxx Tool" buttons and concludes  with frustration  that this must be  all it can do. -- add tools.  Then he notices  that  settings and permissions are also controlled  from here.  He is confused about the mixing of tool types, but is releaved to have found what he is looking for.

    6.User Need: Provide integrated image editing and management tools
    User Related Story:  Professor Firdyiwek uses a cute little image of a red star whenever he wants to emphasize a point or concept on the LB page he is creating. He indicates the magnitude of importance of the page by varying the size of the star -- a big star means "very important."  After entering the block of text outlining a particularly important concept, he clicks on "Add Multimedia" (he's learned that images are embedded via this tool) to add a star.  He is expecting to re-size it to indicate the importance of the concept.  Unfortunately, there is no tool for previewing or resizing the image.  Frustrated, he decides to go back and create versions of the star in three sizes.  Then, Eureka!.  It occurrs to him that the standard way of indicating such things is by number of stars, not size. He is proud to have realized this design standard and decides to change his routine.  He adds two more stars to the page.  But he is quickly disappointed.  The stars appear in a vertical row, not horizontally as he had expected. He's just not sure how to procede, so he drops the whole thing.

    7.User Need: Allow for interoperability between Lesson Builder and other tools in Sakai.
    User Related Story: Professor Firdyiwek does not use Melete, but his colleague does.  And he produces excellent material that he is willing to share with Professor Firdyiwek.  The colleague packages his work and gives it to Professor Firdyiwek.  But, alas, he cannot import it into LB.

    8.User Need: Allow for interoperablity between Lesson Builder and external tools
    User Related Story: Professor Firdyiwek has used iRubric with assignments in his gradebook.  Now that he has expanded his repertoire of Sakai tools, his students are producing all sorts of other contents, including LB pages of their own.  He would love to attach rubrics to evaluate these student products.  

    9.User Need: Make status of elements in an LB page readily apparent.
    User Related Story: Professor Firdyiwek has generated a lot of LB pages with different release requirements -- so many, in fact, that he has lost track of all the settings.  He goes to the "Index of Pages" where he can see a list of the pages he has created.  He hopes to see there the various settings each page has.  Alas, he only sees a set of links to the individual pages.  He realizes he needs to go into each page, click on "More Tools" , and then  click on "Settings" to find out each page's release and other settings.

    10.User Need: Make commenting more broadly available in LB.
    User Related Story: Professor Firdyiwek is impressed by the "Add Comment" tool which he uses extensively in his LB pages.  He feels it is important to not only give students a chance to comment on the pages he has created for them, but for them to see and respond to each other's comments as well.  He also likes the tool in LB that allows him to give students the chance to create their own pages.  He thinks a combination of the two -- students creating their own pages and students commenting on LB pages would make a terrific combination.  He uses the "Add Student Content" tool and instructs his students to build their own pages.  He then instructs them to turn on the "Add Comment Tool" on the pages they create so that their classmate can give them feedback.  The students complain that they don't know how to add the commenting tool.  Sure enough, when he goes into his site as a student (using his fake-student gmail account) he realizes it is not possible to comment on student pages.  Disappointed, he abandons the assignment.

    11.User Need: Provide users with more control over LB page layout.
    User Related Story:  Professor Firdyiwek is impressed with the variety of tools available in LB.  He can add text, images, video, links to assignments, links to tests, use tests for controling release of pages, have students comment on pages, have students create their own pages, the list is almost endless.  Recently, though, he's heard a few students grumble about the "flow" of the site.  "It's like scurrying up and down a ladder," he heard one student say.  "Yeah,," another replied, "and all that wasted white space on the screen.  I don't know why he doesn't use that."  The instructor took this comment to heart.  He realized he could use the "Add Text" tool to spread out some of his content.  But he also liked the "blocks" of activities, multimedia, and resources he had access to through the LB's tools.  If only he could combine the two.  He had seen some web pages where he could pick up and place things anywhere on the screen.  He wished he could arrange his stuff anywhere on the screen instead of just in a single row with one thing on top of another.  For example, he wishes he cold scroll sideways (not just vertically) to show things that are off the screen.  It would be like having a gian canvas!


  7. Here are some comments on the capability needs of Lesson Builder. I try to rate the priority of these items, but note that these are my personal preferences. Some may be already available in current Lesson Builder which I may be not aware of due to my limited knowledge of this tool. If so, I apologize in advance. 

    1. Conditional Release at the subpage level
      I want to be able to create a table of contents on one landing page with links to all sub-sections of a course. However it is impossible to use this format if I want to use conditional release at the same time. Right now, to set up conditional release, I have to create separate Lesson Builder tabs and use page order tool to organize them. If subpages can use the conditional release feature, the creation of lesson pages will be a lot easier. The lengthy of the menu tab title is very limited and created problems when the lesson titles are long. 
    2. Conditional Release based on assessment completion 
      When using conditional release, I want to make sure students pass the assessment (i.e. quiz) before they can move on to the next lesson. Right now, I can add a quiz to the page, but there's no way to control the passing grade of that conditional release.
    3. More rigorous page layout design
      When creating pages, I want to have more choices for the page layout. Right now, everything is top down. Sometimes I want to have 2 columns, each of which has different width and length. To achieve this effect, I have to insert a table and change its HTML property, which is not the easiest to do. 

    4. Embed various elements to the page properly
      When adding elements on one lesson page, I want to be able to choose what I want to add and how it looks like. Right now, by clicking "Add Multimedia" I can embed a video or PDF on the page which stretches to the full width of the page. It is a waste of page space and not the best way to present information. I want the system to pick up the actual dimension of the elements and provide a mechanism to manipulate the displayed dimension. In addition, I want to be able to add a caption or brief description to the element when embedding it on the page. I understand an integrated media library like Kultura is a choice of an individual client, not Sakai infrastruture itself, but could it be possible to have a more streamlined media management system in Sakai?

    5. Links to multiple items of other tools at one time
      I want to be able to add multiple items (3 topics of 1 forum or 2 quizzes) on one page at once. Right now I can only add one item at a time. Also, if the title of the topic or quiz is long, it'll be cut off. I have to manually change it in the settings in Lesson Builder. The descriptions of the topics or forums are not copied over. If I want to add the descriptions, I need to add text and then sort the order of those elements. It will be great if the descriptions can be copied over automatically.

    6. Rename or reorder the tool menu items
      I want to have a better descriptive tool bar in Lesson Builder. It took me a while to find out what each tool does and where they are exactly. "Add Multimedia" is "embedding", "Add Resource" is adding a link to a resource, "Add subpage" is not exactly the same as adding the subpage as "next page". To change page title, I need to click more tools, then "settings". I have to be very careful when adding pages and subpages or next pages and changing page titles. If I had one misstep, the index of pages would be messes up. Tool menu in Lesson Builder can benefit from a regrouping of items by functionality and popularity.
  8. I really wish we could have a list of these suggestions in a format where they could be commented on individually. I feel that the spreadsheet is too limiting. Some of these suggestions, I agree with (rename/reorder tool menu items) and some to me feel out of scope (having a subtitle feature with lesson builder).  I know the spreadsheet was there so we could "Sort" but I think that is only a useful task when each suggestion or issue is hashed out.