FIRST YEARS > FAQs Library > Guided Tour: Highlights of a Sakai Course
vertical line divider Sakai's tabsThis Sakai "short course" highlights some of the key areas of the FIRST YEARS courses. All the certificate courses have the same general layout, so even your first look at a new course seems comfortably familiar. 

Once you log on to Sakai (at and click the tab to select your course, you see a series of blue links along the left of your screen. Just what are those blue links?
good ideaPrint this out as a handy reference for your notes.
asSakai's menud Home takes you to the top, entry level of the course, where your Announcements, Messages center, and course Calendar appear.

Announcements is the area of the site where the instructor posts special information. This can be anything from important reminders to helpful hints. You need to log on to Sakai and read the Announcements at least every other day.

Course Info provides your course overview, the syllabus or "big picture." The actual sections you see in a particular course may vary, depending on the needs of the course itself. But, in general, information about your course materials, objectives, grading policies -- all the typical syllabus information appears here. You will need to print the syllabus out to go in your notes.
Clicking the Modules/Units link takes you to your lessons, the "learning units." Each unit is self-contained, i.e. all the lesson content, including outside readings and exercises, is one click away. The actual requirements for each course, and each unit within the courses, vary; but you can expect the usual types of traditional activities -- readings, lecture notes, online activities, individual or group exercises, research projects, quizzes, class discussions, due dates -- all in some way handled electronically. Due dates are also available in the course CalendarWe suggest printing out each lesson module to follow along the interactive components within Sakai.
When you have graded quizzes, and not all courses have them, you will find them in Tests & Quizzes. Every course will have at least one entry here, your course evaluation, which is released toward the end of the course. The evaluation is totally anonymous.
Forums and Messages (and Announcements) comprise Sakai's communication center. Messages sent within Sakai go to the recipient's mailbox in Sakai. There is an option there, recommended, that the message can also be sent to the recipient's UNC email address (accessed via UNC Exchange Outlook WebApp email). Sending them to both places ensures that the word gets out. 

Our threaded discussion boards are accessed by clicking Forums. These electronic discussion boards allow you to share your ideas, experiences, and research with your classmates and instructor. In the forums, you "listen" by reading and "speak" by writing. Your forum interaction counts as your class participation. You will find information on the grading for forum participation under Course Info.

Journals, articles and other reserved readings are available online at Library/Reserves. There, you will find a direct link and password to the course "e-reserves."
Your grades appear in Gradebook. Your instructors typically return your graded work within a week. Remember, Course Info provides information about grading rubrics/policies.

Your Roster and Staff Info link into information about your classmates and your instructors, including their phone and FAX numbers. 

Need help? Special Helps lists the administrative and technical supports for FIRST YEARS students.  Help is UNC's Sakai tutorial when you want to explore its full capabilities.

On the Sakai trail
Sakai is a very "robust" course/learning management system, with all sorts of options. Fortunately, simplifying the learning curve, only a few of these are actually needed in most learning environments. In our practice "courses" below, we have zeroed in on all the basics you will need to use for our courses. As Sgt. Joe Friday in Dragnet used to say, these provide "Just the facts, ma'am."  The Help link describes Sakai's full functionality.

Sakai TrailThanks to a very creative UNC-CH Student Assistant, Marla Sullivan, with some fiddling by FIRST YEARS, there is a Sakai "course" game - Sakai Trail - inspired by Oregon Trail, a popular educational game. As you travel along the Sakai Trail, you get to practice navigating Sakai, that is, you learn by playing! With a bit of imagination, you can imagine Sakai's Trial Boss as Staff Info, its Trail Info as Course Info, and so forth. 

To journey along the Sakai Trail, you will log on using your UNC ID (your "onyen") and password, then click on the Sakai Trail - FIRST YEARS tab to begin.

During the orientation period, you will again have the opportunity to practice using Sakai via a "mini-course." There, you will practice the essential skills for online sharing and collaboration. You will learn more about these practice opportunities once admitted to the certificate.

To end our tour ... Remember, these are only highlights of a Sakai course. Each instructor develops new ideas, applying Sakai's features in creative ways that make each online learning activity unique.  The best way to experience this is to -- take a FIRST YEARS online course yourself!

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