SmartSite use triples

The SmartSite project--creating new places for people at UC Davis to teach, learn, and work together online--blossomed over the summer as more people signed on to use the system profiled extensively in the summer edition of the IT Times.

The newest users, who range from instructors and students to researchers and administrators, have begun incorporating SmartSite's chat rooms, message boards, and wikis into their classes and collaborative ventures.

As September began, 1,086 unique users had logged into the online course management system, resulting in the creation of 512 project sites and 168 course sites. That's up from 351 users, 159 project sites and 103 course sites at the end of May.

SmartSite, which uses open-source software, will continue as a pilot program through the 2006-07 academic year. Plans call for SmartSite to begin replacing the course management tools in the MyUCDavis Web portal in 2007-2008. The shutdown of the MyUCDavis course tools would begin in fall 2008.

"SmartSite seems to be taking the campus by storm and we've only barely started seeding the clouds," said program manager Kirk Alexander in mid-September. Based on early signs, he said, the system "will indeed be able to meet many needs on the campus and quickly grow in functionality, as hoped."

Liz Applegate, a senior lecturer in nutrition, is using SmartSite to post chapter quizzes, dietary guidelines, exam resources, frequently asked questions, podcasts of her lectures, and a "fun stuff" folder for students taking Nutrition 10.

The Campus Community Book Project selection group is using the system's collaboration tools to post materials, archive meeting minutes, comment on book nominations, and distribute announcements. The annual book project sprang out of the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to promote dialogue and build community at Davis.

And Drs. Kathryn and Michael McCarthy, two campus research ers, have begun using SmartSite in their lab groups to organize and supplement their research project. They're developing a lab-safety training module and checklist to prepare new lab researchers. Participants in the project site are asked to load their lab meeting PowerPoint presentations into SmartSite.

This fall, the SmartSite team will monitor the newest releases of Sakai, the software package that powers SmartSite (known as CERE, or "Collaborative Educational Research Environment," in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine). Improvements are expected for both the Gradebook and the Quiz & Test tools, neither of which function well enough yet to meet campus needs.

Patches are expected that will allow the management of large courses with multiple sections; the more automated transfer of information between SmartSite and MyUCDavis; and complete integration with major campus information systems.

The campus plans to retire the MyUCDavis course tools because they have become increasingly difficult to extend and scale. SmartSite is designed to be easy to adapt, use, and enlarge. SmartSite enters fall ready to enlist more faculty, students, researchers, and staffers.

The system offers two basic types of sites: class sites, to organize classes and offer students new ways to work together, and project sites, which can be used by individuals, clubs, researchers or research groups, and other campus organizations not directly connected to a campus class.

Users are encouraged to experiment with the SmartSite tools and think critically about how the tools might save them time or provide unique ways to collaborate. Apply at

The development of the new learning management system is a collaboration of Information and Educational Technology, Veterinary Medicine, and the UC Davis School of Medicine. Various technical support resources and training opportunities are available at Questions? Send them to