The need for offline learning has been an e-learning requirement for the North West University (NWU) and UNISA for some time. The need arose from the cost of connectivity and bandwidth in South Africa. Although costs have come down over the past few years, it is still high compared to other countries. Dial-up users tend to spend as little time as possible online by downloading information for offline reading.
New tools like Google Gears combined with Google Web Toolkit makes it possible to develop rich web based applications with the ability to cache online files and to synchronize database content to a local database.
The Sakai Solo tool makes Announcements, Resources and Melete lessons available to learners offline. The Sakai web interface is replaced with a rich Google Web Toolkit interface. This Windows-like interface is more familiar to users and eliminates browser refreshes. The user is notified when site content is possibly outdated. Only changed and new content is downloaded during the synchronization process. Large resource files can be skipped for later download via a CD-ROM if required. A local SQLite database stores user profile and caching information.