In 2004, four leading U.S. universities, together with Jasig, the parent organization of the uPortal framework, began a collaboration to combine and synchronize their assorted learning software into a collection of integrated, open source tools.

Their primary goal was to improve teaching, learning and research by providing a compelling alternative to proprietary learning systems; an innovative platform for learning and collaboration that is produced by and for the higher education community.

The University of Michigan, Indiana University, MIT and Stanford University, soon joined by the University of California, Berkeley and Foothill Community College, each contributed existing tools to the project, which was originally funded by a grant from the Mellon Foundation. The largest of the universities’ contributions was the University of Michigan’s “CHEF” course management system, which led the original work team to name the project after famed Iron Chef Hiroyuki Sakai. With this auspicious beginning, the Sakai project was born.

The java-based Sakai project became freely available in March, 2005.

In the years since its inception, the Sakai community has successfully delivered multiple releases and hundreds of successful deployments. Over time, the system has become increasingly flexible and feature-rich, in alignment with the evolving needs of its diverse community. More than 350 institutions around the world now use Sakai, and the software has been translated into 20+ languages and dialects. The solution serves more than 1.25 million students inside the U.S., and more than 4 million students worldwide.

After being administered by the Sakai Foundation for several years, the Sakai Project is now a project of the Apereo Foundation, an organization formed by the merger of the Sakai Foundation and Jasig. The Apereo Foundation is dedicated to facilitating collaboration between educational institutions and fostering work on open technologies and innovation in support of learning, teaching and research.