Category: Tips and Tricks

Changing Your Display Name in Sakai@UD


If you are a student and if your name in Sakai (or in other campus systems) is not what you want it to be, you can change it in UDSIS. more >

New Terminology in Forums

In Sakai 2.9.3, the Forums tool uses a different terminology to refer to what used to be called a Thread. It is now called a Conversation. The following diagram presents graphically the new hierarchy of the terms now used in the Forums tool.

Forums hierarchy of terms

Once in a topic, you can either start a top-level conversation or reply to a current conversation. See the following screenshots to locate the buttons on the new Sakai interface.

Start a conversation using the button in the toll bar.

Reply to a conversation.

If you have any questions or comments about Sakai, contact the IT Support Center (submit a request, email, or call [302] 831-6000).

Managing Announcements and Notifications

As the fall semester begins, IT staff members have received a number of inquiries related to notifications and sending announcements to students, especially with the growing number of instructors opting to use Canvas instead of Sakai. Below are some options and “gotchas” regarding notifications in UD-supported technologies, including Canvas, Sakai, and P.O. Box.

I. Verify student access

The first thing you need to consider is whether students have access to the course site you want to use (hosted in one of our learning management systems–Sakai or Canvas). Enrolled students do not get loaded in course sites until 2 weeks prior to the official start of the semester.

In Sakai, check Site Info in your course site to see if your students show up in the list of participants. In Canvas, check People instead.

Also, your course site will need to be published to students for them to be notified of anything changing there.

If you need to contact your students before the rosters are loaded or before you publish your site, use P.O. Box. Only students officially registered at the time of the P.O. Box announcement will get an email, but communications initiated through P.O. Box are archived for students to view later if necessary. If your main goal is to push announcements by email all semester, P.O. Box might be the only tool you need for that purpose.

II. From the Sakai LMS

From Sakai, the way to push an email notification to students is to set the option called Email notification to High priority. This option is available under many tools, but the one most instructors use for this purpose is simply called Announcements.

Setting an announcement to High priority will generate an email to the address associated with the account (generally the students’ addresses, except for Sakai guest accounts).

III. From the Canvas LMS

Now, this is where it gets tricky. Canvas doesn’t have a way to push an email to students. Every user in Canvas is in charge of their own notification preferences (as a subscription model).

The good news is that the notification setting for updates coming from the Announcements tool is set to ASAP by default for all users. So, as long as students did not change their settings, they will get an email to their address when you create an announcement in your published Canvas course site. But if a student has changed that setting, he or she will not receive an announcement ASAP.

In Canvas, in personal Notification Preferences, set Announcement to ASAP.

As an instructor, you can address this in two ways:

1) By setting expectations for announcements

Make sure your students understand the way you will communicate with them, and which settings will allow for that communication channel to remain open. You could, for instance, use a sentence such as this one in your syllabus:

Course announcements

Throughout this course, I will publish frequent (mostly weekly) updates about the course and will use the same channel for emergencies (such as cancelling class). You are responsible for receiving and reading these notifications. I will use the Announcements tool in our Canvas course site to publish the updates. To be notified by email (or another channel of your choice) as soon as an announcement is published, make sure your personal notification settings are set to ASAP under Course Activities > Announcement, as described in this Canvas guide.

2) By using P.O. Box

If you want to be absolutely sure enrolled students will get an email, P.O. Box will do that for you.

If you have any question or comment regarding Sakai, Canvas, or P.O. Box, contact the IT Support Center (submit a request, mail, or call [302] 831-6000).

Which Gradebook tool is right for me?

Last June, we rolled out a new Gradebook tool in Sakai, called Gradebook 2. Instructors have been asking which one they should use. This post will attempt to answer that question.

First of all, Gradebook 2 will not replace the original Gradebook. Both tools remain available to any course site in Sakai.

The original Gradebook is simple to use. If your grading strategy is simple (4 exams worth 25% of the final grade each, for instance), it probably fits your needs just fine. If you’re using categories and weighting, it gives you and your students a calculation of the category score, something Gradebook 2 doesn’t offer. (click the thumbnails for larger screenshots)

Gradebook 2 offers some new features faculty have asked for over time. The tool is more flexible, but also requires a little more time for instructors to master it. Below are some of these new features:

  • Dropping the lowest grade(s) in a category. It is now possible to assign a certain number of assignments in a category to be dropped from the course calculation.
  • Adding true extra credit. If you’re assigning bonus points or extra credit assignments, you can now add them in Gradebook 2. Points added as extra credit will be added to the course grade without being required.
  • Statistics: Gradebook 2 offers a way to generate and share statistics with your students.
  • Visual cues: Gradebook 2 uses colors, font variations, and indicators that something is missing or wrong.

Warning: Do not use both gradebook tools in the same course! Because both tools use the same data and may be set up to calculate grades differently, your students could see two different final grade calculations. Pick one gradebook, and stick with it for the semester.

As usual, if you have any questions or concerns, contact the IT Support Center, and we’ll be happy to help you choose the tool and strategy that fits your needs.

Your fall course site could be a lonely place…

Don’t let your site be a ghost town. Add your rosters! (photo credit: nate2b on

As a new semester rolls in, the IT Support Center has received some questions from faculty members about student access to fall sites. Here are some tips to make sure your students will get access to your site from day one.

  • When you duplicate a site from a previous semester, the rosters are NOT copied. Student enrollment changes for every course each semester, so you have to select the current semester’s roster for each course. You can do this in Site info > Edit class roster(s).
  • Students will get immediate access to your site when you add the roster.1 If you do not want your students to get access right away, unpublish the site in Site Info > Manage Access.
  • To see who has access to your site, check the list of participants in Site Info. We have noticed that the Roster tool (the Sakai tool called Roster) is sometimes not accurate in displaying all participants. This is a known issue we have reported in the past.
  • Newly enrolled students are added to the roster overnight. UDSIS is synchronized with Sakai daily, so the list of participants in your site might change until the drop/add deadline for the current semester. You can add students manually if you don’t want to wait for the sync to happen.

Always refer to the Faculty Checklist for Using Sakai@UD Course Sites to avoid surprises!

1. Note: Students are given access to course sites approximately two weeks before the beginning of any given semester.

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