New guidance for SmartSite

The campus has created an oversight committee to help guide the growth of SmartSite, the main campus system that faculty, students and staff can use to teach, research and collaborate online.

SmartSite finishes its first academic year as a full system in June, and it has attracted significant use. Since last summer, faculty have created more than 1,600 course sites using the service. The Provost's Office also used the system to create a budget planning site to share information and comments about how the California budget deficit is affecting UC Davis.

Pete Siegel, vice provost for Information and Educational Technology, appointed the SmartSite Oversight Committee to help make important decisions coming up, including when to retire the MyUCDavis course-management tools that SmartSite will eventually replace. The members represent a cross-section of faculty, students and administrators. Its co-chairs are two faculty members.

The committee will help direct the transition from the MyUCDavis course tools to the SmartSite course tools, said Susan Keen, co-chair of the committee. She is a lecturer and academic coordinator in the Evolution and Ecology Section of the College of Biological Sciences.

Various options exist for developing tools and timing the different parts of the changeover. Each option has costs and benefits, she said. "Not everything can be done at once."

The aim is to provide strong functional tools for as many users as possible during the transition.

The committee, which first met in mid-April, has five goals, to:

--Advise Siegel.

--Develop a long-term roadmap for SmartSite.

--Develop recommendations concerning immediate and short -term issues, opportunities and priorities.

--Consult with various campus groups to get their comments and agreement on issues.

--Regularly present its recommendations and findings to the Campus Council for Information Technology, which helps steer overall IT decisions for the campus.

Other changes ahead this year include the latest upgrade to the Sakai software that powers SmartSite, and improvements to the SmartSite Gradebook tool.

Electronic  Course  Management  Grows

MyUC Davis Web portal is sticking around

The course tools available through the MyUCDavis Web portal had been scheduled for retirement this fall, but that has changed. The retirement will be influenced by improvements in the Gradebook tool in SmartSite. Until that feature works at least as well as the comparable MyUCDavis Gradebook tool, the MyUCDavis course-management tools won't be discontinued. (Faculty will have at least one year to make the transition once the new Gradebook is available.)

The older tools need to be retired because SmartSite has more features, better flexibility, and will be easier to expand as UC Davis grows. At some point, the ability to create new course sites using the MyUCDavis tools will be removed. But past MyUCDavis course materials, resources and grades will be available to faculty, for a period of time, and the MyUCDavis portal itself will continue.

"Some of the MyUCDavis course tools work very well, but others are clunky and unsuited to the needs of many users," Keen said. Many courses have supplemented MyUCDavis course tools with other materials, but "the new system provides a one-stop-shopping site."

And the open-source co llaboration behind SmartSite--Sakai is developed and supported by a group of about 100 universities and colleges--lets the campus capitalize on tools created at other campuses, Keen said. "We can use things we might never have imagined making on our own."

Upgrade and Gradebook

The SmartSite upgrade to version 2.5 of Sakai, scheduled this summer, will fix bugs, improve the user interface, and resynchronize SmartSite with the Sakai code base to help prepare the way for future upgrades and maintenance patches.

The primary goal this year is to improve the Gradebook tool in SmartSite, which instructors use to record students' grades. There will be seven major upgrades in Gradebook, including three of the most commonly used functions that allow instructors to drop a student's lowest grade, exclude an assignment from grading, and creating equal weighting for assignments within a category of work.

The committee is also looking at two other development priorities--a content player and online course evaluation (an optional module)--in collaboration with the SmartSite project team.


Several stories, available in the archives of IT Times, TechNews and Dateline, have reported the evolution of SmartSite since it started as a pilot program in early 2006. Send questions or comments to

The SmartSite Oversight Committee

--Caroline Bledsoe, Senate Faculty Member, Liaison, CCFIT-Educational Technologies Workgroup
--Susan Keen, Federated Faculty Member

--Kirk Alexander, IET, SmartSite Program Manager (ex officio)
--Janet Brown-Simmons, AdMAN
--Adam Costanzo, Graduate Student Association
--Pam Davis, Computer Support Manager, School of Education, Liaison, TI F-CSI Chair
--Liz Gibson, IET, Academic Technology Services (ex officio)
--Lori Lubin, Senate Faculty, Physics
--Robert McKee Irwin, Senate Faculty, Liaison: Academic Senate Committee for Information Technology
--Don Meisenheimer, Federated Faculty, University Writing Program
--Paul Salitsky, Federated Faculty, Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior
--Babette Schmitt, IET, Communications Director (ex officio)
--Dan Sheeter, Associated Students of UC Davis
--Hampton Sublett, Liaison to MyUCDavis Oversight Committee
--Jon Wagner, Senate Faculty, School of Education, and Director, Teaching Resources Center
--Frank Wada, University Registrar
--Peter Yellowlees, Senate Faculty and Director, UCDHS Academic Information System
--Gail Yokote, Senior AUL-Sciences, University Library

The co-chairs welcome questions or comments about the committee. Write to Susan Keen at or to Caroline Bledsoe at