New Course Management System: U.Va. will Replace Toolkit with Sakai, an Open-source Solution

October 04, 2007
Oct. 4, 2007 – The University of Virginia announced today that it has selected Sakai, an open-source online collaboration and learning tool, to replace the Instructional Toolkit as its course management system.

The announcement was made by Milton Adams, vice provost for academic programs, and James Hilton, vice president and chief information officer.

“The transition to Sakai will provide U.Va. with a space for online collaboration and teaching in the 21st century, where universities must support both residential and distance education to fulfill their core teaching and research missions. The new system will better support teaching and learning, ad hoc group collaboration, e-portfolios and online research collaboration throughout U.Va.,” said Adams.

The Advisory Committee on Instructional Technology and Course Management, which includes faculty representatives from the schools, Information Technology and Communication and the provost’s office, evaluated the strategic implications of both open-source and commercial approaches. Hilton said the committee recommended an open-source solution rather than a proprietary one for several reasons, chiefly because open-source systems enable institutions to customize programs in ways that commercial products don’t allow.

“Participation in a community-source solution is in alignment with the culture of the academy. It enables universities to grow the software further and in directions that are unique to their needs, while contributing their code back to other project developers,” said Hilton. By choosing Sakai, U.Va. joins institutions including Yale, Stanford, Indiana, Georgia Tech, the University of California-Berkeley, Northwestern, Michigan and Virginia Tech.

Hilton explained that Sakai offers many newer Web technologies, such as wikis, chat, project groups and assignment submission with feedback that Toolkit – a program developed at U.Va. – has been unable to support. All features now available through the Toolkit will also be available through Sakai, he added.

“Sakai provides a single environment which supports both course content and course administration and provides collaboration tools for researchers – thus helping to blur the distinction between the laboratory and classroom and between knowledge creation and digestion,” Hilton said.

Sakai has been in a pilot phase, known as “Collab,” at U.Va. for the past 18 months. To date, more than 600 online worksites have facilitated the collaborative and instructional work of more than 5,000 users in project teams, research consortia, advisory boards, committees, working groups and courses.

Both Instructional Toolkit and Sakai will be supported during a two-year transition period. Early adopters and those who want to use Sakai’s framework for new tools and features can begin as early as January 2008. More courses and users are expected to switch throughout 2008, while those who wish to continue using Toolkit may do so. After the spring 2009 semester, all new course Web sites will be created on Sakai. Toolkit will be placed in read-only mode for access to previously offered courses.

No name has been chosen for U.Va.’s implementation of Sakai for both course management and online collaboration. The project team is soliciting ideas for a name from the University community. Name suggestions can be submitted online at