The University of Ghana is piloting a learning management system that enables lecturers, students and researchers of the university to virtually have the essence of their physical learning environment online. The system is currently being piloted in few departments like the Department of Adult Education and the Department of Distance Education. The program will however be rolled out completely by the next academic year, 2015/16, and a lot more departments and courses will be enrolled in the system.
The learning management system being introduced by the university is called Sakai. It is an online learning platform that allows its users to be enrolled into various course sites (for lecturers and students) and project sites (for researchers). In these course and project sites, the lecturers, students and researches have a myriad of tools available to them that allow them to do most of the things they do in their physical learning and working environments online.
Users will typically log into the Sakai system with their student or staff ID and pin. When logged in, users can see and enter all the course or project sites that they belong to, and use the tools made available to them by the instructors of the various course or project sites. Users will also be able to edit/customize their own profiles.
Some of the tools that are available to lecturers and students on this system include;
- An assignment tool that allows for giving, taking and submission of assignments online.
- A Gradebook tool that allows for instant calculation, distribution and storage of grades.
- A forum tool that allows for discussions of topics, creation of private or public groups etc.
- A lesson tool for organizing lessons and lesson materials.
- A syllabus tool for a summary of courses (i.e. course outlines).
- A tests and quizzes tool for taking all kinds of tests and quizzes online.
- A chat tool that allows for chatting between lecturers and students, among course mates and between individuals.
- A resources tool for sharing course materials like slides, handouts and books.
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- An announcement tool to keep students informed about upcoming tests/events, change of lecture times/venues, and any other information instructors or TAs may want to give to students.
- A presentations tool to do presentations online. The presenter may navigate through slides and viewers may navigate independently of the presenter.
- A calendar tool to mark important dates of events, deadlines and any other activities pertaining to each course.
- A drop box tool for sharing all kinds of files with course mates.
- An email tool for sending emails to lecturers, course mates or individuals.
- A polls tool to easily create surveys, distribute and collect data from course members.
- A ‘Turn it in’ tool which will automatically detect and fish out cheating and plagiarism in students’ or researchers’ work.
Most of these tools and more are also available to researchers in project sites.
The pilot has been embraced well by the departments of Adult and Distance Education, with no major hitches reported. By the next academic year, 2015/16, the program will be rolled out completely and many more courses will be enrolled on the system.
This learning management system will greatly enhance the teaching and learning process in the university since it will eliminate many barriers to the traditional way of learning such as having to be physically present and spending on printouts. The system will encourage more engagement, between lecturers and students, and amongst students. It will greatly ease the work of lecturers, students and researchers alike since certain processes that are time-consuming for them are automated and instant in the system. Finally, with tools like ‘Turn it in’ that checks for cheating and plagiarism in students’ works, students will be encouraged to do honest and original work.