Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sakai: SMS, Q&A, and Course Evaluations

kiwanja_san_francisco_texting_11Image by kiwanja via Flickr

This presentation was by Stephen Marquard of the University of Cape Town where he is the Learning Technologies Co-ordinator at the University of Cape Town. He is also responsible for the University's popular Sakai deployment known as Vula. Stephen is a previous Sakai Fellow and a current member of the Sakai Product Council and Sakai Board.

Find out more about how to send SMS messages from Sakai and integrate incoming SMS messages with Sakai tools and service. Questions and Answers is a contrib tool for asking and answering questions. Course Evaluations provides an easy and powerful way to deliver online course evaluations and other surveys in Sakai. This is a full presentation is a companion to the tech demo covering these tools.

SMS Tool
This is interesting because SMS is tying Sakai to mobile phones. His presentation covers three tools available to the Sakai community.

They are not in a Sakai release but you can have them put in.

The SMS tool is for pushing information out to people. There are some limited two-way uses. There is more information at Confluence.

The outgoing SMS cam be targeted to particular users.
Incoming SMS allows you to send messages in and to take surveys. Other possible uses are chat, polls, glossaries, etc.

They used it to get through placement offers for the college and got back 200 responses in 10 minutes. Students were asked to send student # and accept/decline in the message.

You need a service provider with an SMPP gateway (e.g. http://www.clickatell.com). What destination networks/countries are supported and at what cost per message.

In South Africa, the receiver pays for the messages. They paid a bulk rate to the company.

Privacy Issues
They allow the students to opt in and out. No one gets students mobile numbers if they use it. Less than 5% have opted out.

They have limited experience in running live polls as a "clicker" system.

He thinks of it as a back-channel. You can schedule how messages go out.

Q&A Overview
A tool that supports question driven interactions.

The tool bubbles up the most frequently asked questions. Allows for anonymous answers. Students answer one another's questions. It can be set up for instructor led or peer collaboration. You can set up the questions in categories. It tracks the number of views of the questions. Instructors can screen answers from students.

This tool is often used as a knowledge base. It is minimally connected to SMS. You can text in a question and you will get texted back when there is an answer.

This tool does not require SMS.

Course Evaluation Tool
A tool for delivering course evaluations or surveys.

How you use this tool depends on how a college does its course evaluations. These are very political questions.

Response rates are higher face-to-face but students write more feedback - better qualitative feedback. Online evaluation is more popular with students. Studies have showed that the different media does not skew the responses.

Students will respond when they feel that the responses are important to the institution. There are concerns about what happens to the results.

He reviewed the different ways that the tool is used on his campus. "Direct, relevant, and targeted." This tool is integrated into his institution, I think, because the instructor gets to make a lot of decisions in the evaluation process. There is not a lot of pressure institutionally around course evals. The evaluations tend to stay in the dept.

The tool really breaks things down visually with graphs.

Audience Concerns:
How do you control the release of information?
By default the instructor sets the global configurations for the release date.

There is no way to see the results in progress. One has to close the eval and reopen it to see progress.

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