Up until now, it would have been fair to call Sakai 3 a mature experiment. Two years of work have been invested, mostly by Cambridge, to test out some ideas about the design, architecture, and development ecosystem of next-generation virtual learning environments. We have learned a lot from it, but the level of commitment to turn it from an experiment into a product system has been somewhat vague.
That changed a couple of weeks ago at the Sakai conference in Denver. We now have a much clearer idea of when Sakai 3 might be deployable as a production system to meet different purposes.
The big news is that a number of institutions have stepped up and committed resources to producing four milestone releases over the next twelve months. Cambridge, NYU, Charles Sturt University, Berkeley Georgia Tech, and Indiana are publicly committed so far, with more in the works. This first tier of schools are putting in dedicated, full-time staff members to work on Sakai 3 (and some of them are putting in cash as well). The developers from these schools will be directed centrally by a project manager who has just been hired by the Foundation and that reports to a steering committee. In addition to the centrally managed project, there are schools who are committing fewer resources that will be managed locally. So far, University of Capetown and Stanford have made commitments at this level. And, of course, individual developers and schools with all levels of resources are invited to participate.
The latest draft of the roadmap for the upcoming quarterly releases is here. It’s a living document, so you might want to check periodically to see how it is evolving. The project is still looking to recruit additional resources and the shape the roadmap ultimately takes will be dependent on how many additional resources they can recruit.
Berkeley and NYU are both going live with Sakai 3 in production before the end of the summer (i.e., before the first of the four milestone releases is complete), although neither is using it as an LMS initially. Berkeley is using it as a student portal and NYU is using it as an ePortfolio. I’ll have more details on these projects in the coming days, but the take-away for now is that Sakai 3 is going to be pretty versatile, and that the use cases it will address in the early releases are ones that the traditional LMS doesn’t support. One very important decision that the steering committee made was to focus the main work of the early releases on meeting the needs of these early adopters rather than encouraging everybody to do their own local projects. The project is only successful if its early adopters are successful.
I’ll have much more to say about Sakai 3 development in the coming weeks and months, but it appears that we’re off to the races.