International award for innovative teaching with Sakai

Published 22 September 2009

sakaigerCherry Stewart, an Educational Developer at the University of New England, has won an international award for her innovative use of the open-source educational software platform Sakai.

Mrs Stewart was presented with one of four “Teaching with Sakai Innovation Awards” at the 10th annual international Sakai conference in Boston, USA, in July. This week, the Chief Executive Officer of the Sakai Foundation, Michael Korcuska, visited UNE to talk to Mrs Stewart and her colleagues in the UNE-based collaborative project “DEHub: Innovation in Distance Learning”.

Mr Korcuska said that the Innovation Awards, now in their second year, recognise “the effective and appropriate use of online learning tools to support innovative pedagogical strategies”. The judges – from outside the Sakai community – are recruited from around the world.

Sakai is a free, open-source software platform,” Mr Korcuska explained, “built by higher education institutions themselves, for scholarly collaboration in teaching and research. In using Sakai, you’re not just acquiring a product – you’re joining a community.”

Mrs Stewart’s award-winning project, titled Reflective eLearning, is a professional development program for lecturers, designed to familiarise them with the Sakai system and allow them to experience it as “students”. More than 60 staff members from UNE’s School of Education and School of Health participated in the program during the three iterations delivered in 2008 and 2009.

“I was very proud, in receiving the award, to be part of the team that has been piloting Sakai at UNE for the past two years,” Mrs Stewart said. “The award demonstrates that UNE can be innovative in the provision of online learning for distance students. I believe it’s really urgent for us to invest in the future by collaborating with others who are driving the agenda for open-source education – opening courses to the world.”

The use of Sakai is enabling distance-education students in several UNE disciplines to learn through collaborative projects, and through interactive functions such as blogs, wikis, and quiz tools. About 40 UNE course units currently employ Sakai, involving more than 3,000 users (students and staff members).

THE IMAGE displayed here expands to show Mrs Stewart and Mr Korcuska with the Sakai award (and an appreciative “Sakaiger”).