Crowd-Sourcing a Communication Strategy for Sakai

Over the its fall semester, Marist College partnered with the Apereo Foundation to experiment with a new “crowd-sourcing” model for providing higher education open-source projects with communication and marketing services while also providing students with real-world learning experiences.  The initiative, coordinated by Dr. Mark Van Dyke, affiliate associate professor of communication in Marist’s School of Communication and the Arts, focused on evaluating the Sakai projects strategic communication needs and developing a related strategic communication plan to address those needs.

To implement the project Dr. Van Dyke worked with two Apereo Foundation communication interns, Veronica Mohrmann, a 2014 graduate of Marist’s Master of Arts in Communication program, and Julia Palermo, a senior in Marist’s Bachelor of Arts in Communication program. The two intern positions were supported by the Foundation and Marist College.  In addition to these interns, Dr. Van Dyke integrated the project into two of his graduate-level communication courses with one course focusing on research activities and the other on strategic planning.

Students used a range of primary and secondary methods during the research phase, including an extensive SWOT analysis, interviews with key members of the Sakai community, and surveys as well as Internet research.  Some of their findings from this phase include Sakai’s need to connect better with key audiences such as institutional decision makers, increase and improve use of social media and increase its brand recognition among key audiences.  

Following this research phase, students and interns developed a strategic communication plan, which was published in early 2015, which would address these challenges.  The student team working on this phase of the project proposed a range of innovative communication ideas including positioning Sakai as a “thought leader” in the Learning Management System (LMS) space by publishing articles, best practices, and white papers on topics of general interest to the educational technology sector.

Those interested in obtaining a copy of the strategic communication plan developed through this initiative should contact Ian Dolphin at ian.dolphin[at]

This “crowd-source” model provides students and faculty members with valuable opportunities to work on authentic communication problems and cases through projects and assignments for courses, topics for research study, and campaigns for student-run organizations. In return, organizations like Sakai benefit from high-quality, affordable, sustainable communication services and materials produced by students and faculty.

Apereo Foundation Board Member and Marist College Assistant Vice-President, Information Technology for Digital Education Josh Baron also emphasized the potential value of the model to other Apereo projects and to the larger community of open organizations. Given the limited time and resources available to Marist College students and faculty last fall, it was necessary to focus development of the model on one project: Sakai. “However,” Baron said, “if this model works for Sakai, it can work for others. What Apereo grows out of this model can benefit many other projects and the Foundation itself.” 

Administrators and staff members interested in collaborating on this project and contributing to development of this model should contact Josh Baron at josh.baron[at][dot] Interested faculty members and students should contact Dr. Mark A. Van Dyke, Marist College affiliate associate professor of communication, at mark.vandyke[at]marist[dot]edu. 

-- Dr. Mark A. Van Dyke, Marist College