New in Sakai 2.9

Sakai 2.9 includes the following new features:

  1. Several improvements to the user interface, including a prominent ‘Publish Now’ button which allows instructors to publish course sites with one click and a tool menu that users can minimize for more screen space;
  2. A major new tool called Lessons, through which instructors can consolidate course materials, assignments, quizzes, discussion forums, and multimedia while presenting all such items within a structure that mirrors the actual flow of the course; and
  3. Enhancements to commonly used Sakai tools, such as Forums, Gradebook, and Tests & Quizzes.

 1. Improvements to the Sakai User Interface

Site tabs

Users can directly navigate to a tool or page within a site through drop down menus accessed by clicking on the down arrow now present in the corresponding site tab.

Figure 1.1: Sakai site tabs contain drop-down tool menus.

'Publish Now' button

Instructors and other site maintainers can publish their unpublished sites with one click.

Figure 1.2: 'Publish Now' Button

Collapsible tool menu

Users can click a tab affixed to the tool menu in order to minimize it and thus expand the size of the tool view within the web browser.

Figure 1.3: Click the tool menu tab to minimize the tool menu.

Clicking this tab again restores the tool menu to its original state.

Figure 1.4: Click the tool menu tab again to restore the tool menu to its original width.

Hidden pages

The tool menu readily distinguishes pages in the site that instructors have hidden from students by greying-out site these pages and displaying the page title with italics.

Figure 1.5: Hidden pages are grayed-out and italicized in the tool menu. In this example an instructor has hidden several pages from students (e.g., Site Info, Assignments, Tests & Quizzes, Roster, Resources, and Forums). Some of these pages are hidden so that students can only access content through a controlled sequence that the instructor has designed and implemented with Lessons (e.g., Syllabus and Section 1 through Section 5).

In previous versions of Sakai, instructors had to either “View Site as Student” or navigate to the the Page Order view of Site Info to assess which pages are hidden from students.

Figure 1.6: To hide pages from students in your site, first navigate to Site Info and then click 'Page Order.'

Instructors can hide pages (or show them again) by toggling the light bulb icon in the Page Order view of Site Info.

Figure 1.7: Instructors can hide pages by toggling the light bulb icons from yellow to white in the 'Page Order' view. Pages can be shown again by toggling light bulbs back to yellow.

A tutorial for how to navigate Sakai appears the first time a user logs into Sakai.

Figure 1.8: The first popup window of the navigation tutorial.

This tutorial can be accessed anytime by clicking on the 'person' icon near the logout button and then selecting 'Tutorial from the drop-down menu.

Figure 1.9: Click the person icon, and then click the 'Tutorial' menu item to access the tutorial on navigating Sakai.

 2. Lessons: A Major New Tool in Sakai

Lessons Tutorial

See the Lessons Tutorial for an overview of how instructors can build and organize instructional content in Sakai.

 3. Enhancements to Commonly Used Sakai Tools

 Site Info

Lock pages

The 'Page Order' function in Site Info now includes a lock feature.

Figure 3.1: Lock icons in the 'Page Order' view of Site Info.

Locking a page not only hides a page from students but also disables it from student access. 'Lock' differs from 'Hide.' 'Hide' simply hides a page like Assignments from students; however, students can still interact with actual assignments from Assignments indirectly through the Lessons tool. Locking the Assignments page prevents all student access, including indirect access through Lessons.

Site language

The language for a site can be changed from the default, 'English (United States)'. This can be useful for some language courses. (Unfortunately, language support in Sakai does not extend to German and Norwegian.) To change the language for a site, click 'Edit Site Information' in the Site Info tool.

Figure 3.2: The 'Edit Site Information' button in Site Info.

Then, select a language for 'Site Language,' click 'Continue' at the bottom of the view, and then 'Finish.'

Figure 3.3: Site Language.


ZIP files

As an alternative to WebDAV for uploading or downloading multiple files at a time, instructors can upload ZIP files (*.zip) and extract their contents. However, all files uploaded through Resources including ZIP files must be less than 100 Mb. (Otherwise, instructors can use WebDAV to bypass this upload limit.)

Figure 3.4: ZIP files are uploaded to Resources like any other file. From the 'Add' menu of any folder, select 'Upload Files'. Also, depicted is an example ZIP file, ',' that had been uploaded.

Extract the contents of a ZIP file by selecting 'Extract ZIP Archive Contents' from the file's corresponding 'Actions' menu.

Figure 3.5: The 'Extract ZIP Archive Contents' menu item.

The ZIP file is retained after its contents are extracted.

Figure 3.6: Contents extracted from

Likewise, Resources allows instructors to compress a folder and its content, including the root Resources folder for a site. This is useful for downloading multiple files without having to use WebDAV.

Figure 3.7: The 'Compress to ZIP Archive' menu item.

Note that compressing a folder to produce a ZIP file does not remove the original folder and its contents from Resources.

Figure 3.8: The compressed folder as a ZIP file added to Resources.


Instructors can submit assignments on behalf of students

Assignments now provides instructors the ability to submit an assignment on behalf of a student. This feature can be useful for exceptional circumstances when a student needs to submit an assignment through a channel outside of the Assignments tool, whether via email, Sakai's Drop Box tool, etc. With this feature, the instructor can corral stray assignments and attribute them to the proper students without requiring the students' intervention.

To use this feature, go to the 'Assignment List' and in the drop-down menu labeled 'View,' and select 'Assignment List by Student.'

Figure 3.9: To access the feature for submitting assignments on behalf of students, change the 'View' of the 'Assignment List'to 'Assignment List by Student'.

Proceed by clicking the 'Submit as Student' link for the particular student for the particular assignment of interest.

Figure 3.10: Click on the toggle arrow by a student's name to view assignments attributed to them. Then click the 'Submit as Student' link for a particular assignment.

Then upload the student's assignment and submit.

Figure 3.11: 1. Verify that you are submitting for the correct assignment. 2. Verify that you are submitting on behalf of the correct student. 3. Choose the file to submit. 4. Submit assignment.

Note that though the submission is attributed to the intended student for grading, etc., Assignments will track and display who actually performed the submission.

Figure 3.12: For assignments on behalf of students, the submission date in the 'Submitted' column of the 'Submissions' view will include the name of the instructor who submitted the assignment.

Turnitin options

The Turnitin Service settings in Assignments have changed such that the option for 'Allow students to view report' is not visible as a setting until the 'Use Turnitin' checkbox is checked.

Figure 3:13: 'Use Turnitin' checkbox.

Furthermore, many more Turnitin options are presented in Sakai 2.9. Except for checking 'Allow students to view report' to grant student's access to the originality checking report, most instructors would leave the remaining settings as-is.

Figure: 3.14: 'Allow students to view report' is likely the only Turnitin Service option that instructors would want to change from the default settings.


Revisions to topic and 'thread' views

Throughout the Forums tool, the previously used term 'thread' has been replaced with the term 'conversation.' For example, in the topic view in Forums, the phrase 'Post New Thread' is supplanted with 'Start a New Conversation.' Furthermore, the function 'Start a New Conversation' is displayed more prominently than before. It is now a button along the top of the topic view. Also, the topic view button formerly known as 'Display Entire Message' is now known as 'Display Message Content.' Instructors might also notice that the 'Topic Settings' and 'Delete Topic' buttons in the topic view are new in Sakai 2.9.

Figure 3.15: An example of a topic view in Forums. From the perspective of an instructor, more functions are arrayed as buttons across the top of the topic view in Sakai 2.9.

The conversation view in Forums has similarly been revised. Besides supplanting the term 'thread' with 'conversation,' the button formerly known as 'Reply to Thread' is now known as 'Reply to Initial Message.'

Figure 3.16: An example of a conversation view in Forums.

Improved grade entry

As in previous versions of Sakai, before an instructor can enter forum-related grades through the Forums tool, the instructor must first create one or more gradebook items in the Gradebook tool as appropriate for the task at hand.

Figure: 3.17: Depicted in this Gradebook landing page are three gradebook items for Forums, associated with a gradebook category called 'Discussions.' New gradebook items can be added through the 'Add Gradebook Item(s)' button.

(Tip: Ensure that the 'Release this item to Students' checkbox for the forum-related gradebook items in Gradebook are not checked before you enter their corresponding grades in Forums. Otherwise, students will receive these grades while you are in the process of grading. Consequently, some students will see their grades before others do, and students will be able to observe changes to their grades if you revise them while in the midst of grading. After you have finished grading, then you can safely release those grades to students by checking 'Release this item to Students.')

Figure: 3.18: The 'Release this item to Students' checkbox is depicted here as unchecked. You can find this checkbox either when adding a new gradebook item or when editing an existing item (by clicking the corresponding 'Edit' link on the Gradebook landing page).

Forums in Sakai 2.9 transcends a previous limitation which forced instructors to first navigate to a particular thread or conversation where the student had posted a message. From there the instructor would click the 'Grade' link associated with one of the student's posts to enter a grade.

Figure: 3.19: To attribute a grade to a student in Forums, the instructor can click the 'Grade' link associated with a message posted by the student.

(Note that in Sakai 2.9, clicking on the 'Grade' link in these views will popup a dialog instead of transporting the instructor to a separate view for entering a grade.)

Figure: 3.20: The top part of the popup dialog for grading a student's work. Note that the instructor can flexibly choose any gradebook item from the 'Gradebook Items' drop down menu. Figure: 3.21: The bottom part of the popup dialog for grading a student's work.

Sakai 2.9 enables instructors to enter grades (e.g., for student participation) in close proximity to views for reviewing the students' overall participation. For example, instructors who want to review and grade overall student participation within a particular forum can do so by clicking on the 'Grade' link that's associated with the forum on the landing page of the Forums tool.

Figure: 3.22: To more easily grade all students' work within a forum, go to the Forums landing page. By the desired forum, click 'More' and then 'Grade.'

Clicking on the 'Grade' link leads the instructor to a 'Statistics & Grading' view for the forum. If a gradebook item was not defined in the 'Forum Settings' for that forum, a gradebook item can be selected as follows.

Figure: 3.23: If a gradebook item has not yet been selected for a forum, choose one from the drop-down menu labeled 'Select a gradebook item.' Note that gradebook items for Forums must first be created in the Gradebook tool.

Once a gradebook item is selected, grades can then be entered and submitted to Gradebook in bulk as seen below.

Figure: 3.24: A column of gradebook item scores and the 'Submit Grades' button which saves the entered scores to Gradebook.

While in the process of grading, instructors can click the 'Details' link to review the student's overall forum participation.

Figure: 3.25: The 'Details' link by which instructors can review a student's forum participation, including the messages they have authored and read.

The details view includes a list of 'Messages Authored' and 'Messages Read' by the student.

Figure: 3.26: An example of a 'details' view for a student's participation in a forum. A list of the student's authored messages is followed by a list of the messages read by the student.

Note that before navigating away from the 'Statistics & Grading' view-- including for instance clicking 'Details' to review a student's work-- the instructor should click the 'Submit Grades' button to save any newly entered grades. (A popup dialog will warn about unsaved grades when the instructor navigates away from the 'Statistics & Grading' view. At which point the instructor can choose to either proceed or go back and 'Submit Grades' to the Gradebook.)

Duplicate a forum or topic

Instructors now have the option to duplicate an entire forum or topic instead of creating new forums or topics from scratch.

Figure 3.27: To duplicate a forum, go to the Forums landing page and by the forum you want to copy, click 'More' and then 'Duplicate Forum.'

Note that when a forum or topic is duplicated, the conversations from the original forum or topic are not copied.

Require users to post before reading

Instructors can set an option in a forum or topic that requires students to first post a message before they can read other students' posts. This new option is available in 'Forum Settings' and 'Topic Settings.'

Figure 3.28: The 'Require users to post before reading' checkbox under the 'Forum Posting' heading in Forum Settings. This same option is available in 'Topic Settings' under the 'Topic Posting' heading.

When a student navigates to such a topic where this requirement is set, they will see a warning about it.

Figure 3.29: A display of the resulting warning students will see: 'You must post to this topic before you can view any messages.'

Permissions layout

In 'Forum Settings' and 'Topic Settings,' the controls for assigning and customizing 'Permission Level' settings for students and teaching assistants have been redesigned. They now more clearly designate how to customize which permissions to grant for a particular 'Role.'

Figure 3.30: The permissions controls found within 'Forum Settings' or 'Topic Settings.' In this example, the 'Customize' button for the Student role has been clicked revealing the settings which define the 'Contributor' permission level. If these settings are changed by the instructor, the permission level for the Student role will then have a 'Custom' permission level.


'Drop Highest,' 'Drop Lowest,' or 'Keep Highest'

Instructors can now apply criteria for dropping or keeping the highest or lowest scores within a gradebook category. This feature is available when the 'Gradebook Setup' is set to use 'Categories only' or 'Categories & Weighting.'

Figure 3.31: 'Categories only' or 'Categories & Weighting.'

The checkboxes 'Enable Drop Highest,' 'Enable Drop Lowest,' and 'Enable Keep Highest' control whether or not their corresponding criteria ('Drop Highest,' 'Drop Lowest,' and 'Keep Highest') can be applied to particular gradebook categories.

Figure 3.32: 'Drop Highest,' 'Drop Lowest,' and 'Keep Highest.'

In the appropriate column, enter the number of items in each category that you wish to drop or keep. You will notice that unavailable choices are grayed out. For example, you cannot both keep and drop items in the same category, so entering a number for one of these makes the other unavailable. Also note that when opting to drop or keep scores for a particular category, all the gradebook items in that category must share the same point values.

Tip: Many faculty prefer to use Keep Highest as opposed to Drop Lowest, since it reflects a more accurate running total of student grades during the course of the academic term. Items that students have not yet completed are not dropped automatically, so one or more higher scores may be dropped until all items have been completed.

Hide or show columns in 'All Grades' view

Instructors can hide gradebook item columns in the 'All Grades' view. Hiding a column does not affect any grade calculations, student displays, or exported reports. This feature is used to organize and simplify the 'All Grades' table for graders. Click the 'Hide/Show Columns' link.

Figure 3.30: 'Hide/Show Columns' link.

Then in the 'Hide/Show Columns' popup dialog, select which columns to hide. Note that only gradebook items can be hidden. Columns of gradebook categories cannot be hidden.

Figure 3.34: Select which gradebook items to hide in the 'Hide/Show Columns' popup dialog.

Export grades as PDF

Instructors can now export grades to a PDF format in addition to Excel and CSV formats. This feature is available in the 'All Grades' view.

Figure 3.35: The 'Export as PDF' button in the 'All Grades' view.

It is also available in the 'Course Grades' view.

Figure 3.36: The 'Export Course Grades as PDF' button in the 'Course Grades' view.

 Tests & Quizzes

A more intuitive landing page for instructors

The the Tests & Quizzes landing page for instructors has been revised in Sakai 2.9 to more clearly distinguish its various contents. First, the choice between creating an assessment from scratch and importing one from an XML or ZIP file is now more apparent than before.

Figure 3.37: To create an assessment, you can create one from scratch or import an existing one from an XML or ZIP file.

Second, the display of assessments for the site is now structured using tabs. 'Working Copies' of assessments (formerly known as 'Pending Assessments') are more clearly contrasted against 'Published Assessments.' The former are not released to students while the published assessments have been released to students.

Figure 3.38: The tabbed display distinguishes 'Working Copies' of assessments (that are not released to students) from 'Published Copies' of assessments (published or released to students from original Working Copies).

Furthermore, the display of published assessments in the 'Published Copies' tab can be toggled among 'Active' assessments, 'Inactive' assessments, or 'All' (both active and inactive assessments).

Figure 3.39: In the 'Published Copies' tab, you can view 'Active' assessments (open to students to take), 'Inactive' assessments (not open to students to take), or 'All' (both active and inactive assessments).

Note that the Tests & Quizzes landing page for students remains unchanged for Sakai 2.9.

Display assessment due dates on Schedule

When publishing a test or quiz, instructors can now opt to post the assessment's due date in the Schedule tool.

Figure 3.40: If the Schedule tool is part of your Sakai site, a checkbox labeled 'display due date on Schedule' will appear near the 'Publish' button of the 'Publish Assessment' view in Tests & Quizzes.

Survey - Matrix of Choices

A new question type for conducting surveys within a matrix of choices is available in Sakai 2.9.

Figure 3.41: A new question type: 'Survey - Matrix of Choices.'

This 'Survey - Matrix of Choices' question type can be used for implementing Likert scales.

Figure 3.42: An example Likert scale survey made with 'Survey - Matrix of Choices.'

To conduct an anonymous survey, select 'Anonymous grading only' in the 'Grading' section of the assessment's 'Settings.'

Figure 3.43: Students' identities can be made anonymous if 'Anonymous grading only' is selected in the assessment's Settings.

Anonymity masks the student respondents' identities with numerical IDs. Summary results to matrix-of-choices survyes can be viewed in 'Statistics.'

Figure 3.44: Anonymous respondents are repsresented by numerical submission IDs.

The top and bottom views of the 'Statistics' report follow.

Figure 3.45: The top half of an example Statistics report. Figure 3.46: The bottom half of an example Statistics report.

Scientific notation and complex numbers

Numeric Response questions now support scientific notation (e.g., 6.022E23) and complex numbers (e.g., 6+3i).

Figure 3.47: Directives for how to define the expected numerical answer for questions involving scientific notation or complex numbers.

Grader's comments exported to Excel spreadsheet

Grader's comments are included as a column within spreadsheets of exported assessment results.

Figure 3.48: When entering a comment for a student while grading an assessment, click 'Update' to save the comment. To export a spreadsheet, click 'Export.'

Figure 3.49: The 'Export' button will download an Excel spreadsheet containing all assessment responses and the grader's comments.

Figure 3.50: Grader's comments in the Excel spreadsheet.

'Apply This Score'

When grading an assessment, instructors can use the new 'Apply This Score' button and its corresponding text field to apply the same score (e.g., 0 points) to all students who have not submitted their assessment. This feature circumvents having to enter the same score for each of these students, one at a time.

Figure 3.51: A Tests & Quizzes grading view with the new 'Apply This Score' button and text field.