SmartSite keeps growing

SmartSite is still a pilot project, but it's starting to draw the audience of a mainstream attraction.

The course management system, which creates new places for people at UC Davis to teach, learn and work together online, attracted more than 2,000 new users during the fall quarter.

As of November, it had registered:
  • 2,945 unique log-ins, up about 200 percent from July.
  • 585 project sites, up 27 percent.
  • 227 course sites, up 81 percent.
"And that's without really pushing," said SmartSite program manager Kirk Alexander. The big campaign to get more of the campus to adopt the system will come in spring 2007. The project emerged as a pilot in late spring 2006.

SmartSite, profiled extensively in last summer's IT Times, offers an easy-to-use, extendable set of tools based on Sakai open-source software shared and developed by more than 100 universities and colleges.

UC Davis faculty, researchers, students, and staff can use the tools to do anything from post a reading list to collaborate on an assignment or, in a music appreciation class, track the sound of a flute in a recorded symphony concert. It can archive chat-room discussions and make various types of material securely available online??'to as many people as the user wants.

SmartSite also gained new features in the fall quarter, Alexander said. They include tools for podcasts, blogging, handling email, interfacing with iTunes, a discussion forum and SiteStats (a tool to collect data in real time by user, event or resource). The Gradebook and Quiz & Test tools continued to improve, making them more suitable for large classes.

SmartSite offers two basic types of sites: class sites, to organize classes and offer new ways for students to work together, and project sites, which can be used to organize work by individuals, clubs, researchers, research groups, and other campus organizations not directly connected to a campus class. Instructors have created sites in both the arts and the sciences, for classes with up to 450 students so far.

The campus will use SmartSite to replace the more limited set of course management tools in the MyUCDavis Web portal starting in 2007-08, followed by the shutdown of the MyUCDavis course tools a year after that. The UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine has already adopted SmartSite, which it calls CERE ("Collaborative Educational Research Environment"), for all its courses.

The Teaching Resources Center continues to teach classes about SmartSite. To learn more about SmartSite, visit its Web site.