URI Moving to a Vendor-Supported Sakai

newsletter-sakai-iconSakai, the University’s Learning Management System (LMS), has been in use since 2009 seeing exponential growth at URI. The University has become increasingly dependent upon its day-to-day availability, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. During our fall and spring semesters, Sakai is used about 27,000 times a day by faculty, students, and staff, with peak usage of about 4,000 users on the system at the same moment. Primarily used by instructors teaching online and blended courses, those teaching face-to-face courses also use the LMS to showcase their syllabi, disseminate announcements and resources, and display grades to their students. In addition, both faculty and staff use the project site functionality for online training, for departmental and committee collaboration, and for the promotion and tenure process.

This fall, URI launched three fully online programs:  Masters in Cybersecurity, Masters of Dietetics, and a Bachelor of Nursing degree program for Registered Nurses. The creation of additional online programs is currently underway, signifying how Sakai has become a critically important technology platform for teaching and learning at URI.

Earlier this year, the University issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) from companies who provide Sakai to higher education institutions. Faculty, ITS staff and administrators made this decision to seek outsourcing opportunities after conducting an internal study of the costs and benefits of switching from our self-hosted version to a vendor-provided version of Sakai. The vendor-provided Sakai system would be virtually the same, with even the web address to access the URI Sakai system remaining the same. However, because the system itself will reside with a company whose sole focus is providing Sakai to universities, URI’s instance of Sakai will exist on a more powerful, reliable, and secure platform, that will allow considerably more room for expansion without the University having to invest in significant hardware or infrastructure improvements. Moreover, the vendor will handle all upgrades as well as provide robust training materials for faculty.

At this time, the University has tentatively selected a vendor and is working through the contractual, technical, and procedural issues. The actual transition of our Sakai system to a vendor is still a few months away and will be scheduled with as minimal interruption as possible.

Look for more communication about this in the coming months.