Planet Sakai

August 22, 2014

Michael Feldstein

On ECAR data and ed tech purgatory

Recently I wrote a post about many ed tech products being stuck in pilots without large-scale adoption.

In our consulting work Michael and I often help survey institutions to discover what technologies are being used within courses, and typically the only technologies that are used by a majority of faculty members or in a majority of courses are the following:

  • AV presentation in the classroom;
  • PowerPoint usage in the classroom (obviously connected with the projectors);
  • Learning Management Systems (LMS);
  • Digital content at lower level than a full textbook (through open Internet, library, publishers, other faculty, or OER); and
  • File sharing applications. [snip]

This stuck process ends up as an ed tech purgatory – with promises and potential of the heaven of full institutional adoption with meaningful results to follow, but also with the peril of either never getting out of purgatory or outright rejection over time.

With the Chronicle’s Almanac coming out this week, there is an interesting chart that on the surface might contradict the above information, showing ~20 technologies with above 50% adoption.

Note: Data are drawn from responses by a subset of more than 500 of the nearly 800 institutions that participated in a survey conducted from June to October 2013. Reported statistics are either an estimated proportion of the population or an estimated median. Source: Educause Center for Analysis and Research

Note: Data are drawn from responses by a subset of more than 500 of the nearly 800 institutions that participated in a survey conducted from June to October 2013. Reported statistics are either an estimated proportion of the population or an estimated median.
Source: Educause Center for Analysis and Research [ECAR]

The difference, however, is that ECAR (through The Chronicle) asked how many institutions have different ed tech products and our survey asked how many courses within an institution use different ed tech products.

There are plenty of technologies being piloted but few hitting the mainstream, and adoption within an institution is one of the key indicators to watch.

The post On ECAR data and ed tech purgatory appeared first on e-Literate.

by Phil Hill at August 22, 2014 03:24 PM

August 18, 2014


Sakai@UD Planned Outage for 2.9.3 Upgrade

On Wednesday, August 20, 2014, Sakai@UD will be unavailable from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. to allow the code to be upgraded to version 2.9.3. Sakai 2.9 contains significant performance improvements, updated technical infrastructure, hundreds of bug fixes (over 600 bug fixes and over 20 security improvements), and accessibility improvements. Significant features have been added […] more >

by Mathieu Plourde at August 18, 2014 06:28 PM

Michael Feldstein

OER and the Future of Knewton

Jose Ferriera, the CEO of Knewton, recently published a piece on edSurge arguing that scaling OER cannot “break the textbook industry” because, according to him, it has low production values, no instructional design, and is not enterprise grade. Unsurprisingly, David Wiley disagrees. I also disagree, but for somewhat different reasons than David’s.

When talking about Open Educational Resources or, for that matter, open source software, it is important to distinguish between license and sustainability model, as well as distinguishing between current sustainability models and possible sustainability models. It all starts with a license. Specifically, it starts with a copyright license. Whether we are talking about Creative Commons or GPL, an open license grants copyright permission to anyone who wants it, provided that the people who want to reuse the content are willing to abide by the terms of the license. By granting blanket permission, the copyright owner of the resource chooses to give up certain (theoretical) revenue earning potential. If the resource is available for free, then why would you pay for it?

This raises a question for any resource that needs to be maintained and improved over time about how it will be supported. In the early days of open source, projects were typically supported through individual volunteers or small collections of volunteers, which limited the kinds and size of open source software projects that could be created. This is also largely the state of OER today. Much of it is built by volunteers. Sometimes it is grant funded, but there typically is not grant money to maintain and update it. Under these circumstances, if the project is of the type that can be adequately well maintained through committed volunteer efforts, then it can survive and potentially thrive. If not, then it will languish and potentially die.

But open resources don’t have to be supported through volunteerism. It is possible to build revenue models that can pay for their upkeep. For example, it is possible to charge for uses of materials other than those permitted by the open license. Khan Academy releases their videos under a Creative Commons Noncommercial Share-Alike (CC NC-SA) license. Everyday students and teachers can use it for free under normal classroom circumstances. But if a textbook publisher wants to bundle that content with copyrighted material and sell it for a fee, the license does not give them permission to do so. Khan Academy can (and, as far as I know, does) charge for commercial reuse of the content.

Another possibility is to sell services related to the content. In open source software, this is typically in the form of support and maintenance services. For education content, it might be access to testing or analytics software, or curriculum planning and implementation services. This is a non-exhaustive list. The point is that it is possible to generate revenue from open content. And revenue can pay for resources to support high production values, instructional design, and enterprise scaling, particularly when paired with grant funding and volunteer efforts. These other options don’t necessarily generate as much revenue as traditional copyright-based licensing, but that’s often a moot point. Business models based on open licenses generally get traction when the market for licensed product is beginning to commodify, meaning that companies are beginning to lose their ability to charge high prices for their copyrighted materials anyway.

That’s the revenue side. It’s also important to consider the cost side. On the one hand, the degree to which educational content needs high production values and “enterprise scaling” is arguable. Going back to Khan Academy for a moment, Sal Khan popularized the understanding that one need not have an expensive three-camera professional studio production to create educational videos that have reach and impact. That’s just one of the better known of many examples of OER that is considered high-quality even though it doesn’t have what publishing professionals traditionally have thought of as “high production values.” On the other hand, it is important to recognize that a big portion of textbook revenues go into sales and marketing, and for good reason. Despite multiple efforts by multiple parties to create portals through which faculty and students can find good educational resources, the adoption process in higher education remains badly broken. So far with a few exceptions, the only good way to get widespread adoption of curricular materials still seems to be to hire an army of sales reps to go knock on faculty doors. It is unclear when or how this will change.

This brings us to the hard truth of why the question of whether OER can “win” is harder than it seems. Neither the OER advocates nor the textbook publishers have a working economic model right now. The textbook publishers were very successful for many years but have grown unsustainable cost structures which they can no longer prop up through appeals to high production values and enterprise support. But the OER advocates have not yet cracked the sales and marketing nut or proven out revenue models that enable them to do what is necessary to drive adoption at scale. If everybody is losing, then nobody is winning. At least at the moment.

This is where Knewton enters the picture. As you read Jose’s perspective, it is important to keep in mind that his company has a dog in this fight. (To be fair at the risk of stating the obvious, so does David’s.) While Knewton is making noises about releasing a product that will enable end users to create adaptive content with any materials (including, presumably, OER), their current revenues come from textbook publishers and other educational content companies. Further, adaptive capabilities such as the ones Knewton offers add to the cost of an educational content product, both directly through the fees that the company charges and indirectly through the additional effort required to design, produce, and maintain adaptive products. To me, the most compelling argument David makes in favor of OER “winning” is that it is much easier to lower the price of educational materials than it is to increase their efficacy. So if you’re measuring the value of the product by standard deviations per dollar, then smart thing is to aim for the denominator (while hopefully not totally ignoring the numerator). The weak link in this argument is that it works best in a relatively rational and low-friction market that limits the need for non-product-development-related expenses such as sales and marketing. In other words, it works best in the antithesis of the conditions that exist today. Knewton, on the other hand, needs there to be enough revenue for curricular materials to pay for the direct and indirect costs of their platform. This is not necessarily a bad thing for education if Knewton-enhanced products can actually raise the numerator as much as or more than OER advocates can lower the denominator. But their perspective—both in terms of how they think about the question of value in curricular materials and in terms of how they need to build a business capable of paying back $105 million in venture capital investment—tilts toward higher costs that one hopes would result in commensurately higher value.

All of this analysis assumes that in David’s ratio of standard deviations per dollar, all that matters is the ratio itself, independently of the individual numbers that make it up. But that cannot be uniformly true. Some students cannot afford educational resources above a certain price no matter how effective they are. (I would love to lower my carbon footprint by buying a Tesla. Alas….) In other cases, getting the most effective educational resources possible is most important and the extra money is not a big issue. This comes down to not only how much the students themselves can afford to pay but also how education is funded and subsidized in general. So there are complex issues in play here regarding “value.” But on the first-order question of whether OER can “break the textbook industry,” my answer is, “it depends.”

The post OER and the Future of Knewton appeared first on e-Literate.

by Michael Feldstein at August 18, 2014 05:41 PM

August 15, 2014

Michael Feldstein

D2L raises $85 million but growth claims defy logic

Yesterday D2L announced a second round of investment, this time raising $85 million (a mix of debt and equity) to go with their $80 million round two years ago (see EDUKWEST for a useful roundup of news and article links). While raising $165 million is an impressive feat, does this funding give us new information on the LMS market?

First, here are the claims by D2L as part of this round of financing, from EdSurge:

The deal comes on the heels of what the company calls “a year of record growth in the higher education, K-12 and corporate markets.” John Baker, founder and CEO, says the company currently serves 1,100 institutions and 15 million learners–up from 850 and 10 million, respectively, at this time last year. The company also recently opened offices in Latin America, Asia Pacific and Europe.

That’s a 29% growth in the number of institutions and a 50% growth in the number of learners in just one year. Quite impressive if accurate.

Yet the company went through a significant round of layoffs in late 2013 that let go more than 7% of its workforce, and according to both LinkedIn data and company statements they have had no significant growth in number of employees over the past year. According to the EdSurge article, the company does plan to use the new money to hire more staff [emphasis added].

This time, the company says it will play it cool. “There are no planned acquisitions at this stage,” Baker tells EdSurge. “At this point, we’re primarily focused on building out our learning platform to support our clients and thousands of integration partners.” To do so, the company will grow its team of 783 full-time employees. “We are actively looking for dozens of new positions; over 60 in R&D alone,” shares Baker.

Note this slide from John Baker’s FUSION keynote one year ago:

John Baker keynote slide from FUSION conference July 2013

John Baker keynote slide from FUSION conference July 2013

If you take the information above – 800+ employees last year and 783 today - at face value, D2L has actually dropped in employee headcount. Does it make sense that a company can grow 50% in terms of learners without growing company employment, especially coming between two massive funding rounds?

Secondarily, what about the statement of “thousands of integration partners”? D2L is claiming to have more than twice as many integration partners as they do actual clients.

The other issue is market share. It is clear that D2L is planning to grow in corporate (10% of their business according to WSJ), K-12, and international higher ed markets; however, their largest business is still US higher ed. And here they have actually shown signs of no real growth, and for community colleges even dropping market share.

For the first time in an LMS market survey that I am aware of, Desire2Learn has actually lost market share. In fact, Desire2Learn is now lower than both Moodle and Canvas for community colleges according to this survey. This is a topic worth exploring further, especially in relation to last year’s layoffs.

Edutechnica ran the numbers for US higher education in October 2013.[1]

Edutechnica data from Oct 13 for US institutions with more than 2,000 FTE

Edutechnica data from Oct 13 for US institutions with more than 2,000 FTE

Edutechnica ran the numbers again for the end of June for 2,000 FTE and above (to allow an apples-to-apples comparison with Oct 2013), but they have not yet published the results. George did agree to share preliminary information with me, and D2L came out with 225 institutions and 2,084,089 enrollments.[2] The Edutechnica numbers leads to an increase of 3% in number of US institutions and 2% in enrollment (number of learners) over the past 10 months. If D2L has grown its total number of learners by 50% over the past year, it would make sense that we would see very different numbers for their largest market.

In another interview with local media outlet The Star, CEO John Baker described growth this way:

“We’re seeing very rapid growth in Europe, we’ve seen triple-digit growth in Latin America and Asia Pacific. In terms of new accounts we’re seeing great growth basically everywhere we look,” Baker said. Desire2Learn is prioritizing growth in “key hubs,” including Brazil, Mexico, the U.S. and Singapore, he said.

This raises some questions:

  • They mention growth everywhere they look, including the US. Where is this growth that is not showing up in market data?
  • What percentage of their business – in terms of revenue, customers or learner counts – comes from international markets? The company press releases mention their investments in international hubs but I can find no significant news on new accounts with huge numbers.

D2L did not respond to several requests for comment or clarification for this post.

My intention in this and previous posts is to explain what I am seeing in the market and challenge the marketing claims - education institutions need an accurate understanding of what is happening in the LMS market. It is worth noting that not a single media outlet listed by EDUKWEST or quoted above (WSJ, Reuters, Bloomberg, re/code, edSurge, TheStar) challenged or even questioned D2L’s bold claims. It would help if more media outlets didn’t view their job as paraphrasing press releases.

  1. Edutechnica also ran an update in May 2014, but that used a different criteria of ‘more than 1,000 FTE’.
  2. By the way, think of how useful the Edutechnica data approach is compared to annual surveys, with the ability to adjust variables and update results so quickly.

The post D2L raises $85 million but growth claims defy logic appeared first on e-Literate.

by Phil Hill at August 15, 2014 03:57 PM

Zach Thomas

Sakai and Ansible Sittin’ In a Tree

I love data center automation. It’s funny, I know, since I don’t even have a data center. But I started my software development career back when it took weeks to order and procure any servers, and the developers were definitely not allowed to ever touch them. Each one was a finely-crafted jewel, fussed over by an attentive sysadmin. Fast forward to now, and I can spin up a fleet of servers with a single line from a terminal. With good automation in place, you can keep all your configuration under version control, and should any server disappear without warning, you can be confident that you’ll have a new one completely ready in a matter of minutes.

I first got started with puppet, which, together with chef, is one of the giants of IT automation. I created modules for my company’s build environment, staging environment, and a generic development environment for Sakai.

More recently, I discovered ansible, thanks to the ThoughtWorks technology radar. Ansible is different from puppet in some superficial ways (python instead of ruby!), but I also found it much easier to understand and much quicker to get up and running.

One of the things that’s tricky to get right in puppet is which tasks depend on other tasks. For example, if you’re going to download a file using cURL, that task will depend on the one that ensures cURL is installed on the system. With puppet, you say that one task requires one or more other tasks. But if you forget, you’ll find out when it fails.

With ansible, tasks run in the order they appear in your specification. What could be more intuitive than that? That is pretty much what you would expect to happen.

Another cool thing about ansible is that it doesn’t require an agent to be running on the machine you’re trying to provision. It just needs an ssh daemon and python, and those are standard equipment on (nearly) any server distribution you’re going to find.

I have converted our staging environment to ansible, and it’s working great. If you take the extra step (optional) of installing ansible on the server, you can have the server refresh itself with a command called ansible-pull. You just put that in a cron job, and it can pick up any changes you might want to make from a git repository.

I have been wanting to try ansible for the Sakai develeoper environment, and I finally did it. You’ll find that here on github. The most frustrating part is still waiting for the Subversion checkout of close to 540MiB of source files, but it’s pretty cool that you can have everything you need (java jdk, maven, tomcat, svn) in a vm without having to worry that you left out a step, or that anything might conflict with versions that you already have installed on your own machine.

August 15, 2014 01:28 PM

August 07, 2014

Sakai Project

Sakai Virtual Conference 2014

Sakai Virtual Conference 2014
Bridging Education with Technology
November 7, 2014 - Online   #SakaiVC14

August 07, 2014 04:15 PM

Dr. Chuck

Sakai 11: iFrames are starting to vanish

You have been hearing a bunch about the new responsive Morpheus portal and the removal of the iFrames from Sakai 11. Lots of work has been going on. Last night I committed the first of many changes to the portal code in trunk to start Sakai 11 down the path to being iframe free. The Morpheus effort is already well on the way to making our default portal mobile friendly and responsive.

If you go to the nightly server as of this morning, you will see that there are no more iframes except for the following tools:

Lessons, Samigo, Preferences, Resources, DropBox, and Home

If you want to a fun test, go to:

Make an account, make a site, add the Gradebook and a few other tools to the site – then click the four buttons across the top of Gradebook and then click the Back button four times – watching the URL change. No iframes, real REST looking URLs in the location box and flawless back button.

At this point we have not done anything that is irreversible, all we did was change two property defaults in trunk. You can restore yesterday’s behavior by setting these back to their old defaults:


If you are playing with the morpheus portal, the next time you so an ’svn update’ the same settings and behaviors will be in effect. The morpheus portal is inlining all but the above tools as well.

None of this will be put into Sakai 10 – it will remain in trunk for Sakai 11. We know there will be lots of little issues as we completely rewrite how the portl works underneath our feet and so we really need the next six or so months to colletively test these major UI improvements.

Over the next few weeks, we will be working on tweaking little markup glitches to make it so all tools can be inlined in both the neo and morpheus portals. Lessons, Samigo and Preferences have small issues of markup conflicts, jQuery versions or local CSS bits that should be easily fixed to allow them to be inlined. DropBox and Home use Bootstrap Javascript and CSS and so they have significant markup conflicts between them and the portal – we may need to wait for morpheus to mature some more to get these two tools working in inline mode. Home has four tools on a single page and there is no way to inline more than one tool on a page other than using portlets so the Home page will take some work – or perhaps we just replace it with the Dashboard :).

As we make these changes, every effort will be made to keep the tools working in all variants of the portal (neo with frames, neo with no frames, and morpheus with and without frames). But at some point we will need to change tool markup in a way that it no longer works with the neo portal or works in a diminished mode in neo. By that point, morpheus will have nmatured to the point where it will be the default and only portal that we support for Sakai 11. When that happens there will be plently of communication and announcements and opportunities to do some testing and feedback from the community. So make sure to listen carefully to the developer and user lists in Sakai over the next few months as this bit of “evolution in place” happens.

You can track what is happening at this JIRA:

If you find a problem that appears to be a markup conflict between the portal and tool markup, please file a JIRA and link it to SAK-27774 and we will see what we can do.

Let us know what you think of this on the user and developer lists. One of the benefits of being part of the Sakai community is that we make changes like this in the open and invite broad disucssion about them. It is one of the hallmarks of an open community of developers and users guiding a product forward together.

This is the first of many steps to a state-of-the-art responsive and iframe-free user experience – the journey of a thousand commits starts with a single commit.

by Charles Severance at August 07, 2014 05:06 AM

July 30, 2014

Adam Marshall

WebLearn likely to be unavailable on Saturday 6th September 2014

A message from Mike Fraser (Director of Infrastructure Services):

Dear colleagues,

It is planned to power-down the IT Services data centre at Banbury Road on Saturday, 6 September 2014 with the loss of a significant number of IT services.  This outage is necessary in order for Estates Services to replace the end-of-life cooling system, which uses a refrigerant that will be illegal to maintain beyond December 2014; fit a by-pass switch to the data centre UPS to allow us to carry out maintenance on the UPS without the need to shut down the whole data centre; and to undertake mandatory electrical testing. The work is expected to be undertaken from 0800 with restoration of services by 1700. It is likely that some services that cannot be kept running will be powered down the previous evening (Friday 5 Sept) from 1700 onwards.

We are assessing the impact to IT services hosted in the data centre and, where possible, putting in place workarounds in order to try and minimise the overall impact to the University. We do not yet have a definitive list of services that will be unavailable on 6 Sept and so at this point in time all networked services provided by IT Services should be considered at risk on that day (with potential impact on local services). We intend to communicate a list of affected services by 6 August with further reminders leading up to 6 September.

Given the number of individual pieces of hardware that will be powered-down on 6 September, and the risk of hardware failure, it is likely that some services will not come back on line within the expected time period. We will endeavour to maintain frequent communications to IT support staff during any period of service outage.

If you have any immediate concerns or questions please email in the first instance.

With regards,


by Adam Marshall at July 30, 2014 09:37 AM

July 25, 2014

Adam Marshall

Peer assessment coming in WebLearn 10

The WebLearn team is upgrading WebLearn to Sakai version 10 over the summer (2014). One of the great new features of the Assignments tool is that it allows peer review and grading (peer assessment). This screenshot shows two students who have each submitted an assignment, and each received one (anonymous) peer review with comments and a grade.

Note that the instructor needs to wait until the review period (specified when the assignment is created) is over, before checking the peer reviews and allocating a final mark:


See more details on this blog post from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:

by Jill Fresen at July 25, 2014 02:38 PM

July 23, 2014

Dr. Chuck

Sakai 10 Released – The Magic of Open Source

In this post I am not speaking for University of Michigan, Longsight Inc., or the IMS Global Learning Consortium.

It is always a great feeling for an open source community to finish a release. So much work goes into a release and so many volunteers are involved and work hard – so it is a proud moment for a lot of us. I tend to be involved in more of the up front development and working on crazy next gen stuff. So I am doubly grateful to those who put the finishing touches on these releases and then get them out to the public and put them into production.

Here is the official release notice for Sakai 10. There is a long list of great stuff in that link that I won’t replicate here.

As I said in the The Post-LMS LMS article in Inside Higher Education, the past year has seen a lot of incremental investment in all five of the major LMS systems in the marketplace. In a sense we were all reacting to changes in the market. As we gain experiences with larger sized classes that we hope to run at scale (i.e inspired by MOOCs) there are a number of MOOC-like features that are finding their way into products. Sakai-10’s peer-assessment and improvement of group-submitted are partially inspired by the MOOCs heavy use of peer features. It is not so much that MOOCs were the first to do peer-assessment – more that peer-assessment has gotten a lot of attention in the past two years.

If Sakai end-users feel strongly enough about a feature to bring funding or resources to the table, the features get built and added to the core product and are part of the next release surprisingly quickly. It is that simple – no product marketing layer or sales people to fight through. You find or hire the necessary resources and have a feature in the core product. There is no other product in the LMS marketplace where end-users personally know the core developers of the product on a first name basis.

Another big trend is making sure that LMS systems can function well in cloud environments (i.e. like Amazon). In the past two years, Amazon’s costs have dropped dramatically and their capabilities have grown significantly. The addition of Solid State Disk Drives in many of their offerings is a quantum leap forward in the ability to host “normal” applications in the cloud that was impractical a while back. Simply put, two years ago – you had to be pretty clever to move a large application into the cloud because of the subtle performance tuning that was required – but now Amazon’s cloud resources have very similar performance characteristics to locally-owned hardware – expecially if virtualization is used on that hardware.

Just a quick look at Amazon’s EC2 pricing is pretty amazing – especially the one and three year fixed contract pricing. A m3.medium instance with about 4G RAM, 4G SSD and one CPU is $172 for three years. A bit more capable two CPU, 8G RAM, 32G SSD m3.large server is $343 for three years. Why would I ever run a server under my desk at work with prices like that?

So there is a pull for both self-hosted schools and commercial companies that host LMSs in their own clouds to take advantage of these prices. This is true for all vendors. Based on my rumors and bar conversations, I think that Canvas is the only major hosting company that is mostly using Amazon – but all the other vendors are likely eyeing hosting new work and new expansion in the cloud and as servers get replaced in a company data center it is likely that there will be an urge to use Amazon instead.

But as we move the hosting of these systems into the Amazon cloud, we still want to spend as little money as possible. And if you look at what you are getting in Amazon, the most expensive element of the cost is the RAM followed by I/O. CPU is almost an insignificant concern on most LMS applications. So not surprisingly, if you want to optimize costs in a cloud version of Sakai, you find a way to trade CPU for RAM and database I/O. The solution of course for all applications is a shared cache like memcache or Reddis.

So not surprisingly in the above video you see three Sakai Commercial Affliliates (AshaiNet, Longsight, and Unicon) putting a lot of energy into cloud-tuning Sakai by reducing app server memory footprint and database I/O by adding a shared cache and switching to elastic search.

This kind of cloud tuning goes on for all of the LMS systems. For Moodle, Moodlerooms and RemoteLearner separately tune Moodle to scale for the cloud. Of course Instructure tunes Canvas for the cloud all the time but we never see the source code. Blackboard announced thair plans to host Learn on AWS at BBWorld14 – an impressive step – since I was not in Vegas, I had to settle for screen shots of slides in Twitter DMs.

But the essential difference in the Sakai community is that three competitors saw fit to pool their cloud tuning efforts and put their code into the community release. Even while the code was being built and tested, developers from AsahiNet, Longsight, and Unicon were communicating regularly, checking, testing, and fixing code written by one of their “competitors”. And when it was all done the code ends up in the open source trunk of Sakai. There are no secret repositories with the “magic sauce” – you don’t have to go to the bar and get a drawing on a napkin to find out the clever tuning tricks that are being done to make this possible. Just check out the source code and take a look.

Now while to a proprietary competitor, it might seem crazy to give away the “crown jewels”. But like many crazy plans, it is just so crazy that it might work. First, everyone is running the same code. Vendors don’t need a vendor fork for perfomance tweaks. Self-hosted schools can deploy the same solution as the commercial vendors if they like. If self-hosted schools are a little nervous about switching from the “app server” / “db server” architecture – they can just wait while the commercial Sakai vendors gain experience – but at any time – they have access to the exact same cloud code that the vendors are using in production when they are ready to start saving hardware costs.

The second and more important issue is that cloud performance tuning is a moving target. Amazon will continue to tweak their offerings and performance characteristics. You never really are sure how something will scale until you are running it at scale. Who knows if Unicon, LongSight, or AsahiNet will be the first one to encounter a little bit of code that needs a bit of tweaking as you add the millionth user. But as long as we avoid tweaks in vendor branches and keep the tweaks in the trunk, when the second vendor crosses that million user barrier – the code will be there for them – sitting in trunk and fully tested.

Again it might seem insane for one vendor to commit code that will allow other vendors to match their offerings in the marketplace or allow self-hosted schools to avoid out-sourcing their applications to a vendor because they have 100% access to the same code. But the reality is that it is far less risky to work together than to work separately. There is no single school or commercial vendor in the Sakai ecosystem that can go it alone and ignore everyone else. We are in this together. We sink or swim together.

We will all help each other find our way to the cloud together. That is the power of real open source. That is the magic of real open source.

Even if you run a commercial LMS at your University – you should join us and be part of Apereo. Apereo is not just about Sakai. Apereo is where the next generation of teaching and learning technology will be collectively defined and built. Because what is next will be even more exciting than getting an LMS ready for the cloud.

by Charles Severance at July 23, 2014 01:17 PM

July 21, 2014


Guest management issue: Microsoft Email Accounts (Hotmail, Live, MSN, prevent invitations from being delivered

As staff and faculty use the Sakai and Canvas Guest Accounts services, we have noticed that when they invite guests who use Microsoft-hosted email account domains, such as: or any country-specific ones, such as, or … the original invitation is not delivered properly, preventing the guest from completing the […] more >

by Mathieu Plourde at July 21, 2014 01:47 PM

July 17, 2014

Sakai Project

Watch the Video: Open Source and Geographic Imbalance - Laura Czerniewicz

Laura Czerniewicz, of the University of Cape Town, discusses southern hemisphere engagement and participation in open source communities - which contrasts with the dominance of the northern hemisphere in technology related initiatives. This is a summary of a keynote presentation by Laura at the Open Apereo Conference in June 2014.

July 17, 2014 02:05 AM

Watch the Viideo: Open Source and Geographic Imbalance - Laura Czerniewicz

This video talks about how Open Source participation is one of the few measures where there is some balance between the normally dominant northern hemisphere and southern hemisphere. In nearly all economic and technology measures there is a great disparity between the north and south. But open source participation is one of the areas where there is more parity regardless of geographic region.

July 17, 2014 02:05 AM

July 16, 2014

Adam Marshall

Sakai Virtual Conference – Call for presentations

Following the earlier notification to ‘Save the date’, here are further details of the Sakai Virtual Conference which has now opened the call for papers: deadline 22 August 2014. See further details below.

Note that the online event on 7 November 2014 will emphasize the use of Sakai for teaching and learning – it would be great if we could have some Oxford academics (or students or admin/library/ITSS staff) presenting a session or two.

Please consider submitting a proposal and keep the central WebLearn team in the loop!

Now Open! Call for Proposals for the Sakai Virtual Conference 2014

The theme of the conference is “Bridging Education with Technology.”  Be the bridge by sharing your expertise with others!

You are invited to submit a proposal for the first ever Sakai Virtual Conference! The premise of the virtual conference is simple: An Online, Sakai Teaching and Learning focused conference to connect with colleagues across the globe and share stories and best practices. You can enjoy interaction with your peers in the Sakai community, all without leaving home!

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 August 22, 2014.

This online event will emphasize the use of Sakai for teaching and learning. The conference committee has planned the following tracks/session types:

  • Faculty Course Showcase – Demonstrate exemplary instructional strategies and course design by showcasing your course.
  • Instructional Design/Support - How do you support your end users?  Share best practices for instructional design, training, and professional development at your institution.
  • Effective or Innovative Practice – Are you using Sakai in a unique or uniquely effective way? Show us your innovative practice.
  • Birds of a Feather – Lead an informal/unstructured online gathering/discussion about a topic of your choice.
  • Student Experience Lightning Talks – Do you have some amazing student projects or perspectives you’d like to share? Nominate a student to provide a 5 minute presentation during a combined lightning talk session.
  • Technical Session – Do you have a topic that would be of interest to Sakai developers or IT staff? Present on a technical topic “under the hood” of Sakai.

The Sakai Virtual Conference will take place entirely online on Friday, November 7. You’ll make your presentation in a virtual “room,” take live questions from the audience, and get the conference experience without the expense of travel. There will be opportunities for networking and informal discussions, as well as a chance to win prizes donated by our sponsors.

Help us make the inaugural Sakai Virtual Conference a great success!

We look forward to your proposal!


Ian Dolphin, Executive Director, Apereo Foundation

Neal Caidin, Sakai Community Coordinator, Apereo Foundation

Wilma Hodges, Sakai Virtual Conference 2014 Planning Committee Chair

Martin Ramsay, Sakai Virtual Conference 2014 Planning Committee Member 


by Jill Fresen at July 16, 2014 03:00 PM

Steve Swinsburg

Sakai Quartz example bundle receives an update

Six years ago I wrote a little bundle for Sakai that sets up a Quartz job and registers it with the Sakai Job Scheduler so you can setup triggers for it to run, just like a cron job. It was getting a little long in the tooth so it’s now had a makeover and now works for Sakai 11.

All of the bits of code are documented so if you are looking to write Quartz jobs for Sakai, this is what you need. Check it out:

by steveswinsburg at July 16, 2014 11:48 AM

July 04, 2014

Dr. Chuck

Current Demographics for My Programming For Everybody Session 2 on Coursera

This blog post is to share some of the demographic data with my students in Programming for everybody on Coursera.

Demographics PR4E#002 (PDF)

Please contact me if you want ot use this in a blog post or some other publication to make sure I get you the most up to date materials.

by Charles Severance at July 04, 2014 03:29 PM

June 30, 2014

Steve Swinsburg

Sakai 10 released

Sakai LogoThe Sakai Core Team is happy to announce the release of Sakai 10.0. Congratulations to our worldwide team on the successful completion of Sakai 10.0!

Sakai 10 builds on the solid work of the Sakai 2.9.3 release. We have two new tool contributions, better support for audio and video using HTML 5, infrastructure improvements, about 50 security fixes, performance improvements, a number of new features, and close to 2,000 fixes! Highlights include, but are not limited to:

  • Signup tool, previously a Contrib tool, is now part of Sakai core.
  • Delegated Access tool, previously a Contrib tool, is now part of Sakai core.
  • Updated and enhanced context sensitive help  includes step-by-step instructions, and in a format that is easier to modify to your institution’s needs.
  • IMS LTI 2.0 – first LMS (learning
    management system) with support for LTI 2.0.
  • IMS Common Cartridge (CC) upgrade. Support for reading CC files is able to read CC versions 1.0, 1.1, 1.2 and it can export data in CC version 1.1 or 1.2. User selectable.
  • Peer graded Assignments – Option for students to review each other’s work.
  • Group Assignments – Option for students to submit, and be graded upon, work as a group.
  • Test and Quizzes has new question types: Calculated question and Extended Matching Items. Plus improved precision on numeric answers and a new accordion-style interface for quiz setup.
  • Lessons (aka LessonBuilder) toolbar has been redesigned and simplified, better support for embedded Audio and video, new Table of Contents feature, support for inline use of polls, and better overall look and feel.
  • Resources has support for drag and drop adding of files from desktop for all browsers, and support for folder drag and drop in Chrome.
  • Syllabus Tool updated with a new interface, bulk update of syllabus items, accordion view, and better handling of link migration.
  • Gradebook added support for extra credit.
  • Distributed Cacheing provides support for JCache/JSR-107 which includes improvement to the default cache sizes and better control by configuration. Session replication to failover from one server to another without losing session data. Overall provides better performance for large Sakai installation (though please note that these features are not turned on by default OOTB).
  • Project Keitai (mobile) improved REST API support in anticipation of Sakai Mobile applications.
  • Security Updates – The Sakai community fixed about 50 security issues including various XSS issues and CSRF issues.  AntiSamy is on by default in Sakai 2.9.3 and Sakai 10. AntiSamy ensures that user supplied HTML/CSS is in compliance within an application’s rules.
  • Student Success Portal – new integration available.
  • Java – added support for JDK 7.x. JDK 8.x support is in process of being added.
  • Sakai technical organization simplified – Reincorporated many of the “Indies” to make management of Sakai releases and reporting of issues easier.Release notes available in English, Spanish and Chinese:

by steveswinsburg at June 30, 2014 10:58 PM

June 23, 2014

Apereo OAE

Apereo OAE Falcon (7.0.0) Released

The Apereo Open Academic Environment (OAE) project team is extremely proud to announce the next major release of the Apereo Open Academic Environment; OAE Falcon, or OAE 7.

OAE Falcon comes with a complete overhaul of the OAE email notification experience, as well as a more complete set of utilities for user and system management.


Email Preferences

A frequent request from OAE users is to provide greater control over how often they receive email. OAE Falcon provides the ability for users to specify how often they wish to receive email:

  • Immediately - When selected, users will receive an e-mail immediately after an important activity has taken place. When multiple important activities happen in quick succession, they are aggregated into a single e-mail
  • Daily - When selected, users will receive an e-mail once per day containing all the notifications the user received in the last 24 hours
  • Weekly - When selected, users will receive an e-mail once per week containing all the notifications the user received in the last 7 days

Regardless of the email preference, users can still access their notifications from the OAE user interface in real-time as they occur.

Account Settings Modal Screenshot


Email Templates

The e-mail templates have been completely overhauled to provide a gorgeous design inside your inbox. When recent notifications are sent by e-mail, the design will be more consistent with what is seen in the regular OAE user interface as well as take on the branding configuration of your institution.

In addition to being branded to an institution, the e-mail templates are now completely translated using the standard Crowdin translation approach.

All of this greatly simplifies the maintenance of e-mail templates in Apereo OAE.

Single File Share Email 2 Comments Email 2 Emails Some Aggregated

User Management

OAE Falcon provides the ability for global and tenant administrators to perform a variety of maintenance tasks to help support their users, including:

  • "Become" a user, allowing an administrator to browse the tenant on behalf of the user
  • Reset user account passwords
  • Update user profile information and visibility
  • Create new user accounts
  • Search all user accounts in the tenant

Administrative User Search Update User Profile Administrative Become User

System Maintenance

In addition to an enhanced set of tools for managing users, OAE Falcon improves administration for the Global Administrator by providing tools to reindex items in the search index and reprocess content previews based on content and revision filters.

Automated Testing

Support for UI unit tests based on the web browser emulator "PhantomJS" has been added to the automated build process, starting with over 600 unit tests and more to come. These are being added to the existing automated test suite of over 1000 back-end API unit tests, providing even more stability to the release process.

Try it out

OAE Falcon can be experienced on the project's QA server at It is worth noting that this server is actively used for testing and will be wiped and redeployed every night.

The source code has been tagged with version numbers 7.0.0 and can be downloaded from the following repositories:


Documentation on how to install the system can be found at:

Instruction on how to upgrade an OAE installation from version 6.0 to version 7.0 can be found at

The repository containing all deployment scripts can be found at

by Branden Visser at June 23, 2014 02:50 PM

June 19, 2014

Aaron Zeckoski

Apereo Learning Analytics Processor begins

The Apereo Learning Analytics Initiative is beginning work on our first open source analytics pipeline processor this week. Learn more about Learning Analytics Processor project on our wiki.
Our goal is to build an Open source Java based Learning Analytics Processor (LAP) which initially automates the Marist OAAI Student Early Alerts and Risk Assessment model. We also hope to establish a framework for automation and execution of learning analytics models (which is possible for others to extend with additional model pipelines). Finally we plan to establish input and output specifications for data used for learning analytics model processing.
The Learning Analytics Processor (LAP) is meant to flexible enough to be extended to support many possible models and pipelines for analytics processing. The first one will be Early Alert but we want to support future additions and even multiple versions of the Early Alert model.

by Aaron Zeckoski ( at June 19, 2014 07:18 PM

May 29, 2014

Aaron Zeckoski

Apereo Learning Analytics @ Open Apereo 2014

I and other members of the Apereo Learning Analytics Initiative (LAI) will be presenting at the Open Apereo 2014 conference in Miami the first week of June.
You can see the schedule of Learning Analytics presentations on our Open Apereo 2014 conference Learning Analytics sessions wiki page. If you are not sure what Learning Analytics is, we have some information for you here (and a nifty diagram to help it make sense).

If you are interested in working towards a community sourced learning analytics infrastructure, incubating software, sharing requirements, cross validating analytics pilots, while working in a wider community of interest then please contact the Apereo LAI coordinator or join the mailing list
We hope to see you in Miami at Open Apereo 2014!

by Aaron Zeckoski ( at May 29, 2014 03:33 PM