One of the most powerful, commonly used and, unfortunately, frustrating tools at Brock University is Sakai. Intended as a one-stop-shop for all the information you need about the classes you’re taking in a semester, it’s typically where you’ll find online copies of your syllabus, updates about assignments and, if you’re lucky, grades for assignments you’ve already handed in.
Like the Brock Office Suite, it’s a powerful tool, but not without its flaws. Sakai’s misgivings are a little harder to predict, however, as the success of a course’s Sakai page is entirely dependent on how adept your professor is at managing it. Some won’t even use it at all; and that means you have to go and talk to them or a TA whenever you need something (it’s not really that bad, but it’s a touch inconvenient). Others will use it for an online copy of the syllabus and nothing else, but it can facilitate everything from quizzes to online seminar forums.
Your interactions with Sakai will, for the most part, be fairly straightforward, but there are a few little things you should know before diving in. I’ll start with the most important; if you’re asked to submit your assignments via Sakai, read the instructions for every detail on how you’re expected to do that. Some professors will set up an ‘Assignments’ tab, which automatically submits your work to the professor as well as to Turnitin (another system you’ll need to become very familiar with). Sometimes you’ll have to submit it via the dropbox on Sakai and again, separately, on Turnitin’s website. You may even be asked for some unfathomable combination of the two approaches, so make sure you’re very clear on what it is your professor is asking for.
If you’re unclear on where to find things in Sakai, you can always check your Brock email account, which is the easiest part of Brock’s IT services to use. If your professor has uploaded files to Sakai, or put out a message for the class, or interacted with the page in some important way, nine times out of ten you will receive an email notification that tells you about it.
Sakai and Outlook are the two services Brock provides that you’ll be using the most, but you should be aware that you’ll also be provided with an entire suite of Microsoft Office products, from Word to Excel to Powerpoint and more, available both online and to install as apps onto your computer. Accessing these online (myoffice.brocku.ca) is convenient because everything automatically gets saved to the cloud, and all your documents across all the apps are accessible right from the start page. However, I’ve found the online version of Word to crash quite a bit, whether I’m on my own laptop or using a library computer. It autosaves, so you shouldn’t lose much work when it happens, but it can break focus and be incredibly frustrating. For that reason, installing word onto your computer might be a better option. Personally, though, I write my essays in Google Docs, which is much more stable and functional, and then dropping that text into Word afterwards just to make sure I’ve gotten the formatting right (which is the one thing I’ve found Google Docs to struggle with).
Besides the above, the best advice I can give you is probably this: get to know how the search tools function on the Library’s website. There’s plenty of resources available to help you get the most out of their advanced search function, and with a library so full of resources, you are really going to need to narrow down your fields. It might seem daunting, but it’s easy once you give it a go and well worth the effort.