Posted by: rmostell | May 21, 2009

Why the University of Oxford switched to Sakai

For years, the University of Oxford and the University of Leeds in the UK used the open source virtual learning environment Bodington .  However, in August 2007, The University of Leeds selected the Blackboard Academic Suite including the Blackboard Community and Content Systems and went live with their new virtual learning environment “The VLE” in September 2008.

Blackboard goes lives at Leeds

The Leeds Blackboard VLE

These events left the University of Oxford holding the bag as the primary developer and maintainer of Bodington.  Thus, the University of Oxford spent a great deal of effort in researching alternatives for Bodington.  In the end, they selected Sakai for their own virtual learning environment and plan to go live with their new WebLearn VLE in June 2009 after a year of beta testing the new system.

What I think is most important about these changes is not that one university selected Blackboard and the other selected Sakai but the fact that the University of Oxford documented their deliberations and the basis for their final decision and shared this information with the rest of the world on the web.  Links to this information are provided below.

What I think would be most helpful for other universities considering alternative VLE software would be for those universities who have made changes in the past 2 or 3 years to also share the results of their deliberations with everyone else following the lead of the University of Oxford.  This should help reduce the amount of redundancy in effort required by institutions to investigate and compare the different VLE software systems available.

I will state the caveat, however, that it is a moving target in that technology is constantly changing (improving I hope) and the marketplace has undergone significant changes recently especially when the dominant player (Blackboard) purchased two of it’s major commercial rivals (WebCT and ANGEL Learning).


Links to information at the University of Oxford:

Your Questions Answered by Oxford

Procurement documents at Oxford

Oxford Checklist used for assessing VLEs

The Oxford WebLearn wiki

Feature comparison of VLEs by Oxford

The Oxford WebLearn VLE (beta)

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