Interoperability in Sakai

Higher Education has been steadily moving away from the monolithic learning management system towards an ecosystem of tools and services to meet the changing needs of students, faculty and higher education providers. In response to this new landscape, the Educause Learning Initiative have proposed a framework for realizing what they call the “Next Generation Digital Learning Environment” (NGDLE). In their EDUCAUSE Review article, "What's Next for the LMS?," Malcolm Brown, Joanne Dehoney, and Nancy Millichap outline the five domains of core functionality of a NGDLE:

  • Interoperability and Integration

  • Personalization

  • Analytics, Advising, and Learning Assessment

  • Collaboration

  • Accessibility and Universal Design

Sakai’s commitment to open standards and remaining 100% open source makes it the most robust and flexible LMS available, best suited to evolve into the LMS hub of the Next Generation Digital Learning Environment (NGDLE).

Interoperability and Integration

The ability to integrate with a broad variety of tools and content is essential within the proposed NGDLE. From its inception, Sakai has been committed to supporting and advancing open standards. IMSGlobal's widely-used Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) standard, in fact, has its roots in the Sakai Tool Portability Profile. Today, Sakai supports a wide variety of open standards, including LTI, IMS Common Cartridge and Content Item standards, xAPI, and more. The Sakai community remains committed to supporting the latest open standards. What's more, we use standards in practice. xAPI underpins Sakai's connection to the emerging Apereo Open Analytics Platform - a platform that is being deployed at a national scale in the United Kingdom, in addition to statewide system use in the United States.

As a 100% open-source solution, Sakai provides maximum flexibility to integrate with the tools and systems that are most important to your institution--from enterprise systems to student-built apps. As your institution's ecosystem of tools grows, Sakai’s inherent flexibility allows you to effectively curate and orchestrate tools and content into a user experience that fits the needs of your learners and teachers.


Closely related to interoperability and integration, personalization allows users to shape the learning environment to meet their needs. Sakai allows for personalization at multiple levels--for an entire institution, department, course site, user, and everything in-between. The ability to customize Sakai allows for full control over the user interface and overall user experience to meet a broad range of institutional and user needs.

The EDUCAUSE NGDLE report notes an increasing demand for discipline-specific apps. Sakai allows an institution to curate a set of trusted tools for an entire school, department, or a set of course sites or users. This flexibility enables personalization at multiple levels, while retaining institutional control over available tools, to ensure FERPA-compliance.

Analytics, Advising, Learning Assessment

The ability to collect and analyze learning data and to create actionable reports is another critical capability for institutions. Sakai provides built-in statistics and reporting at the institution and course site level, and Sakai introduces additional page-level data analytics for the Lessons tools.

Most importantly, Sakai captures robust clickstream data, which can be pulled into xAPI. As your institution’s ecosystem of tools grows, so will the need to capture data from these disparate systems into a central store, in order to build a comprehensive picture of teaching and learning activities.

In support of a variety of learning analytics platforms, Sakai provides the most flexibility for surfacing reports from an LRS to a variety of audiences within the LMS. In this way, Sakai enables your institution to retain full control of your learning data to support (1) student empowerment, (2) continuous instructional improvements, and (3) institutional oversight.

The Apereo Foundation, Sakai’s parent organization, fosters a Learning Analytics Initiative to support analytics work, in line with open standards including xAPI and IMS Caliper.  


Enabling collaboration is critical to a learning-centered approach in the NGDLE. Sakai’s built-in collaboration tools support the needs of teaching and learning and its broad variety of course models--from flexible resource sharing and online discussions to more advanced online approaches such as flipped classrooms and fully-online teaching.

Sakai’s built-in groups management functionality allows students to self-select into groups, as well as for the easy creation of randomized groups based on user role, number of users, and number of groups needed. In turn, Sakai’s suite of core tools have a broad range of capabilities to make use of these groups. For example, the Assignments tool allows for group assignments submission and peer assessment, as well as the creation of assignments based on sections or ad hoc groups. Students Pages within the Lessons tool enable students to create and share rich content with their peers and instructors.

Sakai also includes dedicated project work sites, which allow organizations and project teams to coordinate project administration, share resources, schedule activities, develop collaborative work products, and track progress towards completion. These collaboration spaces are commonly used by student groups, faculty committees, thesis committees, strategic planning teams, re-accreditation teams, and others for important projects beyond the classroom.

Finally, Sakai provides the most flexible permissions model of any leading LMS, allowing for collaboration designed for the specific needs of your institution.

Accessibility and Universal Design

Through its Accessibility Working Group, Sakai maintains a strong commitment to making the platform usable to the greatest number and type of users possible, by adhering to Universal Design principles and international accessibility standards. This approach not only supports individuals with disabilities, but improves the user experience for all.

Through user research and usability testing with faculty, students, and staff, the Sakai community develops innovative new functionality and continuously improves its existing capabilities. Sakai’s new user interface design, mobile experience, and other features including the new Gradebook have been guided by this user-centered design approach.

Highly specialized tools to address larger accessibility obstacles can be easily integrated, again thanks to Sakai’s support of open standards and the flexibility of its open source platform. This inherent flexibility also enables the creation of personalized workflows through learning modules that best accommodate accessibility needs.