NYU's Academic-Led Vision for Sakai 3


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A presentation given on Tuesday, June 15 by Lucy Appert, Tyra Liebmann, Nick Likos, Nadia Sultana, and Robert Squillace, all of
New York University

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  • This presentation describes how four very different NYU academic divisions discovered love in the form of Sakai 3 - the tool they would push and even pay to have developed.
  • Before discussing what brought us to Sakai 3, we want to tell you a little about our development structure. By charting a common, academic-led development path, we are able not only to accommodate the most pressing needs of different divisions and reach equitable compromises on priorities, but also to enrich each others’ vision to create solutions that work better for all of us than what any of us alone would devise.
  • Our stakeholders span the range of the University, from liberal arts divisions to graduate and professional programs. We make high-level development decisions through a steering committee called the SAWG (Sakai/Alex Working Group, “Alex” being the name for NYU’s instance of Sakai), whose members represent the academic divisions, library, and ITS. All SAWG members contribute to the costs of development. By including representatives from the academic divisions in decision-making roles, the SAWG model ensures full commitment through the ups and downs of software development - an important departure from a client model, in which academic divisions freely complain about any flaw in the design of a tool they were given by an IT department to meet their ostensible needs, but in the development of which they had no personal stake.
  • The SAWG model is a particular departure from the previous situation at NYU, in which every division of the University pursued its own aims in isolation from all the others, often leading to duplication of programs and redundant allocation of resources. NYU is, after all, the University with at least five different music programs. We feel the manner in which the SAWG identifies and realizes the common goals of its stakeholders can be a model for the Sakai community as a whole.
  • The NYU division that first gravitated toward Sakai 3 (led in that direction by Barbra Mack, then of NYU-ITS) was the Liberal Studies Program. Here is how it came to love Sakai 3.
  • Liberal Studies encompasses both an integrated, interdisciplinary two-year liberal arts core program delivered at four (soon to be five) international sites, and a four-year Global BA program that involves travel to an additional three (soon to be more) sites. Our common courses (we run upwards of 40 sections of each core course – even more for Writing) and emphasis on teaching led to the initial goal of developing common pedagogical resources. We therefore began work in 2004 on a resource site for delivering music and multimedia support materials to instructors. The issue of platform arose and Sakai was raised as an option even then, but it was not yet supported at NYU, so we re-purposed Blackboard shells instead to deliver to instructors streaming music files and other support materials they could copy to their own course shells. As we expanded beyond streaming music files to other multimedia support, the problems of Bb became evident: 1) Drill-down folder structure, 2) Lack of flexible permissions (one has to be designated an “instructor” to copy files, but instructors can also delete), 3) The student is not an entity in the system; their work is “owned” by the instructor to whom it is submitted and vanishes from the system when the term ends or at the instructor’s discretion.
  • The way Blackboard excluded students from control of their own work got us thinking more broadly about the role students should have in an educational network. In the 2007-08 academic year, we organized a Faculty - Student Committee to work out the ideal structure we had in mind; we were still not thinking in terms of Sakai, but came up with the idea of a three-legged stool where each user’s site would contain: 1) Portfolio Space 2) Rich Content Creation Capacities 3) Academic Networking What you see in this slide is a mock-up of the network page, created for an NEH presentation, from which we received a Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant in 2008 to begin development of what we were then calling Simonides.
  • Here is the mock-up of the content creation page.
  • But as it turned out, most of our initial effort c oncentrated on Portfolios. We initially planned to work from an OSP base, but found its matrix-driven approach inadequate to what we wanted: to use a portfolio as a heuristic self-representation, in which the choices of configuration would themselves reveal patterns by which students organized their college experience – their overall college experience, not just what went on in classes. See our Thursday presentation for greater detail; but portfolios were one of the areas we most benefited by cross-divisional collaboration, as we came to understand from listening to other user needs that a “portfolio” could be a way to present the same information in different ways for three primary purposes: Self-representation: a portfolio of completed work for grad schools, tenure/promotion, etc. Certification: a means for assessing the achievement of core skills in, e. g., professional programs 3) Pedagogy: both within an individual class and over the course of whole education, a way to make the ephemeral virtual and manifest the growth of a mind, especially in its understanding of fundamental taxonomies that span academic and non-academic lives.
  • So when we were introduced to Sakai 3.0, we immediately saw that it offered all the core functionalities we most coveted (except for portfolios, where NYU concentrated its initial work) and more. Having begun from a mere hope to use digital technology to deliver traditional modes of teaching more easily, we now see the potential of Sakai 3 to re-make fundamental liberal arts education patterns: Escape from the educational assembly-line model, in which students are passed from one discrete class with one narrow focus to another to another, with no attention to cross-course connection and overall progress Encourage student agency, since students own and organize their own work independently of courses, and facilitate a more tutorial form of pedagogy 3) Create a network that serve as the model and manifestation of a global university; such a network, including faculty and students, would elide false distinctions between scholarly and pedagogical work/identities and provide ways for students to connect horizontally with each other and not just vertically with the instructor as grade-giver and god. 4) Allow the i nstructor to see a class as a collection of ongoing histories, not blank slates 5) Facilitate n ew idea of assessment (both program and individual) by preserving so much more of student behavior 6) Make a more informed role possible for Advising
  • Small seminar classes, individual attention. Focus on advising. Students looking for a small college feel but are drawn to New York.
  • That is, there are no majors at Gallatin. The student is responsible for creating their own course of study. Though there are some requirements, such as writing, math and science, once these are satisfied, the student is open to build their unique curriculum with the help of faculty and advisers.
  • It is a core belief at Gallatin that an interdisciplinary education is one that best prepares students for the intricacies of our current world where most people will change careers several times in their life and rely more on their ability to adapt and think critically than expertise in one specific skill.
  • Prior to our Sakai development work, Gallatin conducted several focus groups, as well as some informal conversations with students and faculty. The content of the following slides comes directly from those conversations, including the exact words of the students themselves. The first subject that kept coming up, both from students and faculty was the need for an academic community, both a community of Gallatin students, and of people with similar scholarly interests. Some of the audio clips in the following slides have language that may be difficult for those older than twenty-one to parse, but I promise there are some very strong points these students are making. They have a sophisticated understanding of web 2.0 technology and how it could enhance their learning.
  • The next feature that came up was Sharing. Within affinity groups based on . . . But also this idea of breaking down the course silo.
  • As we talked more about sharing the idea of TAGGING took up a prominent role. The students recognized right away content must be discrete and taggable in order for it to be usefully shared and as a tool to bring people together.
  • Preface this slide. “I just want to preface this clip. If you can listen between the likes or whatevers, I promise there is a really good point here”
  • Finally, our students and faculty recognized the need for a portfolio system.
  • NYU Wagner complex, with many disciplines of faculty (JDs, economists, political scientists, planners, MDs); many interests of students ( urban planning, var levels of govt, nonprofit mgmt, microfinance and intl economic develoment, health policy…) Now even teaching undergrad, and courses in global sites – Ghana, Shanghai, Capetown, etc. Complex itself, within complex university; ties across faculty, schools and departments. How to maintain/make connections and find common interests when so scattered? And NYU itself, just within New York, doesn’t have a “campus”. Need other ways to help students connect with each other academically and professionally. with such a diverse mix of students and a growing student body, there was a need to enhance student experience in new ways busy students (ft, pt, working, internships, etc.) We couldn't "hold" , care for, and connect the students better physically. How to accomplish?...
  • We Engaged IDEO global process and product design and innovation firm based on human-factors centered research, discovery, and design IDEO designed prototype for mouse (APPLE), laptop (GriD), Patient Services at Mayo Clinic, Swiffer, Donor Exp at Red Cross IDEO "embedded" with our students. Provided us w many observations and several iterations of recommendations to enhance the Wagner Student Experience articulation of student journeys. Students take many paths through Wagner; no lockstep journeys. some very directed, others less so challenge is to help them all find their own best ways through, making the most of it. make right connections among the many academic choices of faculty and courses; engage with student affinity groups, of which there are two dozen; areas of interest and career goals Many recommendations. But one mechanism suggested, based on student feedback, was what IDEO called the Portfolio. This is where Sakai 3 comes in. This slide is IDEO’s rendering of academic and professional networking “Porfolio” – before we had even heard of Sakai. The Portfolio - is an academic and professional connection vehicle to facilitate a smoother and more connected journey for students, from point of enrollment through becoming an alum.
  • These slides were made by IDEO in their presentation to us. They represent IDEO's suggestions, not exactly what it will end up being, due to some privacy issues and feedback from students. Close enough to give you sense. The Portfolio page, pre-populated with just a couple of fields (name, program), will be presented to the enrolling student immediately after saying "YES, coming to Wagner". Then student opts to fill in and share the rest. Imagine drop-downs to identify: interest area (urban planning, corporate social responsibility, international economic development, etc.) program and specialization (e.g., Health Policy) expected graduation date (some ft, pt, so grad at different rates) Then, over time at Wagner, student would add other fields to flesh out his or her journey, such as relevant jobs and internships, past and current courses taken, with comments student affinity groups membership/engagement books, articles, papers, projects tag information in ways to facilitate students connecting over shared interests So, as student moves through Wagner, more content is added. want to stress, this is NOT a social networking site. Students said did NOT want another Facebook; this is for professional and academic networking
  • After graduation, the Portfolio becomes the person's alumni page, facilitating continued connection with other alums, and even with new students, modeling a Wagner journey for those just entering their program, and trying to find how to navigate their way through. We imagine Sakai 3 as the way to realize for Wagner and other schools this Portfolio concept of academic and professional networking Tracks student's journey, for the student and other students to see, as determined by the student Facilitates connection, displays possible pathways various students have taken, helps connect the dots over time, and pages serve as models for other students embarking on their journeys Very timely for us that NYU pilot ramped up as IDEO made their recommendations. Wagner recognized the potential, and jumped on it. Grateful to NYU colleagues and SAKAI for this fortuitous opportunity
  • The NYU College of Nursing has a rich history in Nursing excellence. The Nursing curriculum started in the School of Education (SOE) in 1932. Nursing became a Department in 1947 and a Division in 1967. When Dr. Fulmer became Division Head of Nursing (SOE) in 2002, she sought new synergies through interdisciplinary health research and education as urged by the Institute of Medicine (IOM ). In 2005, NYU Nursing was raised to the status of a new College of Nursing at the NYU College of Dentistry. Dean Fulmer continues with this legacy by engaging the College to embrace the necessary 21 st century knowledge and skills for practice in a complex health care delivery environment. The use of Sakai will allow both students and alumni to share information, knowledge and research to augment their evidence based Nursing practice.
  • In June 2010, 441 students were graduated from the College of Nursing
  • Beside the Programs mentioned, there are several Centers of Research and Leadership.
  • Community Partnerships in Nursing (CPN) is an innovative and unique approach to meeting the needs of community agencies and health providers for Nurse Practitioners through an academic nursing affiliation. The contracts with community agencies and health providers are to provide the agency with one or more certified Nurse Practitioners. The Nurse Practitioner has a faculty appointment in NYU’s College of Nursing but works in the agency as a full or part-time staff member. The agency in turn becomes a clinical teaching site for NYU nurse practitioner students through the Nurse Practitioner serving as a preceptor In addition, there are various continuing education and certification programs
  • The College also participates in several collaboration efforts. One of which is the PANO, which recently celebrated its 5 th anniversary
  • New York University College of Nursing received a $100,000 Grand Challenges Explorations grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. ハ The grant will support an innovative global health research study titled メ E nhancing Innate Vaginal Defenses to Reduce the Risk of HIV. モハ The research will be conducted by Professor Ann Kurth, PhD, CNM, ハ D irector of Global Health Initiatives, at a clinic that NYU supports in Mombasa Kenya.
  • The College of Nursing user needs for both students and faculty include: Provide an e-Portfolio Facilitate collaboration within and beyond the NYU University community Integrate the learning and course assessments for continuity and professional growth Provide access to research and clinical educational tools Augment existing tools for Global research efforts
  • An example of a Student View
  • An example of an Alumni View
  • Our central discovery over the past year has been that an academic-led development effort can work, and work very well. While it may seem different units have radically different needs, discussion between us and with NYU IT experts and our programming team have shown that these differences are in fact superficial: a single infrastructure can support a variety of uses and goals.
  • Sakai 3 provides just such an infrastructure - it is like a loft in that it provides a durable, adaptable space that can be configured in many different ways, depending on the precise needs of the user. Within the networked space of Sakai 3, the community (either at the level of single institutions or larger consortia) can develop its own templates and widgets for functions as diverse as syllabus delivery and calendaring; it can also integrate with the best external tools, swapping them out for better solutions as they become available. Further, we believe that tagging and group management systems exterior to Sakai will allow an unprecedented level of interoperability, making groups and tags transferable across multiple platforms and even multiple institutions.
  • For more detail on NYU’s development process, see our posted presentation “ Overview of the Academic-Led Development Process of Sakai 3 at NYU.” We describe our pedagogical vision in greater depth in “Transforming Pedagogy: Putting Sakai 3 Into Practice,” which we have also posted to Slideshare.
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