Given the recent discussion involving Sakai, thought I'd share Whitman
College's experience with Sakai.
Whitman is a small liberal arts college in rural Walla Walla, WA, with 1400
student FTE and an IT department with just 20 staff. Yet, we are in the
middle of a successful Sakai pilot. In fact, it looks like we will have a
full implementation in fall 2006.
We had been using Blackboard for the past six years-just the Basic version.
When faced with the need to either move to the Enterprise version or to
pursue another option about 1-1/2 yr ago, we decided to pursue Sakai.
Although we could have experimented/piloted with Sakai for free, we joined
Sakai Educational Partners Program (SEPP) for $5,000/yr in November 2004 to
show our serious commitment to the project. The membership was not a
requirement---in fact, there are many institutions that are using/piloting
Sakai without joining SEPP or the Sakai Foundation. Just about every process
happens transparently in the public forums.
Although Whitman College seems to be doing fine with one staff member (with
good Java knowledge) supporting this project, there are consultants
available who assists smaller institutions with Sakai implementation. I know
of one consulting firm that currently supports about 50 institutions
throughout the US - all small colleges (2,000-6,000 students). Also,
consortia of small colleges are finding Sakai to be a strong platform since
it is not simply a course management system, but rather a framework that
supports all levels of collaboration, including inter-institutional.
While it's too early to discuss TCO for Sakai, I am certain that a fully
supported instance of Sakai will be quite a bit below the cost for
Blackboard Enterprise. So far, assessments of faculty and students at
Whitman are uniformly positive. The Sakai tools are agnostic to size of
school..and the array of tool choices is growing based on the pedagogical
models that we in higher ed need.
And for that shameless plug---my Sakai staffer, Mike Osterman, and I will be
presenting/sharing our experience at the EDUCAUSE Western Regional
Conference on April 24-26 in San Francisco. Our presentation is titled "Can
Sakai be implemented at a small liberal arts school?" Do join us.
Chief Technology Officer
Walla Walla, WA
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