With the COVID-19 pandemic making remote teaching and learning more widespread, organizations are recognizing that Sakai is an effective tool for teaching and learning in many settings outside higher education. Many are providing educational content for their learners, including such cases as workplace skill development, customer training, and special collaborations.
“Since the pandemic began, we’re getting multiple requests per week for more information about Sakai,” says Martin Ramsay, Managing Director of the LAMP Consortium (lampconsortium.org). The LAMP Consortium is a community of smaller organizations that share a single instance of Sakai as well as other technologies for teaching and learning. “The LAMP Consortium was started to serve smaller colleges,” says Ramsay. “But we’ve expanded well beyond that. The Editorial Freelancers Association, for example, uses Sakai for classes it provides to its members. The National Dance Education Organization trains dance instructors across the country. The pandemic has caused a major uptick in interest in its programs. And last year, for the first time, we helped NDEO conduct the national certification exam for new dance instructors. We did it all in Sakai.”
One example of a nonprofit now using Sakai is the Chordoma Foundation. Located in Durham, North Carolina, the Chordoma Foundation connects researchers looking for a cure for the rare brain and skull cancer, helps fund the research, and more importantly connects patients with resources and mentors who will walk with them through treatment. The Foundation is using Sakai to make connections between people and to provide a repository for its information.
In a completely different arena, Leaders Ought to Know is a business initiative that provides leadership development services to its clients. Newly-promoted supervisors, who are often thrown into their new leadership role with little preparation, are taken through a series of videos and learning activities, all hosted in Sakai. Sakai’s tools for discussion forums, quizzes, and guided lessons to walk new leaders through a curriculum that can span four years and that covers leadership fundamentals, employee motivation, communication skills, and teamwork.
Sakai’s capabilities for delivering educational content and fostering collaboration make it an attractive platform for a wide variety of uses.
The LAMP Consortium’s newest member is the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, part of the City University of New York. Despite being affiliated with CUNY, John Jay is using Sakai in a non-traditional way, teaching criminal justice completely in Spanish to administrators and law enforcement officials in Central and South America under the auspices of USAID. “We have launched one of the two five-course programs this week,” says Hung-En Sung, Director of International Research Partnerships for John Jay. “It went very very well. Trainees are getting access and my assistants are guiding them through Sakai without any problem. We are super satisfied and getting ready for the start up of the second program next week too.”
When asked about some other members of the LAMP Consortium that are not traditional academic institutions, Ramsay grins and counts off a list on his fingers. “We have a respiratory therapy certification prep course group out of Dayton, Ohio. There is a team out of Washington University in St. Louis working with public schools in New Mexico. We have a non-profit that trains low-income housing advocates all over the country. There is an organization that works in the for-profit food-service industry that is based outside of Atlanta. We even have a Ph.D. candidate who is studying the concept of joy among evangelical Christians. Do you want me to go on?” Even technology companies are recognizing the value of Sakai. Digication, a tech startup that provides an electronic portfolio platform, sees the value. “Digication joined the LAMP Consortium to get access to Sakai so that they can leverage Sakai’s LTI capabilities,” notes Ramsay.
Ramsay says that “a wide variety of organizations are joining the LAMP Consortium because we make it affordable and because we take care of the technological headaches. But mostly they join because they get to use Sakai in all kinds of interesting ways.” He pauses, then drops his voice. “We’re currently talking to a Fortune 500 company. Obviously I can’t disclose who they are until they join us, but everyone will recognize them once they do.”
When asked about the future of Sakai, Ramsay looks off into the distance. “Sakai is not just for the academy any more,” he says. “I think the coming years will see Sakai used in ways the original designers might never have imagined.”
Check out the LAMP Learning Consortium at www.lampconsortium.org.