In recent times, the requirement for on-line systems of all categories has become apparent, and the lack of these systems has resulted in many institutions not being able to meet the requirements of their students. In light of this, Teqcle Information Technologies (Pty) Ltd have developed this proposal offering a “One-Stop-Shop” for your on-line Learner Management System (LMS). It incorporates a hosted server running a world class open source LMS (Sakai) and includes daily backups, disaster recovery, security and resource monitoring, support and maintenance.
Teqcle and Sakai
Teqcle Information Technologies (Pty) Ltd have always been a stout supporter of Open Source Software. Teqcle was founded in 2006, born out of UNISA where our members were fundamentally involved with the genesis of My UNISA, which uses Sakai. We became so involved with this product, that one of our members was named a Sakai Fellow in 2006. Upon the creation of our company, we continued to support multiple instances of Sakai, and were asked to also support DSpace, which is an open source repository and like Sakai is a J2EE application. Teqcle performed the investigation into DSpace in 2008, and have been supporting both of these products ever since.
But supporting the software is just part of the product. The hosting and maintenance of Sakai as well as the operating system that it is hosted on is also extremely important. Being a J2EE application, Sakai runs on a Java Servlet engine called Tomcat. Teqcle learned to monitor and manipulate this engine a long time ago. We learned this skill by performing tuning operations on large J2EE installations. Understanding these technologies is paramount to proper Java development, another skill that Teqcle has been performing since before its inception.
Sakai is an open source Learner Management System (LMS) written by higher education institutions for higher education. It boasts a large developer and user base including local institutions like Gert Sibande FET College, UNISA, University of Cape Town, Wits University, North-West University and many more. It consists of a large number of learning orientated tools and is highly configurable and customisable having multiple API’s (SOAP, REST) and integration tools like “Learning Tools Interoperability” (LTI).
Sakai is best hosted on a Linux platform, which is also open source and free and has a great reputation for security and availability as well as reduced hardware overheads. It is the operating system of choice for Sakai. Teqcle has been hosting Sakai and DSpace instances, as well as eMail, Websites and DNS, on Centos (a flavour of Linux) since 2006, accomplishing fantastic results in terms of security and availability.
For reasons of availability, it is best to host an application in a certified Data Centre. Teqcle has been hosting J2EE (and other) applications utilising the hosting offerings from Xneelo (previously Hetzner) since 2006, and have received excellent support from this provider. We have built up a credible reputation for hosting these sites in terms of both availability and security.
One Stop Shop Sakai Proposal
Teqcle will provide installation, hosting, integration, technical support and maintenance.
Installation and Hosting
Teqcle will acquire a self managed, dedicated server for you through Xneelo. We will proceed to install a Centos operating system, and add our security enhancements to that server. Next comes the installation of Sakai version 12.4 and all of its pre-requisite software. We will customise the look and feel of Sakai to portray your brand, including the android APP that we have developed. The APP will be made available on Google’s play store.
We will add this instance of Sakai to our monitoring system, which monitors resource utilisation and availability, as well as adding it to our off-site backup solution. This backup solution will back up the database as well as the application, including all of its requirements, on a daily basis to a server at a geographically disparate location. The manner in which we have structured this solution provides disaster recovery in as much as we would be able to restore functionality of the site, in case of a disaster, within a very short period of time (time is dependant on the time taken to copy the data). DNS registration and configuration is performed by you as we assume that you already own a domain, but we can either help if required, or provide it if there is no domain registered.
With our long experience of Sakai and the development thereof, Teqcle has been able to integrate Sakai to numerous systems, including self developed systems. For Gert Sibande FET College, we have integrated their instance into their Coltech student system. With this integration, a student applies on-line through Sakai (GSC4ME), gets redirected to the Coltech Student Portal, and upon successful completion of that application, gets automatically added to all of the courses applied for on Sakai. Any changes on the Coltech system are also directed to Sakai, and are applied automatically. Other LTI based integrations include a “Placement Test System”, a “Certificate Printing System” and a “Ticketing” system. We have also integrated a stand-alone SMS system into Gert Sibande’s Sakai instance.
This proposal will includes an option for the Coltech integration, but will entail active participation and separate pricing from Coltech, which they have agreed to supply.
If the customer does not use Coltech, then an alternative mechanism for importing their current student base into Sakai can be quickly and cheaply developed. These will be a one-time import solution.
Technical Support and Maintenance
With many years of systems administration experience, Teqcle is well positioned to maintain the system once it is in production. This maintenance includes patching the operating system and keeping it secure, ensuring that the backups are successfully completed, ensuring that the application is not exhausting resources and monitoring the logs for problems as well as intrusion detection. From this we will implement intrusion prevention mechanisms as well as ensure that your system is in a healthy state. If the server hosting the application exhausts its resources, then we have upgrade paths that can be followed. Sakai is extremely scalable and can even be clustered.
Teqcle has always provided excellent customer service. We have always kept this on a personal level, and prefer a phone call to a ticket, but we will also respond to emails, whatsapps and SMS’s. Our default contract includes an 8 working hour response SLA, but we have always beaten that.
With our deep understanding of the Sakai application, including its undocumented features, Teqcle has the ability to customise your instance of Sakai as per your requirement. We will always try to develop in such a way as to not interfere with application upgrades, but will do so if absolutely necessary. We are currently investigating integration into other LMS systems and are enhancing our android application to specifically cater for Tablets.
Sakai also has the ability to integrate into a video conferencing system called BigBlueButton, which is designed for online learning. It provides audio and video sharing, presentations with extended whiteboard capabilities – such as a pointer, zooming and drawing – public and private chat, desktop sharing, integrated VoIP using FreeSWITCH, and support for presentation of PDF documents and Microsoft Office documents. Although not part of this proposal, Teqcle can install, configure, host and itegrate a BigBlueButton solution for you.
Additional support and development can be provided at Teqcle’s current hourly rate.
Please contact us for further information.