Planet Sakai

November 16, 2018

Apereo Foundation

UniTime Team Update: International Timetabling Competition 2019

UniTime Team Update: International Timetabling Competition 2019

We would like to announce a new university course timetabling competition. Building on the success of the earlier timetabling competitions, the International Timetabling Competition 2019 is aimed to motivate further research on complex university course timetabling problems coming from practice.

by Michelle Hall at November 16, 2018 07:47 PM

2019 Opencast Summit

2019 Opencast Summit

For the meeting taking place January 16-19, 2019 at ETH Zurich, the Opencast community is looking for contributions related to the use and management of video in academia. With a focus on Opencast, course capture, and video management, we are particularly keen to hear from educational technologists and designers, instructors, or service providers working with video to support teaching and learning.

by Michelle Hall at November 16, 2018 07:42 PM

Michael Feldstein

Fall 2017 IPEDS Data: New Profile of US Higher Ed Online Education

The National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) and its Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) provide the most official data on colleges and universities in the United States. I have been analyzing and sharing the data since the inaugural Fall 2012 dataset.

Below is a profile of online education in the US for degree-granting colleges and university, broken out by sector and for each state for the most recent, Fall 2017, data.

Please note the following:

  • There are multiple ways to filter and select data. For this set, I have limited to U.S. degree-granting institutions in six sectors - public 4-year, private 4-year, for profit 4-year, public 2-year, private 2-year, and for profit 2-year. For undergraduate totals I have included degree-seeking and non-degree-seeking students (degree-granting institutions can offer non-degree programs). Note that this will give different totals than what was reported in the NCES First Look report.
  • For the most part distance education and online education terms are interchangeable, but they are not equivalent as DE can include courses delivered by a medium other than the Internet (e.g. correspondence course).
  • I have provided some flat images as well as an interactive graphic at the bottom of the post. The interactive graphic has much better image resolution than the flat images.
  • There are two tabs below in the interactive graphic - the first shows totals for the US by sector and by level (grad, undergrad); the second shows a map view allowing filtering by sector.

Fall 2017 IPEDS data on distance education enrollment

Here is the map view of state data colored by number of, and percentage of, students taking at least one online class for each sector. If you hover over any state you can get the basic data. As an example, here is a view highlighting New Hampshire institutions.

Map view of IPEDS Fall 2017 DE data

Interactive Graphic

For those of you who have made it this far, below is the interactive graphic, which can also be found here. Enjoy the data.

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The post Fall 2017 IPEDS Data: New Profile of US Higher Ed Online Education appeared first on e-Literate.

by Phil Hill at November 16, 2018 01:57 AM

November 15, 2018

Michael Feldstein

OLC 2018 SoTL Panel Further Info

I'm going to be facilitating an Empirical Educator Project-relevant panel at OLC today at 11:15 AM in Oceanic 1, followed by an EEP and EEP-curious meetup at Soomo booth (#226) at 12:15 PM in the Expo Center. The rest of this post is just a little extra information on each of the SoTL work of the panel participants' home institutions, for those who attend the session.

CMU Eberly Center

At the intersection of faculty research, teaching, and service, the Eberly Center supports Teaching as Research. We help faculty answer compelling research questions regarding which teaching strategies are more effective at promoting learning, increasing engagement, and enhancing the learning environment. Our services provide the tools and expertise to help instructors develop research questions and study designs, identify valid and reliable data sources, analyze and interpret educational data, and present and publish research results. Read more about our research processes and findings in this site:


At UCF, SoTL research is incentivized through an administrative Faculty Award that includes a $5,000 one-time award and a $5,000 addition to salary base.

Support is provided by the UCF Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning and the Research Initiative for Teaching Effectiveness. RITE assists faculty, free of charge, with any SoTL activity within the research design to dissemination continuum.


CTU is a career-focused university encouraging the use of educational technology and SoTL research in the areas of professional scholarship and adaptive learning. Faculty (including adjunct faculty) can apply for funding through an internal website and faculty are encouraged to share their research and scholarship work with the university. Additionally, research collaboration with other institutions is supported and encouraged as demonstrated by the work with CTU and UCF.

Ole Miss Adaptive Learning SoTL Poster

The post OLC 2018 SoTL Panel Further Info appeared first on e-Literate.

by Michael Feldstein at November 15, 2018 02:14 PM

Dr. Chuck

Putting Sakai Behind Cloudflare

I love Cloudflare.  I use it extensively for any production server I support.  I use it for https termination, DDOS mitigation, performance improvement for static content, super flexible DNS management and many more things.

In building my support for IMS LTI Advantage I decided I just needed a server that would run a particular tag or branch of Sakai in production for basic testing rather than pushing everything to master and waiting until the nightly server went through the rebuild.

Here are my notes on putting Sakai behind Cloudflare.

– In CloudFlare under “Overview” Make sure SSL is “Flexible” to keep CloudFlare talking on the backend on port 80

– In CloudFlare, under “Crypto” turn on “Always use HTTPS” and “Automatic HTTPS Rewrites”

– In the sakai server in the file ./apache-tomcat-8.0.30/conf/server.xml set up the connector like this

<Connector port="80" 
    scheme="https"  />

This runs an http (port 80) without requiring any key fussing.  Since Cloudflare does the SSL we don’t need it in Tomcat.   See

Interestingly, one thing I did not need to do was adjust the caching for the “/library” urls in Sakai.   Sakai sets all the headers so well that Cloudflare needs no further guidance and neither does the browser.  Just as a simple test, the actual un-cached download for the initial page in Sakai Prior to login is 8.8KB.  That is *KILO-BYTES*.  A normal post-login page in Sakai’s Lessons is 31.4 KB  data transferred. Amazingly low bandwidth usage for an enterprise application like Sakai.

Pretty cool.

by Charles Severance at November 15, 2018 04:55 AM

November 11, 2018

Michael Feldstein

Toward a Methodology of Change in Higher Ed

For a couple of years now, we've been saying that higher education is at the beginning stages of a long transition from a philosophical commitment to student success toward an operational commitment to it. In other words, colleges and universities are beginning to grapple in earnest with how to rewire themselves so that their culture and processes are deliberately optimized and continuously tuned to support their students in getting the best education possible. This is a profound shift. It will require major changes to the ways in which academia works and the ways in which ed tech designs and markets its products. It will be very hard and take a long time. But the drivers of this change are in place.

Recently, I wrote about how our concept of Empirical Education has built into it a theory of change. The implication is that it has the backbone for a methodology of change. Our work as both analysts and consultants shown us that the increasingly aligned strategic priorities throughout the sector, when combined with the knowledge that is scattered across it, can be distilled down into a powerful yet flexible methodology for system change in education analogous to Design Thinking or one of the Agile software development methodologies. It can be a set of processes, built on a fairly small set of fundamental principles but supported by a lot of detailed craft knowledge and a rich ecosystem of supporting tools. It can be owned by no-one, although there would likely be some premiere practitioners of it. Colleges and universities could use it to redesign themselves to be more student-centric and, in the process, also more educator-centric. Product and service companies could design their offerings around it and compete based on their ability to help their academic customers better implement it.

This sense of possibility has been the animating impulse behind the Empirical Educator Project (EEP). We started with only a hazy idea of what we were building. Over the last twelve months of working with academics and ed tech product people, some aspects have become clearer. I have grown more confident in the potential of the idea even as I have grown more overwhelmed with clearer understanding of the size of the undertaking.

I am going to articulate my latest thinking about it in this post.

The time is now

There is a saying among consultants that potential clients won't hire a consultant until and unless they both realize that they have a serious problem and come to accept that it is not a problem they can solve on their own. That holds equally true for a wide range of difficult changes that require help or cooperation, from coping with an addiction to building a functioning government to changing an institution. Higher education has been an incredibly stable system. As in, remarkably consistent over a period of about a thousand years. Historians of education tend to write about changes that take place over decades or half-centuries. There has been a looming question of whether such a slow-changing institution can adapt to such fast-changing times. Unsurprisingly, this debate has been raging for a few decades now, with relatively little sector-wide change to show for it. Is the system terminally rigid, or is it in a state of punctuated equilibrium that will shift in an appropriately dramatic amplitude once it reaches an inflection point?

I believe the latter is the case, and I believe that we are at that inflection point. Access-oriented institutions—particularly publicly funded ones—have already been under pressure for some time now to show better outcomes for students in terms of rough measures like graduation rates and time to graduation, as well as some more meaningful but difficult measures popping up on the margins such as employment and career success. On the other end of the spectrum, the elite institutions whose brands have popularly defined excellence in education for the last century or more are starting to realize that they need to adjust to changing student expectations if they are going to continue to be considered the gold standard for the next century or more. The MOOC craze was complex and problematic, but it woke the elites up to the potential for use of technology-enabled approaches to enhance their teaching practices rather than detract from it, even as their students show up on campus with increasingly high expectations for the kinds of access to knowledge, interactive experiences, and high-touch communication that technology can enable. And in the middle, private universities with decent regional reputations and tuitions that approach those of Ivy League schools are increasingly under pressure to justify their tuition with something of more permanent value to students than climbing walls and dining halls. More and more, the buzz is about innovative partnerships with employers, or about learning analytics, or about student success systems supporting better guidance counseling. In other words, we are seeing colleges and universities grope toward approaches that enable them to more reliably support student success. And they are looking for help to do it.

The focus of that previous paragraph is primarily on undergraduate education, but it also increasingly applies to graduate education. We sometimes see this problem manifest itself in financial terms, where it gets somewhat obscured by the current conversations around Online Program Management (OPM) companies. Universities often launch career-oriented graduate programs such as MBAs and MSWs because (a) they are looking for more revenue to make their institutions more sustainable, (b) online programs can scale without scaling costs like real estate and physical classrooms, and (c) they know there is a market of people who are inclined to sign up for online graduate programs that can fit with their work and family schedules while also giving them credentials that will help them advance in their career ambitions. But as the online MBA market gets saturated, universities increasingly have to find differentiators. And they can't use climbing walls or dining halls. In the end, the only effective and durable differentiator for an online career-oriented graduate degree program is its effectiveness at helping the students achieve their goals. In this space, the immediate university driver is revenue and the immediate student goal is career advancement. So the sector tends to view this change narrowly. But if you zoom out a little, it becomes clear that the trend with graduate programs and OPMs is just one particularly clear example of where the academic institution's financial sustainability issues are driving it toward a sharper operational focus on its mission.

Let's turn now to the educational vendors, who are also at an inflection point across product categories. All of these companies—curricular materials providers, LMS vendors, SIS vendors, analytics vendors, and so on—they are all looking to move up the value chain and argue that their products can directly, meaningfully, and provably impact student outcomes.1 They have to, because most of the major ed tech product categories are either in danger of commodifying or in danger of failing (in the case of established product categories) to achieve meaningful market penetration (in the case of new ones).

The textbook companies hit the wall first. As students increasingly found ways to avoid buying new books (or any books), the textbook publishers raised their prices, which started a vicious cycle of reduced sell-through followed by price increases followed by further reduced sell-through followed by further price increases. This was ultimately unsustainable, particularly since the internet has made obtaining basic factual information and focused educational supplements—think YouTube—easily obtainable and free. Increasingly, publishers had to make the case that their content is somehow better than the commodity content. But better how? For a long time, the "better" publishers worked on was instructor convenience. But there's only so far that slides, extra problem sets, and auto-graded homework can compensate for the vicious pricing cycle, particularly since the commodity materials get more organized and feature-rich over time. Eventually, the major publishers came to the conclusion that the only sustainable "better" they could shoot for is more educationally effective.

Pearson was the first out of the gate with a massive push for "efficacy."2 They have bet and are still betting the company on that strategy. But as I have written about here before, the fundamental problem is that products can't really be "efficacious" in and of themselves unless the educators in whose class the materials are being used (a) agree with the efficacy goals that have been defined by the product developers and (b) change their teaching to work with the educational strategies designed into the products. More fundamentally, the educators have to trust the research claims of the vendors in order to even think about the product-defined efficacy goals, much less adjust their teaching strategies. Pearson's original articulation of efficacy failed to account for any of this. They have since adjusted their course, and other curricular materials developers—most notably McGraw-Hill Education and Macmillan among the larger players—have followed suit by also focusing more on encouraging faculty to buy into research-backed teaching practices and then, having obtained that buy-in, show how their products support and implement those practices.3 But for all their good efforts—and they are generally, good, honest efforts—these vendors are pushing string. Most academics will never take them seriously as a source of advice for considering deep and scary changes to their teaching practice.

Meanwhile in the LMS space, the developed markets have saturated and are stabilizing. New adoptions appear to be down. There are many developing markets to plumb, but they are slow and expensive to develop. So LMS vendors too have been trying to move up the value chain by talking more and more about student success. D2L has focused for some time now on the course design process and has been adding tools to its portfolio like LeaP, which is a tool for recommending personalized supplemental curricular materials.4 Blackboard has gone so far as to promote themselves as "your partner in change," to the point of deprecating their flagship LMS project as "not enough."5

And yet, the LMS companies face the same uphill battle with credibility that the textbook publishers do. By and large, academics are not going to look to their LMS providers for guidance on how to change their teaching practices. The same goes for the upstart product categories like learning analytics. Vendors will struggle to convince academics to change their teaching practices, but their products will mostly fail to demonstrate meaningful learning impact until the academics adopt practices that take full advantage of the products. All these vendors need to climb a wall of credibility with academics, but they can't do it unless somebody throws them a rope. (Companies with significant faculty-facing service components have the best chance of swimming upstream, but that's another post for another time.)

All the institutions in the sector—all types of colleges and universities, all types of ed tech vendors—have realized that they have a problem and are starting to realize that they can't solve it on their own. They recognize that the core problem is that colleges and universities need to get much better at supporting student success, however their particular students may define it. They all want to get there and are starting to look to each other for help. But they don't know how, and most of them can't do it alone.

There's only one stakeholder group in this picture that has not gone through the process of seeing that they have a deep problem and accepting that they need help solving it yet. Have you spotted who they are?

The people who can actually solve the problem

While the shift in incentives has reached a tipping point for the institutions, the same cannot be said for the faculty. Their graduate training is largely unchanged. Their tenure and promotion criteria are largely unchanged. The rewards and accoutrements of professional accomplishment are largely unchanged. Faculty have been given no reason to change; therefore, they don't. Everybody knows this is true.

Or not. There are several vital aspects of this story which everybody "knows" that are either misleading or flat out wrong.

First, faculty do change. Anybody who has significant experience with the development of online learning programs or other course redesign efforts has seen it happen. They have faculty say that their experience in the redesigned class has changed the way they teach in other classes. They have watched skeptical faculty turn into preachers of the gospel. There are converts. Despite a dearth of incentives and a plethora of disincentives, despite uneven support, despite the fact that most will earn no glory for it on the other side of the closed doors of their respective classrooms, faculty do embrace pedagogical change when they have the right sorts of experiences that enable them to see the benefits.

Where are these amazing faculty members? They are everywhere and nowhere. They tend to be invisible on their home campuses, although if you ask around in different departments, you might be lucky enough to catch sight of one or three. (Or a dozen.) They have often learned the hard way that there is little benefit and significant pain involved with preaching on their home campuses, so many of them keep quiet and quietly work their magic in their own classrooms. If you want to see them in numbers, you usually have to go to one of the conferences where they congregate. I am going to one this week. One of the main activities of the participants will be crying on each other's shoulders about how under-appreciated and under-resourced their efforts are on their respective home campuses.

It is also untrue that incentives for faculty to excel in their teaching craft remain rare. It's still early days, but there are green shoots everywhere. Most of the time, we only hear about a small number of schools that are doing remarkable things. Arizona State University, Southern New Hampshire University, and Western Governors University, over and over again. If you're a little more knowledgeable, you might have heard about work at University of Central Florida or Georgia State University. And if you're paying attention to formal scholarship, you might a little about work coming out of places like Carnegie Mellon University, Duke, and Stanford. We could look a little further down the publicity pyramid at places like the University of Maryland Baltimore County. You very likely haven't heard about the amazing work happening at diverse schools ranging from James Madison University to Coppin State University. I wouldn't have known anything about the accomplishments of either of these institutions if I hadn't stumbled upon them through my various travels in this very odd job of mine.

And because the news tends to focus on a few exceptional institutions, it also focuses on three contributors to success that are among the hardest to change: leadership, governance, and money. It is simply not true that the only institutions making real change have once-in-a-generation presidents, an iron grip on the faculty, and/or tons of funding. We see innovation everywhere. And everywhere it happens, it happens because institutions are finding new ways to draw on their most precious yet plentiful resource: their faculty.

There is an old term of art that deserves reviving and refreshing: the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL). SoTL is often seen as a grassroots effort by faculty who care about teaching to wrap it in the cloak of academic validity. If the only way that excellence in teaching will be valued by the institution is to get it into peer-reviewed journals, then let's find a way to get it into peer-reviewed journals. In the past, institutions generally didn't take the bait. Many treated SoTL as a pat on the head to faculty who were slaving away carrying the heaviest teaching and advising loads. "Here, you care about this teaching stuff. Have a workshop. You can pretend what you're doing is scholarship for a while. And we'll give you a certificate!"

That is changing. More and more institutions are realizing that faculty aren't the problem; they are the solution. But that grassroots energy that comes from SoTL and other faculty empowerment efforts must be aligned with institutional efforts through support, incentives, and research. More and more institutions are making that connection. For example, here's a graphic illustration of the dynamic, taken directly from Georgetown University's Designing Our Future(s) web site:

Here are some lessons learned from Georgetown's white paper about the progress the initiative has made so far:

A few core rules for this innovation work have emerged. First, every project has to push against some structural constraint (the 15-week semester, the credit hour, the nine-month calendar, etc.) and test variations of it. Second, projects cannot be idiosyncratic or depend on the particular interests of one talented faculty member; they have to be pilots from which we can generalize and which we might apply to other scenarios or problems. Lastly, we only fund a Red House project for one year (or the equivalent); after that, if a project is to survive, it has to be absorbed into the curriculum and faculty workload.

Beyond these basic rules we have also learned some valuable lessons about the viability of experimental and creative curricular work in a culture designed for deliberative shared governance and slow change:

  • We developed strong stakeholder involvement as part of our iterative design process—one that frequently included associate deans, the registrar, compliance officers, and financial aid representatives—early in each project’s development. Likewise, we communicated well and regularly with our board, alumni, and donors
  • We do not give ourselves as good a grade on continuous communications with faculty. Early on there were many open invitations and speaker events, and a drumbeat of updates. As the work became more intense and demanding, we focused inward, and neglected to continue to reach back out to this important community. We learned it is absolutely critical to spiral communications outward, and to be as inclusive and open as possible, especially as the work takes specific shape within a core group.
  • Very early on we should have established a formal faculty review and approval process for Red House pilots. We assumed we would work within the Curriculum Committee approval structures, long established for important reasons, but which do not in the end benefit a research and development initiative. Last year, a Designing the Future(s) Advisory Committee was created, with the sole mission of approving and monitoring innovation projects. This system is now working very well; it might have accelerated progress if it had been instituted earlier.

These are very early lessons, and they are somewhat Georgetown-specific. But it's easy to see some more general principles emerge that could be useful across a wide range of educational and cultural contexts. And some of the most fascinating and remarkable changes are happening at institutions that you never read about, including some that have traditional faculty governance, few financial resources, and leaders who are extraordinary in the "normal" sense that many committed, hard-working, people-oriented academic leaders are in colleges and universities of all shapes and sizes.

I am going to write about some specific examples of this sort of organizational alignment in upcoming posts. For now, I want to spend a little time on the characteristics of a good methodology.

Toward a methodology of Empirical Education

When I think about general methodology that can be adopted and adapted across a wide range of contexts, the two models that come to mind immediately are Agile software development and Design Thinking. I'll focus on Agile (and particularly Scrum) for the moment because I know it better, but as far as I can tell, the same basic principles apply to Design Thinking.

First, the methodology should be designed to unleash the creativity of the knowledge workers involved in the critical processes. All too often, we take really smart people and put them in a strait jacket of process. We tend to design our mission-critical processes to get us predictable results, often by controlling the human element through various management techniques. The problem arises when we ask for predictable results in an unpredictable environment, having handicapped the very smart people who are best able to minimize the problems that arise out of unforeseen circumstances while maximizing the benefits of unforeseen opportunities. There is no knowledge work I know of that has more frequent and dramatic unforeseeable challenges and opportunities than education. We wrap a lot of process around education, but it's not the right kind of process to promote excellence by getting the most out of talented educators, just as using Gantt charts was not the right sort of process to promote excellence in software development by getting the most out of talented engineers.

At the same time, empowering knowledge workers is not the same thing as letting them do whatever they want. I have been in an Agile software development environment where the engineers interpreted Agile to mean that they decide everything. The results were not good. All Agile methods that I am familiar with have multiple roles, with each role having certain authority and responsibilities. These roles are designed to be mutually supportive, and the success or failure is very much a success or failure of the entire team and its teamwork. This is a big cultural change for many institutions, where "academic freedom" has come to be used reflexively as a shield from any demands, sometimes because some of those demands are unreasonable or unwise. There has to be a well-defined process by which student success is understood to be the collaborative responsibility of the academic team, working together as an ensemble.

These two basic principles—empowering individuals and working as teams—can generally be captured in a fairly small number of rules and roles, regardless of the flavor of Agile being practiced. And most Agile teams that get them right will function adequately while getting more satisfaction from their work—under relatively unchallenging circumstances. They may even feel that they are doing Agile well. But then there is a whole world of craft that is all about handling context-specific challenges. How do you balance functional versus non-functional requirements? How do you prioritize aging aspects of the software, a.k.a. "technical debt"? How do you manage large projects that require many Agile teams? How do you deal with extrinsic constraints on release timing (like the start of an academic term)? Agile practitioners can always improve their craft, both as individuals and as teams. Entire industries of tools and consulting have grown up around supporting excellence in that craft.

Which is utterly unlike the way in which the industries that surround education function (or fail to function) today. There is a reason for that. An industry designed to promote operational excellence of knowledge workers cannot succeed in absence of a shared understanding among the knowledge workers about what operational excellence looks like. Agile software development is a craft with a lot of consensus around the principles, a track record of results, and enough expert practitioners that knotty problems, along with their solutions, can be shared fairly efficiently across a very large and loosely organized profession. There is a lot of debate too, which is the sign of a healthy ecosystem of knowledge workers advancing the leading edge of their craft. But that debate occurs within the context of a common understanding that is woven into the culture. Practitioners in those debates are rewarded with recognition of their expertise and contribution to the field. And their employers love having these experts and reward them appropriately because their excellence at creatively applying and innovating with the methodology advances institutional goals. 

With that cultural substrate in place, a tool or service vendor can come in and say, "We help you solve X sort of problem in your Empirical Education process," and the prospective customers will, understand what is being offered, be capable of evaluating its utility, and place (monetarily quantifiable) value on that utility. That's what we need for learning analytics, adaptive learning, or just about any whizzy, trendy ed tech thingamabob you can think of or will be thought of.

Most or all of the elements for a methodology of operational excellence in education exist in the world today. They need to be gathered, distilled, and refined into a learnable, repeatable, and adaptable practice. That is the outcome we aspire to achieve in collaboration with the participants in the EEP, not to mention support from the collective wisdom and will of higher education writ large.

Moving forward

As I wrote earlier, I will be blogging about relevant examples we are seeing, on both the institutional side and the vendor side, in the coming days. And EEP will soon be announcing the first release of some tools that can help form a foundational layer of the institutional infrastructure for Empirical Education. In the meantime, if you are going to be at the Online Learning Consortium Accelerate conference, I will be moderating an EEP-relevant panel discussion of SoTL on Thursday at 11:15 AM in Oceanic 1. From there, some of us will head to the exhibition hall, where we will have an EEP meet-up at the Soomo booth (#226) at 12:15 PM. You don't have to be a member of the current EEP cohort to join us; the EEP-curious are welcome.

  1. I am use phrases like "student outcomes" and "student success" interchangeably and broadly for the purposes of this post, even though I know that they can have different connotations.
  2. Disclosure: Pearson is a sponsor of EEP.
  3. Disclosure: McGraw-Hill Education is a sponsor of EEP and subscriber to our Trusted Advisor market analysis service. Macmillan is a sponsor of EEP.
  4. Disclosure: D2L is a sponsor of EEP and a subscriber to our LMS market analysis service.
  5. Disclosure: Blackboard is a sponsor of EEP and a subscriber to our LMS market analysis service.

The post Toward a Methodology of Change in Higher Ed appeared first on e-Literate.

by Michael Feldstein at November 11, 2018 09:41 PM

November 09, 2018

Apereo OAE

Apereo OAE Snowy Owl is now available!

The latest version of Apereo's Open Academic Environment (OAE) project has just been released! Version 15.0.0 is codenamed Snowy Owl and it includes some changes (mostly under the hood) in order to pave the way for what's to come. Read the full changelog at Github

Image taken from bird eden.

November 09, 2018 06:50 PM

November 08, 2018

Adam Marshall

H5P Improvements: LaTeX, Content Reuse and Copyright Handling

Those wonderful people at H5P have added some new features the most impressive of which is the integration of LaTeX into all content types (eg, drag and drop, multiple choice etc.)

If you want more information then you will find that the H5P Release Notes are very interesting.

You may also be interested in this previous blog post about H5P.

by Adam Marshall at November 08, 2018 05:03 PM

October 25, 2018

Adam Marshall

Introducing the new ‘Cabinet’ LTI tool

A new (external) tool called ‘Cabinet’ has been added to WebLearn. You can find it in the “Plugins” section of the “Manage Tools” page in “Site Info”.

Integrating Object, Image and Text in Oxford Teaching

Digital technologies are revolutionising our ability to integrate objects and images into university teaching. Cabinet has been developed to support teaching with objects and images in 2D and 3D, using a range of visual materials from Oxford’s GLAM collections and beyond.

Cabinet enables you to integrate text and object in the teaching process, providing full access to visual materials for study and revision

Objects and images used in lecture courses, handling sessions, classes, tutorials and seminars are uploaded onto Cabinet to give students the opportunity to review and revise materials alongside text. Cabinet supports both classroom and independent work through close study of high-resolution digitised course materials, and through interactive tools such as tagging and annotation of materials they encounter. The platform offers both a dynamic site for analysis and interaction, and a rich archive for the course module that enables its use by any teacher of the course.

Cabinet contains features allowing in-depth engagement with sources, including annotation of objects in 3D space, embedding of multimedia such as video and audio content, and the ability to post comments to stimulate online discussions about physical and textual study materials.

Cabinet is designed to be intuitive and flexible; it suits the learning preferences of digital natives, and also addresses the variety of teaching styles and time constraints of lecturers and tutors.

Papers can be of any size and can be organised by weeks, themes or other categories.

Both faculty members and museum curators are currently populating the site with courses from across all four Divisions of the University, and are actively experimenting with the platform. Initial feedback from students and lecturers is highly positive.

Cabinet is now supported by the Technology Enhanced Learning team, who offer full support in structuring the online course and in uploading course materials. The Cabinet team at the Oxford Internet Institute also welcome further enquiries from colleagues, and can offer some additional support such as 3D imaging.

Cabinet was originally developed by a team led by Oxford Internet Institute (OII), and funded through University’s IT Innovation Seed Fund (2015-16) and the GLAM Digital Content Board



by Adam Marshall at October 25, 2018 01:54 PM

October 16, 2018

Dr. Chuck

Sakai-19 has MVP support for LTI 1.3 and LTI Advantage – Certification is coming soon

I am happy to announce today that Sakai’s master branch has minimum viable product (MVP) for all of the aspects of IMS LTI Advantage.  

We have this code in our code base before the specs are completed and before certification tests are available for LTI Advantage.  Because of the specs and certifications are not available/final, we cannot claim compliance to the specs at this time (October 2018) – all I am announcing at this time is that we have an initial, complete implementation that we will move into certification.

Sakai (and Tsugi) will help IMS test their certifications and reference implementations as they are rolled out and I expect we wil be certified as soon as the certifications are available.

In short LTI Advantage includes an OAuth 2.0 / JWT security model for launches and services, a names and roles service, and the ability for a tool to make create and manage their own grade book columns.

The LTI Advantage code is already included in Sakai-19.   Any issues identified during certification and interoperability testing with other vendors will be fixed using our normal fix-merge-and-minor-release process – so we will be able to field a 100% certified LTI Advantage implementation in Sakai-19 once IMS finalizes the specs and provides the certifications.

I am excited.   My feeling is the LTI Advantage will be as revolutionary as the initial LTI 1.1 was nearly a decade ago.

All the other major LMS systems in the market are making good progress towards LTI Advantage by the end of the year and Sakai will have LTI advantage in the same timeframe as the rest of the market.

This will be a great development for Sakai – since the Advantage APIs cover such a broad scope and all major vendors will be implementing the full range of the APIs, it means that far richer LTI tools can be built without using proprietary LMS-specific extensions.   Other LMS vendors will push tools towards LTI 1.3 / Advantage by making it so that switching to LTI 1.3 is the only way to get access to certain capabilities.

Technical Details

If you are interested in the nerdy details of what it took to make it happen, you can look at the Sakai issue tracker:

The short summary is that while it took me four months to build LTI Advantage for Sakai, the new code is simpler and cleaner than the LTI 1.1 code and far simpler than the LTI 2.0 support in Sakai. As a comparison, I worked on LTI 2.0 in Sakai off and on for three years before it was completed.


It is important that I acknowledge the help, support and guidance by the other participants in the LTI Advantage process.   They know much more about this spec than I do and I was able to lean on them as I raced through my implementation and for that I am very thankful.

Thanks to: Claude Vervort / Cengage, Nathan Mills / Canvas, Karl Lloyd / Canvas, Eric Preston / Blackboard, Derek Haskins / IMS, James Risler / IMS, Martin Leonord / TurnItIn, Paul Gray / Learning Objects, and many others.

Making LTI Advantage work on a tight time schedule required an unprecedented trust and sharing of code and best practices between participants.

We knew we were all going to succeed together or fail separately and the the effort was large but also important and transformational.  I for one know I could never have done this without the help I received from the rest of the working group.   So my heartfelt thanks is in order.

by Charles Severance at October 16, 2018 02:03 PM

October 08, 2018

Adam Marshall

WebLearn and Turnitin Courses and User Group meetings: Michaelmas term 2018

IT Services offers a variety of taught courses to support the use of WebLearn and the plagiarism awareness software Turnitin. Course books for the WebLearn Fundamentals course (3 hours) can be downloaded for self study. Places are limited and bookings are required. All courses are free of charge.

Click on the links provided for further information and to book a place.

WebLearn 3-hour course:

Plagiarism awareness courses (Turnitin):

User Group meetings:

by Jill Fresen at October 08, 2018 03:44 PM

October 05, 2018

Dr. Chuck

Open Apereo 2019 – the Premier Conference for Open Source in Education

Open Apereo 2019 will take place at the Omni Los Angeles Hotel at California Plaza ( ) between Sunday June 2nd and Thursday June 6th 2019. Hold those dates!

Open Apereo has a growing reputation as a great conference for learning and networking around open source in education. What makes it great are the volunteers from the Apereo community that bring their priorities and vision into the planning process, ably supported by our outstanding conference planners, Concentra.

If you would like to participate in the planning of the conference, please contact Ian Dolphin of the Apereo Foundation (


by Charles Severance at October 05, 2018 12:06 AM

September 27, 2018

Sakai Project

Sakai 12.4 maintenance is released!

Dear Community,

I'm pleased to announce on behalf of the worldwide community that Sakai 12.4 is released and available for downloading! 

Sakai 12.4 has 88 improvements including: 

  • 22 fixes in Assignments
  • 14 fixes in Gradebook
  • 9 fixes in Tests & Quizzes (Samigo)
  • 7 fixes in Lessons
  • 6 fixes in Roster
  • 5 fixes in Portal

For more information, visit 12.4 Fixes by Tool

by WHodges at September 27, 2018 06:11 PM

August 15, 2018

Sakai Project

Now Open! Call for Proposals for the Sakai Virtual Conference 2018

Sakai Project Logo

We are actively seeking presenters who are knowledgeable about teaching with Sakai. You don’t need to be a technical expert to share your experiences! Submit your proposal today! The deadline for submissions is September 21st, 2018.

Save the Date: The Sakai Virtual Conference will take place entirely online on Wednesday, November 7th.

by MHall at August 15, 2018 06:58 PM

August 13, 2018

Sakai Project

Sakai Community Survey - Number of Users at Your Institution

We would like your help in tallying up the total number of Sakai users worldwide.

by MHall at August 13, 2018 04:33 PM

July 04, 2018


F2F Course Site Content Import

If you’re tasked with teaching an upcoming course that you’ve taught in the past with the University – there’s no need to rebuild everything from scratch – unless you want to.

Faculty teaching face to face (F2F) courses can benefit from the course content import process in Site Info. This process allows you to pull in all your assignments, syllabus, gradebook, handouts and other files associated with the course – as used in a previous offering of the course.

To do this, you need to be an instructor in both course sites (the former and the upcoming). Go to the upcoming course site, and select Site Info>Import from Site:


Next, select the kind of import you wish to perform. I typically suggest using the replacement option “I would like to replace my data”. On the next screen select which course you’d like to pull content in FROM.  Be careful here making sure you select the SOURCE of the content you’ll import. Next click Continue.

On the next screen select the tools/areas of content you wish to import. Keep in mind it’s always a good idea to import the Resources, because files referred to in Assignments, Quizzes, Lessons or Announcements could refer to those files, and in order for those links to work properly the corresponding resources must be likewise imported.

Finally complete the import process and watch for the email to be sent to you – notifying you of the import process being completed. You can find out more information about the process here.

Want to watch the whole process in real time? Take a gander here:

by Dave E. at July 04, 2018 06:56 PM

June 11, 2018

Apereo OAE

Strategic re-positioning: OAE in the world of NGDLE

The experience of the Open Academic Environment Project (OAE) forms a significant practical contribution to the emerging vision of the ‘Next Generation Digital Learning Environment’, or NGDLE. Specifically, OAE contributes core collaboration tools and services that can be used in the context of a class, of a formal or informal group outside a class, and indeed of such a group outside an institution. This set of tools and services leverages academic infrastructure, such as Access Management Federations, or widely used commercial infrastructure for authentication, open APIs for popular third-party software (e.g. video conference) and open standards such as LTI and xAPI.

Beyond the LMS/VLE

OAE is widely used by staff in French higher education in the context of research and other inter-institutional collaboration. The project is now examining future directions which bring OAE closer to students – and to learning. This is driven by a groundswell among learners. There is strong anecdotal evidence that students in France are chafing at the constraints of the LMS/VLE. They are beginning to use social media – not necessarily with adequate data or other safeguards – to overcome the perceived limitations of the LMS/VLE. The core functionality of OAE – people forming groups to collaborate around content – provides a means of circumventing the LMS’s limitations without selling one’s soul – or one’s data – to the social media giants. OAE embodies key capabilities supporting social and unstructured learning, and indeed could be adapted and configured as a ‘student owned environment’: a safe space for sharing and discussion of ideas leading to organic group activities. The desires and requirements of students have not featured strongly in NGDLE conversations to this point: The OAE project, beginning with work in France, will explore student discontent with the LMS, and seek to work together with LMS solution providers and software communities to provide a richer and more engaging experience for learners.

Integration points and data flows

OAE has three principal objectives in this area:

  1. OAE has a basic (uncertified) implementation of the IMSGlobal Learning Tools Interoperability specification. This will be enriched to further effect integration with the LMS/VLE where it is required. OAE will not assume such integration is required without evidence. It will not drive such integration on the basis of technical feasibility, but by needs expressed by learners and educators.
  2. Driven by the significant growth of usage of the Karuta ePortfolio software in France, OAE will explore how student-selected evidence of competency can easily be provided for Karuta, and what other connections might be required or desirable between the two systems.
  3. Given the growth of interest in learning analytics in France and globally, OAE will become an exemplary emitter of learning analytics data and will act wherever possible to analyse each new or old feature from a designed analytics perspective. Learning analytics data will flow from learning designs embedded in OAE, not simply be the accidental output that constitutes a technical log file.

OAE is continuing to develop and transform its sustainability model. The change is essentially from a model based primarily on financially-based contributions to that of a mixed mode community-based model, where financial contributions are encouraged alongside individual, institutional and organisational volunteered contributions of code, documentation and other non-code artefacts. There are two preconditions for accomplishing this. The first, which applies specifically to code, is clearing a layer of technical debt in order to more easily encourage and facilitate contributions around modern software frameworks and tools. OAE is committed to paying down this debt and encouraging contributions from developers outside the project.

The second is both more complex and more straightforward; straightforward to describe, but complex to realise. Put simply, answers to questions around wasteful duplication of resources in deploying software in education have fallen out of balance with reality. The pendulum has swung from “local” through “cloud first” to “cloud only”. Innovation around learning, which by its very nature often begins locally, is often stifled by the industrial-style massification of ‘the hosted LMS’ which emphasises conformity with a single model. As a result of this strategy, institutions have switched from software development and maintenance to contract management. In many cases, this means that they have tended to swap creative, problem-solving capability for an administrative capability. It is almost as though e-learning has entered a “Fordist” phase, with only the green shoots of LTI enabled niche applications and individual institutional initiatives providing hope of a rather more postmodern – and flexible - future.

OAE retains its desire and ambition to provide a scalable solution that remains “cloud ready”. The project believes, however, that the future is federated. Patchworks of juridical and legal frameworks across national and regional boundaries alone – particularly around privacy - should drive a reconsideration of “cloud only” as a strategy for institutions with global appetites. Institutions with such appetites – and there are few now which do not have them – will distribute, federate and firewall systems to work around legislative roadblocks, bumps in the road, and brick walls. OAE will, then, begin to consider and work on inter-host federation of content and other services. This will, of necessity, begin small. It will, however, remain the principled grit in the strategic oyster. As more partners join the project, OAE will start designing a federation architectural layer that will lay the foundation to a scenario where OAE instances dynamically exchange data among themselves in a seamless and efficient way according to a variety of use cases.

ID 22-MAY-18 Amended 23-MAY-18

June 11, 2018 12:00 PM

May 01, 2018


Will Sakai look different following the upgrade?

While there are some improvements to accessibility and some on-going tweaks to improve color contrast issues, the upgrade to Sakai will not affect the overall appearance that much.  For mobile users – the difference in course navigation will be much-improved.

Desktop/Laptop view:

Sakai 11
Sakai - Pre Upgrade Desktop View

Following Upgrade:
Sakai - Post Upgrade Desktop View

Mobile view (Sakai 11/Post-Upgrade):
Sakai - Pre Upgrade Mobile View  Sakai - Post Upgrade Mobile View

More detail will be distributed in the coming weeks and those following the upgrade.

by Dave E. at May 01, 2018 07:53 PM

Gradebook Calculation Anomoly

In what appears to be a gradebook calculation anomaly, be sure items are categorized appropriately even if you course is only using categories for organization – otherwise final course grade calculations may be inaccurate – as the following video explains.


To address categorization of an item, check the Gradebook>Settings>Categories and Weighting to insure you’ve setup the gradebook correctly (specific to each course).  Next insure all items which have bearing on the overall grade are INCLUDED in the course grade calculation – making sure they DO NOT have a calculator with a slash through it AND that they are not in an uncategorized category:


by Dave E. at May 01, 2018 06:23 PM