Open forum on SmartSite draws a receptive, inquisitive audience

The Campus Council for Information Technology sponsored an open forum Tuesday on the major changes in the works for SmartSite. About 50 people attended to listen, discuss, comment and ask questions.

Most of the Davis campus uses SmartSite to manage courses and collaborate on projects online. The pending changes include an upgrade to version 2.6 of the underlying Sakai open-source software; new tools; better resource materials; and the transfer of system hosting and maintenance to rSmart, a leading commercial affiliate of Sakai. Previously, SmartSite has been maintained by the campus.

A focused pilot, involving faculty, staff and technical staff, is testing the planned changes. Feedback from Tuesday's forum will be added to input collected at other sessions this quarter, to help inform the decision of whether to proceed with the changes in mid-December, or to wait until the end of winter quarter to allow more time to resolve any outstanding issues. A "go/no go" decision is expected by Dec. 15.

The speakers were Joe Kiskis, chair of CCFIT; Susan Keen, co-chair of CCFIT's Educational Technology Subcommittee; Liz Gibson, director of Academic Technology Services for Information and Educational Technology, which manages SmartSite; Kirk Alexander, SmartSite program manager; and Steve Faith, SmartSite trainer. Pete Siegel, vice provost for IET and campus chief information officer, also attended.

The audience, mostly faculty and staff, heard an overview of the changes; the work and consultations done over the past year; the merits of rSmart; the move to rSmart's data center; and a rundown of the new tools and features available in the upgrade. People asked more than two dozen questions, on topics that ranged from security and backup systems to Gradebook and improvements they would like to s ee in certain tools.

"The forum was well-attended by a cross-section of SmartSite users," Kiskis said. "Most of the discussion focused on confirming the preservation of SmartSite functionality and on an overview of new features."

"IET and ATS find these CCFIT open forums to be tremendously helpful in providing us with valuable input and feedback from those we serve," Gibson said. "We listen to what is said and asked, and then we take that back to our team to guide us in future analysis, to ensure that we are doing everything we can to meet the needs of our faculty, staff and students."

"I encourage everyone with an interest in SmartSite to learn about the proposed changes," Kiskis said. "Send us your questions or comments to" The slides from the open forum are available on the CCFIT Web site.

The changes, if approved, will occur starting 5 p.m. Dec. 17 and take up to three days. An FAQ that answers basic questions is available at Please direct any questions or comments to Kirk Alexander at