October 2009 Archives

Sakai secret "stealth" tools

Sakai has some hidden features that for one reason or another have been put into "stealth" mode. When a Sakai tool is in stealth mode, it does not appear in the list of tools that you can add to a site, however it remains available for use provided you get an administrator to add it to your site. Sometimes these are "beta" tools that still need some testing or minor bug fixes. Other times these tools duplicate existing features. Often, they may be useful to people who are trying to do something new in Sakai, or who do not like the way an existing tool works.

Some of the stealth tools that are worth looking at, if you want to try something different, are:

  • Forums: An alternative to the "Discussion and Private Messages" tool, this is a discussion tool that allows you to structure the conversation into forums, topics and threads. People who used Sakai three years ago may recognize it as the original discussion tool that "Discussion and Private Messages" replaced. Back then it was not well liked, but it has seen major improvements since then and is worth a second look. It may be a more suitable tool if you intend to grade class participation based on student contributions to the discussion board.
  • Messages: An alternative to the "Mailtool" for sending individual or group emails. However "Messages" works more like a traditional web mail system, where you can read messages within Sakai and choose whether messages you send go to the students' Sakai account or their external email address.
  • Tasks, Tests & Surveys: An alternative to the "Tests & Quizzes" tool that was under consideration (and ultimately rejected) as a possible replacement. It is somewhat easier to use, however the original "Tests & Quizzes" tool has more features and flexibility, and has solved most of the problems that it had in the past. This tool may disappear from future versions of Sakai, but is still available for use in the time-being.
  • Glossary: intended for use in the portfolio system that co-exists within Sakai, this tool has practical uses for course and project sites as well. It allows the construction of a glossary of terms and definitions.
  • Presentations: a rudimentary tool for synchronized slideshows - you upload images, and can control which ones the students see in real time in remote locations. This has been part of Sakai from the start, but was "stealthed" because it was somewhat misleading and confusing to use.

To use any of the above tools, write to sakai@brokenmail.rutgers.edu please replace "brokenmail.rutgers.edu" with "rutgers.edu with the name of your Sakai site.

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