Extending a Learning Management System with Widgets

written by: Alan Berg

The Sakai Open Academic Environment (http://www.sakaiproject.org/node/2239) is a next generation, rapidly evolving, Learning Management System. It has numerous interesting technologies for the Educationalist. In fact the website you are viewing this blog from is based on the Sakai Open Academic Environment!

Being Open Sourced and involving numerous Universities in discussing its future requirements, its community is University orientated and broad. The Sakai community has an active working group looking at specific area’s of functional improvement (http://www.sakaiproject.org/design-lenses-group). Named Design lenses (http://www.slideshare.net/jonmhays/sakai-learning-capabilities-design-lenses-in-action) , each Design Lens is not an area of functionality, but rather a perspective from which the entire system should be considered. We use this methodology to shape debate and form a shared vision.

As part of a low cost, low risk experiment a first year software engineer student from the University of Amsterdam created specific extensions. His effort was support by a work experience scheme within the Central Computer Services (http://www.ic.uva.nl/ic/object.cfm/DD98BB4D-0014-4803-BB779A7D3514269E). We achieved integration with Google Spreadsheets, a time line tool, exhibit tool and a couple of utility tools (http://oae-widgets.sakaiproject.org/). The conclusion of the experiment was from a technological perspective integration is straight forward. Working with multiple Universities to a defined  industrial standard, this was also great work experience for the student.

Why is integration straight forward? Sakai Open Academic Environment has well defined extension points with a consistent Software Development Kit (SDK). Developers use common technologies such as JavaScript, CSS and the Fluid framework (wiki.fluidproject.or) to create new features. This area is ripe for UvA specific tooling. Expect more experimentation.

If you are interested in involving yourself further. Please let us know


Alan Berg

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