Sakai 11 and the NGDLE


The biggest shortcoming of the traditional Learning Management System (LMS) or Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) is that, although it remains effective in handling the administrative management of a course, it does not always facilitate learning effectively as new course models and pedagogical approaches are developed by educational institutions. This need for a new generation of learning tools has resulted in the definition of the concept of a New Generation Digital Learning Environment (NGDLE).

The NGDLE, according to Educause, Unizin, Gartner Group and IMS, is now widely acknowledged as being a flexible and variable ecosystem comprising learning tools and components to support learning directly. It is also agreed that interoperability, personalisation, collaboration, learning assessment encompassing analytics, planning and advising systems that focus on overall student success, as well as accessibility and universal design, are the must have components for the NGDLE.

The difficulty with establishing an extensive range of learning applications is that they may fail to share enough functional similarities to establish a unified learning environment. It is also acknowledged that very few institutions use the most advanced features of a digital learning environment. For those that do, implementing separate systems or applications to address the more complex needs of the digital learning environment may not be the most financially viable option. Support for an expansive collection of applications and tools could also prove to be difficult to provide.

Sakai 11, the latest version of Apereo’s ( premier open and community source collaboration and learning environment, was released a few weeks ago. It now features a new user interface, new functionalities and responsive design for multiple devices through the use of Mobile Optimised Responsive Portal for Higher Education Using Saas (MORPHEUS). Accessibility requirements are addressed by meeting and exceeding all accessibility design principles found in recognised international standards (

Sakai has been growing the value of the traditional LMS by implementing improved usability, simplicity and more flexibility than in previous versions. This has now laid the foundation for Sakai to deliver learning in a the new era. Sakai community members frequently develop and publish additional Sakai-specific tools and innovations. Freely available as ‘contrib tools’, these tools are not packaged with the core Sakai product release, but are tested, documented and released under open licenses for anyone to use.

To further add to an ecosystem of learning tools and components, Sakai 11, through its implementation of the IMS Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) standards, enables diversity while still fostering coherence. In the Apereo portfolio of projects, the Learning Analytics Initiative (LAI) is aiming to address the widely discussed issue of learning analytics.

Although no single solution can accommodate the needs of all students and teachers, the most obvious approach is an ecosystem in which all components form the entire learning environment. By implementing Sakai 11, core elements in the NGDLE research can be accomplished: Functions such as ‘communication’, ‘collaboration’, ‘testing’, scheduling, ‘submitting and assessing assignments’ and many more constitute the starting point when setting up a digital learning environment.

OPENCOLLAB (Pty) Ltd is the only official Apereo commercial affiliate in Africa.

Elsabe Botha is the Business Development Manager at OPENCOLLAB

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