Sakai Owl: Dove or Crow?

When the Sakai OWL was introduced, it was touted as a means of solving all the problems with WebCT. No more would our browsers crash every 10 minutes! No more would opening a second tab be the crime of the century! Well, has Sakai lived up to its hype? Its logo is certainly more modern, though perhaps a bit sinister – is it going to steal our mice? But Sakai has some key deficiencies, many of which WebCT actually did well.

  • Most library computers still point to WebCT. Okay, maybe this isn’t Sakai’s fault, but it’s still annoying.
  • By default, it sends you a lot of email. Announcement in your class? Email. In-course message? Email. Post to a discussion thread? Email. This is helpful where there are very few but very important announcements. For an online course with a major discussion component, it gets old fast.
  • Security problems. This was supposed to be something better in Sakai, but in only a few short months, we’ve already had at least two security breaches: one in which students in dozens of courses were able to access grades, and a second where students trying to post images in a course were confronted with the instructor’s uploads – including marked essays.
  • Lack of support. Again, supposed to be a key feature of Sakai, but the learning curve has greatly reduced the amount of flexibility and adaptability of the program. For example, one of my classes was recently told it was impossible for students to post images in the Sakai wiki – after I’d already done it. Oops.
  • Technology glitches. Yes, Sakai has them too. I’m in an online course requiring use of the Sakai wiki. Twice in the past week, said wiki has arbitrarily decided to disallow student editing. Cue panicked masses.
  • Discussion boards. Threaded discussions are great – but if I open a thread, Sakai, you can probably assume I’ve read all three messages in the thread, without me having to click on each one individually. Heck, even when there’s only one message in the thread, it still assumes I haven’t read it unless I actually click on the message.

So, what do you think? Are there other disadvantages (or advantages) that I’ve missed? In the end, which OWL wins?


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