Older students might remember a time when they were freshmen and faculty still relied mainly on myucdavis.edu to make class materials available online.
Those days will soon be gone forever.
For the future, students will have to use the more flexible SmartSite to download presentations, lecture notes, assignments and other resources.
Introduced in 2006, SmartSite co-existed with myucdavis.edu course tools, and it was the choice of the individual instructor as to which service was preferred. However, this quarter only approximately 200 instructors and faculty members decided to use myucdavis.edu, according to Bill Buchanan, senior writer and editor for Information and Education Technology (IET), the department in charge of technology systems used by campus.
Some professors have had trouble acclimating to the more flexible and powerful, but more complex system that SmartSite uses, which runs on Sakai open-sourced software used at over a hundred universities across the country. Kirk Alexander, program manager for SmartSite, says that the learning curve is worth it due to its open source nature.
“SmartSite … is supported by a large global community of programmers so its future benefits from more person-power than any single institution can ever muster,” Alexander said. “As an open source tool we have the same complete control of the system as we did with MyUCDavis but with more people contributing to it.”
Open source software is notable in the sense that its users are encouraged to modify and tweak the programming to suit their needs. This explains why UC Davis’ SmartSite is in several ways a unique system, though it is based on software developed by the Sakai Project, which developed the initial code.
Professor Stephen Haptonstahl, who began teaching in the UC Davis Political Science Department this year, had to learn how to use SmartSite for the first time when he began teaching.
“Despite being something of a tech [expert], I was a little daunted at first by SmartSite,” Haptonstahl said. “A colleague in political science added me to a course he taught winter quarter so I could see how things worked. This, plus the help pages and course templates, got me off to a good and fast start.”
SmartSite remains an evolving technology, however; its software is constantly undergoing renovations to reflect the needs of students and faculty, Alexander said.
“The next major change on the SmartSite horizon is a year or more away,” Alexander added. “It is being re-engineered from the ground up to take advantage of newer and better user-interface technology [and to be compatible] with social networking tools.”
Instructors who are still unfamiliar or uncomfortable with SmartSite are being offered workshops to teach them the tools they will need to deal with the transition. Interested instructors are encouraged to visit the workshop schedule online. The next session will be today beginning at 10:30 am and will run for two hours. Participants are asked to bring their own laptop along with any questions they may have.
Haptonstahl is excited to continue using SmartSite, which was a big step up in technological convenience from his last school.
“SmartSite has an easy to understand interface, provides standard tools that I need for a variety of course formats, and works well,” Haptonstahl said. “I love being able to post materials for everyone to see without having to plan out space and links [on an individually-created website] … and I can use it anywhere I have the internet.”
Students will still be able to see their classes through myucdavis.edu and the portal itself will remain unchanged with the exception being that course tools and uploaded materials will only be available through SmartSite. Students and faculty can learn more at https://smartsite.ucdavis.edu.
BRIAN GERSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.