At the Senate meeting on the 10th of November, Prof Ballim, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, formally announced Wits’ decision to adopt Wits-e as the new collaborative learning environment at Wits. According to Tessa Murray, project manager in charge of this transition from Web CT to Sakai, the project is on track and the process of installing, configuring and customising Wits-e is almost complete. Launching, implementing and supporting a replacement for WebCT by the end of 2012 will be a challenge for the next year, but eLSI (elearning, Support and Innovation) - the unit charged with replacing the current Learning Management System – is putting together road shows, presentations, workshops, training programmes and online support to ensure that Wits is ready for the new system.
The decision to adopt Sakai has involved extensive consultations, conversations and meetings. After a comprehensive study, undertaken in 2008, to consider the feasibility of both open source and proprietary alternatives to WebCT, the Senior Executive Team (SET) recommended that Wits adopt an open source approach platform. Following this approval, the University also took the decision not to renew the WebCT license after 2011 and began to explore its options regarding a campus-wide implementation of an open-source Learning Management System (LMS).
In early 2011, the Working Group concluded the evaluation and recommended that Wits adopt the Sakai collaborative learning environment (CLE) as its eLearning platform. The recommendation was based on: the functional advantage of Sakai over other LMS solutions; the suitability of the Sakai technology in respect of established criteria; the initial and ongoing costs; the viability of the Sakai track record, user-base and pedagogy and technical support community; and the sustainability of the platform for Wits’ teaching, learning and research goals. In July 2011, the Wits SET approved the recommendation.
“Throughout 2012, Wits will run both WebCT and Wits-e in parallel,” said Fatima Rahiman, lead learning designer at eLSI. Rahiman and other members of eLSI have been working in association with faculty nominated representatives in the Sakai Working Group to ensure that the new environment is ready for WebCT users to shift seamlessly over Sakai. In addition to ensuring parity with WebCT, faculty representatives and staff from other University units such as the library, Central Networking Services and SIMS have been drawn into discussion about the development of new functionalities – scheduled for 2013.
In the new year and over the first semester, staff from eLSI will be updating academics about the Wits-e migration via Wits Clips articles, training sessions and meetings with individual faculty members and groups. If faculty have questions about Sakai or want to take a lead in the migration of their courses, Rahiman said that they should contact her or visit http://elearn.wits.ac.za to find out more.