Sakai brings Collaboration & Continuous Improvement

While Sakai is primarily used for instruction in course sites, did you know that the learning management system is also used for several other projects unrelated to courses at UNC? We had over 2,200 project sites created just for the Spring 2015 Semester!

In the video below, Thao Nghi Bui, Learning Technologies Administrator, and Morgon Haskell, Technology Support Specialist, in ITS-Teaching & Learning discuss how Sakai brings collaboration and continuous improvement to the University.

Here is a summary of the video–

Sakai, the open source learning management system (LMS) used at UNC supports teaching and learning, research, and collaboration. Staff members across campus are using Sakai for multiple use cases, such as research, grant proposals, reviews on faculty/staff members, and training.

Primarily, Sakai is used for courses. UNC instructors are using Sakai to upload and distribute content to students and set up online assessments. Sakai provides the tools for instructors to transition to a convenient, online experience as opposed to being restricted to just the classroom. The LMS also allows for a secure connection to externally-hosted 3rd party applications through LTI integration, providing more means for interaction and learning in the virtual classroom.

Also discussed was the Sakai 10 Upgrade back in May. See all the new features here! While additional enhancements are still in the works, some features the Sakai Community is currently working on include a responsive system better equipped for mobile functionality, an enhanced user interface without iframes, a new spreadsheet viewer grader, plus more!

One of the great things about Sakai is that this is an open source platform, which means the people developing the system are those who use it and know what people want in the system. The options are endless for features and functionality you might see in Sakai.

Thanks for sharing, Thao Nghi and Morgon!

VoiceThread Upgrade July 30

vt_newHeads up UNC–we’re upgrading VoiceThread on July 30th! The upgrade will require no downtime, so feel free to keep sharing your VTs this summer.

Here is a quick sneak peek of some new stuff you’ll see in VoiceThread after the upgrade in 6 weeks. We’ll get into more details with these updates next month–

  • Personalize your VoiceThread home
    • View My VoiceThreads as thumbnails or list
    • Open or collapse sidebar menu
    • Set new light or dark background
  • Drag-and-drop uploads
  • Bulk-action abilities
  • Easily reorder slides
  • New sharing options – easily see who has access
  • Comments aligned in one column

Or view the following VoiceThread to see the new updates and the new, simplified look!


VoiceThread Maintenance: July 4 | 12-8 AM

Please note that VoiceThread will be performing updates on their system on Saturday, July 4, from 12 AM until 8 AM. Voicethread will be unavailable from 12 AM until 2 AM and available but with slow performance from 2 AM until 8 AM.

July 4 VoiceThread Maintenance
VoiceThread unavailable: 12 AM – 2 AM
VoiceThread available with slow service: 2 AM – 8 AM

Thank you!

Upcoming Sakai Peer Review Workshop

pixabay_593362Want to *try something new* in your class that puts students at the forefront of learning?

Check out peer review! Peer review involves students submitting writing assignments and also reviewing and critiquing each others’ writing. It is a great way to help students improve their writing skills.

With peer review, students construct and respond to their own feedback, the amount of feedback they receive is increased, and it forces them to transition from writing primarily for an instructor to a broader audience. See more tips on peer review from the Teaching Center at Washington University in St. Louis.

Peer Review Workshop: June 30

Peer assessments are easy to implement in Sakai through the Assignments tool or the Lessons tool. If you are interested in trying out peer evaluations, we invite you to join us at our upcoming Peer Review Workshop at the end of this month!

Using Sakai’s Peer Review Tools [Register]
Tuesday, June 30
1:30pm – 2:30pm
UL 124

This workshop will demonstrate the peer review feature that is available in Sakai 10. Participants will have the opportunity to preview and discuss peer review scenarios along with setting up a peer review assignment in Sakai. We hope you’ll join us!

If you would like to go ahead and get started on the peer review tool, check out our previous blog post!

Stay on Top of Your Academics with Apps

[080804 BU 1C MO]  Automatic IPTCNearly everyone has a smartphone these days. Instead of being distracted by them, use your phone, tablet, or computer to your advantage to help you succeed! The UNC Writing Center, Learning Center, and a group of students have teamed up to collaborate on a new project to help optimize your academic life with apps–App Compendium!

The collaborators search the app universe to bring you a list of tools that may help you improve your academic career at Carolina. With App Compendium, you can find apps to help you enhance your studying, productivity, health and so much more!

All about Apps

According to the App Compendium website, the featured applications “cover a range of topics–everything from flash cards to alarm clocks, note-taking to problem-solving, and lots in between.” There is also an ongoing blog for more information on the apps based on the personal experience of students and staff.

To give you an idea of what you might find on App Compendium, here are just a few featured apps:

7_min_workout7 Minute Workout
Complete these 7-minute, 12-exercise workout plans for a quick fitness boost.

Keep up-to-date with what’s happening on campus with this student-friendly app. Also see our T&L Blog post!

freaky_alarmFreaky Alarm
Solve games and puzzles to turn off your alarm. Wake your brain up before your feet even hit the floor!

khan_academyKhan Academy
View high-quality video lectures and complete exercises on a variety of topics, with a particular focus on science and math.

Keep track of classes and assignments, manage your schedule, and set reminders.

Create and study flashcards; you can also access millions of card sets other users have created.

way_of_lifeWay of Life
Build positive habits by monitoring trends in your lifestyle and receiving regular reminders.

Manage your tasks and projects from your phone, tablet, or computer. Also see our T&L Blog post!

This is just a small chunk of the different types of apps you’ll find on App Compendium. They are constantly updating their list of resources, so we invite you to check it out! App Compendium is a great start for reaching academic success at Carolina!

New Look for Bb Collaborate in Sakai 10

bbc_logoWe just upgraded to Sakai 10 on Monday, and with this update rolled out the new LTI integration of Blackboard Collaborate! You will find an improved user interface that makes it easier to create sessions and navigate through the options.

Important Notes:

  • Previous sessions and recordings are still available in the Elluminate Live! Bridge tool. All new sessions and recordings will only be available in the new Blackboard Collaborate tool.
  • Due to the LTI integration for the new tool, meetings cannot be restricted to specific site participants. Consider sharing the Guest Link to meeting attendees only.

We invite you to check out the new Blackboard Collaborate integration in Sakai!

Create Session

To create a session, click on + Create Session in the upper right corner. A window will pop up to enter the Name, Start time, End time (now optional!), and Early Entry time. Click on the blue Create Session button when you’re ready to create the room!


You can also edit Options, such as giving Moderator privileges and supervising chats, and upload Bb Collaborate Whiteboard/Plan files or Multimedia files through the Content tab.


NOTE: You can keep one room open for an extended period of time and reuse that room for multiple purposes.

Join Session

Click on the session you want to join. The pop-up window will include the Join button, as well as telephony dial-in information, and a Guest Join Link to share with non-site users. You can also Edit or Delete the session from this window.


Participants will see only see Participant dial-in details:


To access recordings, click on the top Recordings tab, select your recorded session, and click on Play from the pop-up window. Moderators can now also convert their recordings into MP3 and MP4 files themselves! Just click on Start Conversion.


Blackboard Collaborate Launcher

Don’t forget that you must install the Blackboard Collaborate Launcher to access Bb Collaborate sessions and recordings. You should be prompted when attempting to open a Bb Collaborate session with options to download the launcher.

Let us know if you need help by calling 962-HELP. See what else is new in Sakai 10!

Fall 2015 Rosters in Sakai

pixabay_510470Fall 2015 rosters are now in Sakai! Get a head start on the Fall Semester by creating your course sites now! Remember that you must be listed as one of the following for each of your section rosters in ConnectCarolina in order to create your course site in Sakai:

  • Primary Instructor
  • Secondary Instructor
  • Proxy
  • Dean’s Designate

Teaching Assistants in ConnectCarolina cannot create course sites in Sakai. Also note that Sakai data updates three times a day, so you may need to wait up to 24 hours for your Sakai account to update with Registrar information. Please contact your departmental scheduling officer if you have any issues. See this post for details!

Create Course Site

Get started in My Workspace > Worksite Setup to create your course site! See the following tutorial for step-by-step instructions:

Notice step 5 has a *new feature that came with Sakai 10–the right-hand side will display tools that are selected to be enabled on the site. See what else is new in Sakai 10!

If you are teaching the same course and want to reuse old course material, you can easily do so as you are creating your course site or any time after the site has been created. You have three different options:

  • Re-use Material from Other Sites You Own
  • Import from Site
  • Copy specific items into Resources from other sites

See Duplicate your content between Sakai sites for full details.

Contact the ITRC Help Desk at or 962-HELP if you have any questions. Good luck with Summer courses!

Welcome to Sakai 10!

sk10_welcomeThe Sakai 10 Upgrade is complete!

We finished the upgrade early and are very happy to release the new version of Sakai to the Carolina campus! Please let us know if you run into any problems or strange behaviors by contacting the ITRC Help Desk at or 962-HELP.

Please note that you may also need to clear your browser cache to see all updates.

What’s New in Sakai 10

We detailed several new features in the weeks before the upgrade, but here is an extensive list of what’s new in Sakai 10! See the full list here.


Site Info


  • New look
  • Assign start and end dates
  • Bulk-create/update/delete items



  • Group Assignments
  • Add Visible Date
  • Download all Assignments with flat file structure
  • Hide Assignment due date
  • Instructor comments sent to Gradebook
  • Notification sent to student when instructor allows resubmission

Tests & Quizzes

  • Tabbed view in Settings
  • Event Log tracks entries, submissions, and errors
  • New question types: Calculated Question, Extended Matching Items
  • Option for “All or Nothing” credit on Multiple Choice with Multiple Selection questions


  • Pictures display from Profile (from My Workspace)
  • Site admininstrators can move threads between Topics
  • Reflect same grade entry type setting from Gradebook


  • New tabbed view for adding content
  • Question polls
  • Peer review rubric
  • Table of contents
  • Option for anonymous comments and pages
  • Student pages can be owned by group and individuals
  • Embedded audio/video now supports HTML5

Drop Box

  • Instructor can send file to multiple students
  • Option to compress student folder into ZIP file


  • New look
  • Expands down and to the right
  • Word count plugin

Preferences (My Workspace)

  • Option to display site description instead of site ID in tabs
  • Improved language list to select desired language


  • Display sender’s profile picture (My Workspace) on received messages
  • Redesign of selecting recipients


  • Option to add start and end dates to rooms

Embedded Help Tool

  • Redesigned interface

There are just too many new features to mention! Check out the full list on the UniconĀ  website. Welcome to Sakai 10!

New in Sakai 10: Group Assignments & Joinable Groups

We are just a few days away from the Sakai 10 Upgrade!

We’ve got one more great feature to announce that we think you’ll be pretty excited about. Have you ever assigned students to a group and had them work on projects together? Well we’ve got good news because the Sakai 10 Upgrade brings…Group Assignments! Now it will be easier than ever to have students submit their assignments as a group and grade their work as a unit.

Create Groups with Joinable Sets – New!

To create a Group Assignment, you must first create Groups. You can manually set up each Group or you can use another *new feature* coming in Sakai 10 and create Sets of Joinable Groups! Joinable Group Sets consist of automatically created groups based on a set name a site admin creates, which users then select to join themselves.

1) Go to Site Info > Manage Groups
2) Select Create New Joinable Set
3) Enter a Set name, Number of groups, and Max members per group
4) Check the following if you want to:

  • Allow user to see group membership before joining
  • Allow members to see the other members of these groups after joining
  • Allow members to unjoin (leave) groups in this set after joining


5) Click Add

Students will then go to Site Info to join a Group. Depending on what options you allowed during the Group Set creation process, this is what students will see:


Students click on the Join button for the Group they want to join. Groups at capacity will be grayed out and unjoinable. Note that an individual can only join one Group per set.

Create Group Assignment

Go to the Assignments tool and create an Assignment. Note the *new “Use Visible Date” feature* that allows an instructor to set when an Assignment becomes visible to students! You will set up the group functionality in the Access section:

1) Check Are submissions for a group?
2) Select to Display to site or selected groups

NOTE: If any student will be a member of more than one Group at any point during the course, you must choose Display to selected groups and check each Group that will submit to this Assignment. Otherwise, students will not be able to submit to the Assignment.

3) Make any other necessary modifications and click on Post.

Grading Group Submissions

Any member of each Group may submit to the Assignment, and each student will receive an email confirmation once the Assignment has been submitted for their Group.

When an instructor grades group submissions, they will assign one grade to all group members, however you can override an individual’s grade if needed. Just check the “Assign Grade Overrides” option and enter the override grade for the individuals.


Sakai 10 Upgrade Outage: Monday May 11 | 8AM-5PM

sk10_upgradeThis is it. We are just days away from the Sakai 10 Upgrade! Please prepare for Sakai to be inaccessible on Monday, May 11, from 8AM until 5PM as we apply the upgrade.

We appreciate your patience and can’t wait for Sakai 10!

Spring 2015 Semester in Review

grads_old_well_5_8_12_082Exams are officially over and all final grades are due by this Friday, which means the Spring Semester is just about done! The Carolina community will be celebrating the accomplishments of all UNC Graduates this Sunday in Kenan Stadium at the Spring Commencement. Congratulations and best of luck to all the Graduates!

Here is a quick review of the Spring 2015 Semester!
(Click on each chart to enlarge)

Virtual Lab

Virtual Lab is one excellent resource all students should utilize! If you need to use software for class but don’t want to pay for it, use it for free on Virtual Lab! Check out the top 10 applications in Virtual Lab for Spring 2015:

vl_app_sp15See all available Virtual Lab applications.

Virtual Lab Maintenance: Thursday May 7

Please plan for maintenance work on Virtual Lab from 6-8AM tomorrow, May 7. Connections to the website might be intermittent during this time. Thank you!

CCI Printing

Students have the convenience of printing at over 50 campus locations using their allocated funds with CCI Printing. See the breakdown of each non-residence hall campus location for the Spring 2015 Semester!cci_campus_sp15


Here is a review on Sakai usage for the Spring 2015 Semester. We had a total of 3,923 courses taught by 2,276 unique instructors on 3,081 published course sites–up 116 total courses from Spring 2014! There were also 2,251 project sites created this semester by request.

Sakai is great for communicating and assessing student work. Check out how many course sites enabled these collaborative tools this semester:

Groups: 3,146 | 97.34%
Communication: 2,933 | 90.75%
Discussion Boards: 785 | 24.29%
Gradebook: 1,535 | 47.49%
Assignments & Assessments: 1,168 | 36.14%

Here is the full Sakai tool usage for Spring 2015:

sk_tools_sp15Want to learn more about the different tools in Sakai? Sign up for a personal consultation!

Sakai 10 Upgrade Outage: Monday May 11


The Sakai 10 Upgrade is less than a week away, and we couldn’t be more excited!

Please prepare for Sakai to be offline and inaccessible on Monday, May 11. We plan to take the system offline at 8AM and back up by 5PM.

We’ve got one more exciting new feature to announce in Sakai 10 before we officially upgrade. Stay tuned, and get ready for the upgrade on Monday!

End-of-Semester Sakai Reminders

The end of the semester is here! We wanted to give you a few reminders and tips on Sakai before closing out the semester.

Gradebook Checklist

Instructors, make sure to check these 5 steps off the Gradebook Checklist:

  1. Verify all grades have been entered
  2. Check items are included in final grade calculations
  3. Set ungraded items to 0 – Sakai will only calculate items with scores!
  4. Release final grades to students
  5. Export grades for ConnectCarolina

Providing Feedback on Assignments & Tests

Here are some valuable tips on providing feedback and returning grades to students. Save valuable time by bulk-uploading Assignments, and make sure you are not showing students feedback while they are taking your test! See tips here.

Online Testing Reminders for Students

What students need to know about online testing.Students, are you taking an online exam? Here are 5 things you need to know about online testing:

  1. Confirm you have dedicated Internet access
  2. Use Firefox
  3. Avoid opening new browser windows or tabs
  4. Use Sakai’s built-in navigation
  5. You will time-out after 60 minutes of inactivity

Sakai Help Session Friday

Have last-minute Sakai questions before the semester ends? Need help finalizing your grades? Sakai experts will be in the House Undergraduate Library this Friday to assist you with your Sakai needs! Drop in any time between 2pm and 3:30pm. Please register for the event to ensure that a consultant will be available to meet with you. We hope to see you!

Sakai Drop-in Help Session [Register]
Friday, May 1
UL 034

Sakai Outages: April 26-28

We also wanted to apologize to the Carolina community for the Sakai performance issues we experienced Sunday and Monday of this week. We know this is an extremely stressful time for our faculty and students. Sakai has been stable since late Tuesday night, and we are continuing to monitor the system. Please see our ITS Website for communications, a log of service disruptions, and other updates. Also prepare for nightly maintenance work from 3AM until 4AM for the duration of the final examination period. If you experience any issues with the Sakai system, please call 962-HELP. Thank you!

Good luck on finals! You’re almost done!