The future was yesterday

Columbia is no stranger to website redesigns, but here comes an overhaul that will actually matter. As CUIT so eloquently phrases it on the CourseWorks home page, this fall “CourseWorks Begins Transition to New CourseWorks.”

The current CourseWorks is based on the Prometheus course management system and has been around since 2001—to put that in perspective, if CourseWorks were a child, it would be entering 5th grade. It’s seriously been a long time coming, and CUIT has been planning this since 2008, but Columbia is finally starting to begin its transition to a new course management system, based on the open source Sakai Project.

In a press release, CUIT hails this system for its “state-of-the-art online learning and information sharing tools,” includes discussion boards, grade books, and file drop boxes. If this sounds familiar, it’s because Sakai will have largely the same offerings as CourseWorks, only presumably now it won’t go completely offline whenever PrezBo plugs in too many things in his office or something. Moreover, some new features of Sakai include some sort of live chat/IM system, polling, wikis, and what CUIT’s press release ominously refers to as “social media.”

CUIT will begin transitioning classes to this new system in waves, starting in Fall 2011 and concluding in Spring 2013. First up are classes from the Med Center, School of Social Work, Anthropology and Statistics departments, and select “early adopters” from SEAS, the J-School, and Architecture department. With this transition, Columbia will finally be joining a long list of institutions that have already adopted Sakai, which has been around since 2004. Don’t get too excited though: to quote one student from a school already using Sakai, “It’s not pretty, but it gets the work done.” To quote another, “It sucks.”

Generic Sakai website via Sakai Project