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Educational Technologies will upgrade the Sakai learning management system to version 20 on December 3. This is after final grades are due to avoid disrupting classes for the Fall semester, given the system will be offline as the upgrade is applied.

The team had originally planned to upgrade to the next available version of Sakai at the time (version 19) back in May of this year. Plans were postponed to December, however, due to the move to remote instruction early in the Spring semester.

We're upgrading to Sakai 20 December 3rd. Two marshmellows decorated with snowpeople faces float atop a cup of hot chocolate.
EdTech’s Kerry O’Sullivan designed this graphic to help announce the upgrade

Many new features

The postponement enabled staff to focus efforts on version 20, which brings even more highly anticipated features. This includes:

  • grading rubrics
  • an assignment document preview grader
  • a date manager to batch edit dates across Sakai tools
  • a combined Tests & Quizzes overview page
  • a name pronunciation option for users

In addition, version 20 includes several Gradebook improvements, including bulk-edit/delete options, excusing students from assignments, and messaging students directly from a Gradebook item based on their scores.

Thao Nghi Tu
Thao Nghi Tu

“Sakai 20 brings many exciting new features that improve functionality and give instructors more options, enabling them to quickly check in with students on their progress and have more time to focus on teaching,” said Thao Nghi Tu of Educational Technologies.

Sneak peeks and demos

Several sneak peeks of these new features have already been shared on the EdTech Blog, and other anticipated improvements will continue to be posted.

EdTech staff met with campus IT liaisons from different schools and departments to provide a demo of new features and have been in regular communication about campus-supported learning tools.

“We wanted to give early access to instructional support staff, who are working directly with faculty on a daily basis,” Tu said.

Manisha Mittal, Instructional Designer in the School of Nursing, was among the instructional support staff members who received a demo and early testing access.

Manisha Mittal
Manisha Mittal

“ITS Educational Technologies has always provided us with sound guidance and support when we approach them for assistance,” Mittal said. “They have an excellent team that is knowledgeable, reliable, friendly, supportive and that cares about its stakeholders. The communications with instructional support staff and faculty are timely, informative and clear. We are fortunate to have such well-coordinated, central support which has been accentuated in this pandemic. ITS EdTech is an invaluable resource for our community!”

Service Desk prepared

The EdTech team has shared information on updates coming to Sakai and other supported educational technologies with the ITS Service Desk as well, as Service Desk staff members are usually the first responders for technical help.

“We rely on the relationships we’ve built with our campus partners to help support instructors and students,” Tu said. “Keeping them regularly informed of any updates with our campus technologies helps them support us.”

The Sakai services team will also provide departmental trainings to assist faculty members with learning about the new features as they begin preparing for the Spring semester.

The EdTech team has made additional improvements to the Sakai 20 theme, using UNC branded colors and keeping accessibility in mind.

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