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  • Practical Pedagogy - Using Sakai Tools in Diverse Teaching Scenarios

Case Study Examples



Public Health 512 – Critical Analysis of Health Disparities


Caroline Wang is a senior faculty member in the field of public health. She’s been teaching a course on health disparities at the University of Michigan for the past 3 years.

The course asks students to critically analyze the complexity of health disparities rooted in multiple levels of historic and contemporary inequities. These levels include health care systems, health policies and health care professionals. 


Caroline’s goal is to use a Sakai course site she built over the summer to engage students in critical analysis of health disparities and encourage them to work collaboratively on innovative solutions to such disparities.


Pedagogical challenges to address in the online environment:

  • This course uses multiple guest speakers with extensive experience in specific areas of health disparities
  • This course requires students to analyze cases and to engage in peer analysis/review
  • This course has students in multiple time zones
  • This course requires students to engage in a community project that must be supervised by the faculty member



Biology 163 – Organic Gardening


Jim Sweeton teaches Biology 163 at Mesa Community College. He has decided to try adapting the course to an online environment so that students can sign up to take it in the school’s new distance education program offered in Sakai.


Organic gardening provides an in-depth study of the principles and practices of modern home gardening through a basic understanding of biological science. Plants, soils and climates are studied in relation to the production of vegetables, herbs, flowers, and perennial food plants. Biological and chemical approaches to gardening are discussed in with the goal of helping students to formulate their own approach to growing things organically. 


Pedagogical challenges to address in the online environment:

  • This course requires students to work with a partner to evaluate different approaches to organic gardening and come up with a plan for their garden.
  • This course requires students to build their own garden and have it reviewed on an ongoing basis.
  • This course requires students to formulate and share their philosophy of gardening throughout the class.
  • This course requires students to conduct experiments using different soils during the class.






Communications Professor, Mike Traugott spent last summer attending a workshop on adapting course content to web based learning environments. A seasoned professional at the UC Santa Cruz, Mike has decided to use Sakai to teach his course on public speaking next fall. The course is capped at 30 students in order to give each student sufficient time to practice speaking in front of a group.

The course focuses on research, writing and delivery skills for oral presentation in a variety of settings, including academic, professional and multi-cultural. Equal consideration is given to speech preparation and delivery with critical thinking, argument forms and audience analysis emphasized. Issues of speech anxiety are also addressed.

Pedagogical challenges to address in the online environment:


  • This course requires students to write and share a short biography of themselves and their interest in public speech as an art form
  • This course requires students to prepare a public speech and receive critical peer feedback on their speech organization, planning, and format.
  • This course requires students to deliver several public speeches in different venues and have them analyzed with extensive feedback, so the student may improve.
  • This course requires students to engage in a role-play debate which tests their speaking and preparation skills.



GR 101, 102 First-year Modern Greek


George Stephanopolous teaches first year modern Greek at Amherst College. He was introduced to Sakai through his department, which began using it as a collaboration tool last spring. He believes the web’s ubiquitous and global nature make it an obvious tool for foreign language instruction. 

He would like to use his course environment to expose students to the richness of Greek language and culture and he believes he can motivate them through the use of multi-media files and web based interaction. His course is addressed to students with little to no knowledge of Modern Greek. It places equal emphasis on the acquisition of speaking, listening, reading, writing and cultural understanding. He would like to replace the standard in class grammar drills with online activities that help students grasp key grammatical structures so that they can apply these when they meet together in person.


Pedagogical challenges to address in the online environment:

  • Students must use Greek as much as possible in the classroom and in their web-based course environment.
  • Students must spend significant amounts of time listening to Greek passages and commenting upon them with the class.
  • Students must practice reading passages aloud and will be evaluated by their peers and their instructor.
  • Each term gets progressively more difficult and requires longer periods of listening, speaking, engaging in conversation.
  • Students must learn to write using Greek characters.

SP 401, 402 Fourth Year Spanish


Raquel Flores is in her first year of teaching advanced Spanish in Middlebury College’s summer language program. She believes the web is an obvious tool for foreign language instruction and was frustrated with older modes of foreign language instruction used in her graduate program. She would like to use her online course to bring Spanish alive for her students.


The curriculum is developed around various texts that illustrate the use of Spanish in various Spanish-speaking countries. Grammar principles are reviewed through extensive  spoken and written use of Spanish in context. Raquel likes to encourage outside research and interpretation of cultural aspects of the course. She finds students learn more when they evaluate each other and are more motivated when they work together on projects.


Pedagogical challenges to address in the online environment:


  • Students must use Spanish 24 hours a day and posts to the online course environment may only be in Spanish.
  • Students must ask all questions to the class, using one of the Sakai tools.
  • Students must submit weekly essays for review
  • Students are often asked to participate in online surveys or take pop quizzes through their course environment
  • During their second semester, students must work in groups on a current social issues facing young people in a Spanish speaking country and must present their findings to the class. Projects may be in the form of text, images, blog entries, multi-media narratives or vlogs. 


Cohort Problem Resolution


This case presents a problem that needs to be solved with a cohort of students. This is unrelated to a specific course. Rather, it addresses the needs of an entire program.  The statewide secondary teacher education program has a regular annual new cohort of 200 students.  The current number of students enrolled in the Secondary Teacher Education program is approximately 325, indicating a 37% drop-out rate by the second year.  The traditional program experiences only a 10% drop-out rate. The following difficulties need to be resolved:


  • The highest drop out rate occurs during the first two modules.
  • Learners appear to take considerable time to become familiar with the processes of working and learning online, causing them high stress in the beginning of their education.
  • Learners often have unrealistic expectations of what learning online involves, often confusing it with a more traditional distance learning format such as videoconferencing.
  • Learners indicate they miss the “personal connection” made with face-to-face environments.
  • The cohort must remain an online cohort in order to maximize the numbers of new teachers being trained in many rural areas.






CL 310 Art History/Classics


Luke Skywalker was recently hired to teach Art History at NYU. In his previous job he used Blackboard to create an online environment but was dissatisfied by it so has decided to participate in NYU’s Sakai pilot and has begun setting up his course in there. 


Luke is teaching a small, cross-listed course. Enrollment is limited to sophomore and junior Art History and Classics majors. The focus of the course is on interpretation of art work in the context of classical civilization. Luke finds regular textbooks provide too much commentary so he would like to develop his own coursepack using a variety of content modalities?


He is concerned about building a curriculum that blurs the distinction between different types of data. He would like to use his course environment to appeal to different learning styles from haptic learners who like to click the mouse and require lots of hands-on interaction, to visual learners, to more traditional text based learners.


The focus of the course is on interpretation of art work in the context of classical civilization. Luke finds regular textbooks provide too much commentary so he would like to develop his own coursepack using a variety of content modalities?



Pedagogical challenges to address in the online environment:

  • Cross-listed course
  • Desire to appeal to different learning styles
  • Students need to review and evaluate visual and textual data
  • Students need to have access to artifacts or images of artifacts
  • There are several students with visual disabilities enrolled in the course



BUS 700 Socially Responsible Entrepreneurship


Linda Lim teaches a course on socially responsible entrepreneurship at Virginia Tech.

She has used Sakai to post a syllabus and provide resources for her students but wants to take advantage of other tools to facilitate her students’ understanding of course material.

Her course relies heavily on group work as students tackle realistic case studies of socially responsible entrepreneurship in the state of Virginia.


Pedagogical challenges to address in the online environment:

  • Professor Lim uses case based learning
  • She often has guest speaker who have started their own business venture
  • Dr. Lim like to make use of podcasts to reiterate her lectures
  • The class has several community based group projects
  • Plagiarism has been an issue in the course






Wr 460/560   Introduction to Book Publishing


Jim Doherty teaches a course on book publishing at the University of Amsterdam

His course is comprised of upper-level students with some background in marketing or publishing. Provides a detailed overview of the publishing process, organized around the division of labor, including introductions to contemporary American publishing, issues of intellectual commerce, copyright law, publishing contracts, book editing, book design and production, book marketing and distribution, and bookselling. Based on work in mock publishing companies, students prepare portfolios of written documents, i.e., book proposals, editorial guidelines, design and production standards, and marketing plans. Guest speakers from the publishing industry and field trips provide exposure to the industry.


Pedagogical challenges to resolve in the online environment:

  • This course requires students to take on publishing company roles, run a mock publishing company within the class, exchange a variety of information, put a mock manuscript through the publishing process, and present it to the class.
  • This course uses numerous guest speakers.
  • This course requires field trips.



Coming Soon-


ED 700 Early Childhood Reading-New Developments in the Field

Continuing Education Course





LAW 800 Conflict Resolution – UC Berkeley





MS 210 Music Appreciation