Planet Sakai

July 29, 2014

Michael Feldstein

To see how illogical the Brookings Institution report on student loans is, just read the executive summary

  1. lacking sense or clear, sound reasoning.  ((From Google’s definition))

There have been multiple articles both accepting the Brookings argument that “typical borrowers are no worse off now than they were a generation ago” and those calling out the flaws in the Brookings report. I have written two articles here and here criticizing the report. The problem is that much of the discussion is more complicated that it needs to be. A simple reading of the Brookings executive summary exposes just how illogical the report is.

College tuition and student debt levels have been increasing at a fast pace for at least two decades. These well-documented trends, coupled with an economy weakened by a major recession, have raised serious questions about whether the market for student debt is headed for a crisis, with many borrowers unable to repay their loans and taxpayers being forced to foot the bill.

The argument is set up – yes, tuition and debt levels are going up, but how is a crisis defined? It’s specifically about “many borrowers unable to repay their loans”. Is there a crisis? That’s not a bad setup, and it is a valid question to address.

Our analysis of more than two decades of data on the financial well-being of American households suggests that the reality of student loans may not be as dire as many commentators fear. We draw on data from the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) administered by the Federal Reserve Board to track how the education debt levels and incomes of young households evolved between 1989 and 2010. The SCF data are consistent with multiple other data sources, finding significant increases in average debt levels, but providing little indication of a significant contingent of borrowers with enormous debt loads.

This is an interesting source of data. Yes, the New York Fed’s Survey of Consumer Finances tracks student debt, but this data is almost four years old due to triennial survey method. 1

But hold on – now we’re talking about “significant contingent of borrowers with enormous debt loads”? I thought the issue was ability to repay. What does “enormous” even mean other than being a scary word?

First, we find that roughly one-quarter of the increase in student debt since 1989 can be directly attributed to Americans obtaining more education, especially graduate degrees. The average debt levels of borrowers with a graduate degree more than quadrupled, from just under $10,000 to more than $40,000. By comparison, the debt loads of those with only a bachelor’s degree increased by a smaller margin, from $6,000 to $16,000.

Fair enough point to start, noting that a quarter of debt growth comes from higher levels of education including grad school. Average debt loads have gone up more than 2.5x for undergrads, and that certainly sounds troublesome given the report’s main point of “no worse off”. Using the ‘but others are worse off, so this is not as bad’ argument, Brookings notes that grad students had their debt go up by 4x. The argument here appears to be that 2.5 is less than 4.2

Second, the SCF data strongly suggest that increases in the average lifetime incomes of college-educated Americans have more than kept pace with increases in debt loads. Between 1992 and 2010, the average household with student debt saw in increase of about $7,400 in annual income and $18,000 in total debt. In other words, the increase in earnings received over the course of 2.4 years would pay for the increase in debt incurred.

Despite the positioning of the report that a small portion of borrowers skews the data and coverage, Brookings resorts to using the mythical “average household”. For that mythical entity, they certainly seem to have the magical touch to not pay any taxes and obtain zero-interest loans.3

Nonetheless, we’ve now changed the issue again – first by ability to repay, then whether the loan is “enormous”, and now based on how long a mythical payoff takes.

Third, the monthly payment burden faced by student loan borrowers has stayed about the same or even lessened over the past two decades. The median borrower has consistently spent three to four percent of their monthly income on student loan payments since 1992, and the mean payment-to-income ratio has fallen significantly, from 15 to 7 percent. The average repayment term for student loans increased over this period, allowing borrowers to shoulder increased debt loads without larger monthly payments.

Small issue, but we’ve now gone from average household as key unit of measurement to median borrower? Two changes from one paragraph to the other – average to median and household to borrower?

OK, now we have replaced the scary “enormous” with “borrowers struggling with high debt loads”. Although not in the executive summary, the analysis of the report seems to define these large debts as $100,000 or more. Doesn’t it matter who the borrower is? A humanities PhD graduate working as an adjunct for $25,000 a year might view $20,000 debt as enormous.

Brookings introduces a new measure, and this one does at least take into account the difference in borrowers: payment-to-income ratios of median borrowers. If I’m reading the argument correctly (this took a while based on key measures and terms changing paragraph to paragraph), not only should there be no crisis, but the situation might actually be improving.

These data indicate that typical borrowers are no worse off now than they were a generation ago, and also suggest that the borrowers struggling with high debt loads frequently featured in media coverage may not be part of a new or growing phenomenon. The percentage of borrowers with high payment-to-income ratios has not increased over the last 20 years—if anything, it has declined.

So I was reading it correctly: “typical borrowers are no worse off” and the percentage of borrowers with high ratios has declined.4 The only problem, however, is that if we go back to the original setup of the issue, “many borrowers unable to repay their loans”, there might be a much more direct measurement. How about actually seeing if borrowers are failing to repay their loans (aka being delinquent)?

The Brookings report does not analyze loan delinquency at all - the word “default” is only mentioned three times – once referring to home mortgages and twice referring to interest rates (not once for the word “delinquent”). What do actual delinquency rates show us?

It turns out that we can go to the same source of data and find out. Here is the New York Fed report from late 2013:


D’oh! It turns out that real borrowers with real tax brackets paying off off real loans are having real problems. The percentage at least 90 days delinquent has more than doubled in just the past decade. In fact, based on another Federal Reserve report, the problem is much bigger for the future, “44% of borrowers are not yet in repayment, and excluding those, the effective 90+ delinquency rate rises to more than 30%”.

More than 30% of borrowers who should be paying off their loans are at least 90 days delinquent? It seems someone didn’t tell them that their payment-to-income ratios (at least for their mythical average friends) are just fine and that they’re “no worse off”.

Back to the Brookings report:

This new evidence suggests that broad-based policies aimed at all student borrowers, either past or current, are likely to be unnecessary and wasteful given the lack of evidence of widespread financial hardship. At the same time, as students take on more debt to go to college, they are taking on more risk. Consequently, policy efforts should focus on refining safety nets that mitigate risk without creating perverse incentives.

Despite the flawed analysis that changed terms, changed key measures, and failed to look at any data on delinquencies, Brookings now calls out a “lack of evidence of widespread financial hardship”. How can we take their recommendations seriously when the supporting analysis is fundamentally illogical?

At least the respectable news organizations will do basic checking of the report before parroting such flawed analysis.


  1. Also note that we’re skipping the years with the highest growth in student debt.
  2. This argument also ignores or trivializes the issue that grad students are indeed students.
  3. There is no other way to get to the 2.4 year payoff.
  4. And yet another change – from average to median to typical.

The post To see how illogical the Brookings Institution report on student loans is, just read the executive summary appeared first on e-Literate.

by Phil Hill at July 29, 2014 11:13 PM

July 28, 2014

Michael Feldstein

Early Review of Google Classroom

Meg Tufano is co-Founder of SynaptIQ+ (think tank for social era knowledge) and leader of McDermott MultiMedia Group (an education consulting group focused on Google Apps EDU). We have been checking out Google Classroom – with her as the teacher and me as the student. I include some of Meg’s bio here as it is worth noting her extensive experience designing and teaching online courses for more than a decade.

Meg posted a Google Slides review of her initial experiences using Google Classroom from a teacher’s perspective, which I am sharing below with minimal commentary. The review includes annotated slides showing the various features and Meg’s comments.

I have not done as much work to show the student view, but I will note the following:

  • The student view does not include the link to the Chrome Store that Meg finds to be too confusing.
  • The biggest challenge I’ve had so far is managing my multiple Google accounts (you have to be logged into the Google Apps for Edu as your primary Google account to enter Classroom, which is not that intuitive to students).
  • I wonder if Google will continue to use Google tools so prominently in Classroom (primary GDrive, YouTube, GDocs) or if the full release will make it easier to embed non-Google tools.
  • I have previously written “Why Google Classroom won’t affect institutional LMS market … yet”, and after initial testing, nothing has changed my opinion.
  • I have one other post linking to video-based reviews of Google Classroom here.

The post Early Review of Google Classroom appeared first on e-Literate.

by Phil Hill at July 28, 2014 10:36 PM

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

Michael Feldstein

CCSF Update: Accreditation appeal denied, but waiting for court date

It looks like I’ll have the California trifecta for the past week, having already posted on Cal State and University of California news recently. Maybe I should find a Stanford or some other private university story.

In my last post on CCSF from January:

Last week, as expected, a California superior court judge ruled on whether to allow the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC)  to end accreditation for City College of San Francisco (CCSF) as of July 31, 2014. As reported inmultiple news outlets, the judge granted an injunction preventing ACCJC from stripping CCSF’s accreditation at least until a court trial based on the city of San Francisco lawsuit, which would occur in the summer 2014 at the earliest. This means that CCSF will stay open for at least another academic term (fall 2014), and it is possible that ACCJC would have to redo their accreditation review.

 In the meantime, ACCJC reviewed CCSF’s appeal of the accrediting decision, and ACCJC is sticking to its guns on the decision, as described in the San Francisco Chronicle:

City College of San Francisco remains out of compliance with eight accreditation standards, so the threat to revoke its accreditation stands, said the commission that set July 31 for the action that would shut the college down.

Accreditation won’t be revoked on that date, however, because a judge delayed the deadline until an October trial can determine if the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges properly conducted its 2012 evaluation of City College.

In other words, ACCJC has changed its determination that CCSF should lose accreditation. There are only two caveats at this point:

  • The injunction that prevents ACCJC from revoking accreditation until the October court date; and
  • A new loophole called “restoration status”.

From the SF Chronicle again:

Besides pinning its hopes on the lawsuit – which could trigger a completely new evaluation – the college has one more option, made possible in June when the U.S. Department of Education firmly explained to the reluctant commission that it had the power to extend the revocation deadline.

As a result of that intervention, the commission created a new “restoration status” for City College – and any other college that finds itself in such a precarious position – giving it two more years to improve and comply with a new range of requirements.

City College would have to apply for the new status by July 31.

But Phil, you say, I am fascinated by the accreditation review process and want more! To keep you going, here is the letter from ACCJC to CCSF rejecting the appeal. In the letter ACCJC calls out the areas where CCSF is still not in compliance:

I.B   Improving Institutional Effectiveness

II.A  Instructional Programs

II.B  Student Support Services

II.C  Library and Learning Support Services

III.B Physical Resources

III.C Technology Resources

III.D Financial Resources

IV.B Board and Administrative Organization

For historical context of how we got here, see this post.

The high-profile game of Chicken continues.

The post CCSF Update: Accreditation appeal denied, but waiting for court date appeared first on e-Literate.

by Phil Hill at July 23, 2014 07:30 PM

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 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

Adam Marshall

Wikipedia editors named in US law suit

Referring to my earlier post encouraging volunteers to write articles for Wikipedia, here is a cautionary tale about a US law suit against four Wikipedia editors by a person who claims they defamed him in an editors’ discussion forum.

[Thanks to Caroll Mitchell for forwarding this link.]

The article describes the support being provided to the editors by the Wikimedia Foundation.

Another link from Caroll Mitchell:

Victory in Italy – Court rules in favour of Wikimedia

by Jill Fresen at July 16, 2014 10:39 AM

July 08, 2014

Sakai Project

Press Release: Sakai 10

Apereo Foundation Announces Availability of Sakai 10

July 08, 2014 08:52 PM

Bedework 3.10 Released

We are pleased to announce the production release of Bedework 3.10

July 08, 2014 04:25 PM

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

Dr. Chuck

Dear Google – You Need A Tip Jar So I can Show the Love

Google – Yesterday you saved me $2000 and there is no way to say ‘thank you’. If there were a place to “tip” Google I would certainly give you a nice tip.

Here is my story.

Two days ago, my wife came into the house and wondered why it was so hot even though we had turned the air conditioner on hours earlier. It did seem to be a bit warm so I went out to look at the compressor.

The fan was not spinning but it was hot and making a low hum – not good. Then I used a stick to push the fan to see if it was bad or sticking bearing – the fan spun freely but did not start. Our house was built in 2001 and many of the homes in the neighborhood have been replacing their 15-year old air conditioners. And it was in a series of very hot days so I knew it would take forever to get it fixed – groan. I turned off the power and figured I would use Google Search to do some research on how much this would cost me.

First I just tried to find out how much a new condenser would cost installed – so I googled “AC Condenser price” and “installation cost AC condenser” . There was no clear answer so I figured I would just go get the model number of my existing Carrier condenser and Google it to find the replacement cost of the exact same condenser.

So I started typing ‘carrier 38ckc036340’ and as I was typing – the following screen came up:

I was intrigued by the mention of ‘capacitor’ as I knew that it was pretty common for lots of electronic things to fail because of capacitor failure. So I looked at a few pages and then switched my search to ‘carrier 38ckc036340 fan stopped’ and quickly found this page:

Carrier A/C condenser not working (fan doesn’t come on)

The picture looked pretty easy to interpret so I turned off the power to my AC unit and opened it up. Not only was my capacitor top obviously bulging, I had a stripped wire that I was surprised had not shorted these past 15 years.

A couple of machine screws later I had the capacitor off. A quick motorcycle ride to the appliance parts store and $35.00 later I had a new capacitor. I popped it back in and the AC started working immediately:

So here is the upshot. Google’s type ahead saved me as much as $2K – not only did it save me money but I was able to complete the repair in about the same amount of time it would have take a repair company to call me back.

I know who helped me here and want to share the love. But there is no “tip jar” to drop $5 or $20 into to thank “Google”.

I think that you should make this part of AdWords. Put it in the AdWords rectangle as shown below. I know that I need to show the love to (a) the site with the money-saving knowledge and (b) Google for getting me there – so a profit split from the tip jar would put the right incentives in place for all.

Now in the future as search ads become less and less valuable (especially on the non-video internet) – you might find that a tip jar model is a great source of revenue.

Let me know if this works out for you. You could share a bit of the love for me coming up with such a cool idea by clicking on my little Leave Tip button.

by Charles Severance at June 19, 2014 06:34 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

April 09, 2014

Apereo OAE

Apereo OAE is now responsive!

The Apereo Open Academic Environment (OAE) project team is extremely proud to announce the next major release of the Apereo Open Academic Environment; OAE Emperor Penguin or OAE 6.

OAE Emperor Penguin brings a fully responsive UI, ensuring that OAE works seamlessly on mobile and tablet devices. OAE Emperor Penguin also adds a range of usability improvements and a full Brazilian Portuguese translation.


Responsive UI

An increasing number of people expect to be able to use applications on mobile and tablet devices, and Apereo OAE is not an exception. Usage statistics already show that many of our users are accessing OAE through these devices.

Apereo OAE uses Twitter Bootstrap as its CSS framework. When they released their latest version, introducing support for responsive applications, it seemed like an appropriate time to make the OAE UI fully responsive. Despite using this responsive CSS framework and the fact that OAE has been designed tablet first, making the UI fully responsive has been a massive undertaking that has ended up touching most of the application.

However, we are extremely pleased with the end result and OAE now works well on a wide range of mobile and tablet devices. Whilst all OAE functionality works seamlessly on these devices, it is especially pleasant to keep track of your user and group activity feeds.


Brazilian Portuguese translation

A complete Brazilian Portuguese translation is now available for the OAE UI. Many thanks to César Goudouris for providing this translation!

Try it out

OAE Emperor Penguin 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 6.0.0 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 5.0 to version 6.0 can be found at

The repository containing all deployment scripts can be found at

Get in touch

The project website can be found at The project blog will be updated with the latest project news from time to time, and can be found at

The mailing list used for Apereo OAE is You can subscribe to this by sending an email to

Bugs and other issues can be reported in our issue tracker at

by Nicolaas Matthijs at April 09, 2014 06:24 PM

April 07, 2014

Chris Coppola

Managing Climate Change in Higher Education

It seems that Arizona has been the beneficiary of climate change this winter. Friends and colleagues from across the eastern United States have experienced severe storms and frigid temperatures while our weather here in the desert southwest has been unusually pleasant. Don’t worry friends, we’ll get what’s coming to us when it’s 130 degrees this summer and we run out of water. But for now, I’m enjoying it and trying to be responsible about my water and energy use. In fact, every time I walk by one of my Nest thermostats it reminds me with a friendly little leaf icon that I’m contributing to the 1,774,469,650 kWh that nest users around the world have saved.

There’s another, mostly unrelated, climate change going on in higher education today and it’s causing clouds of a different sort. Colleges and universities, like many of their industry counterparts, are moving systems off campus into aggregated above campus services at an accelerated pace. These above campus or cloud services take advantage of great economies of scale so that computing capacity and application services like email, learning platforms, and even ERP systems can be quickly and easily scaled up and down to meet business demand.

I’m seeing evidence of the trend from several angles:

  • The Educause Core Data Survey (2013) found more than half of all institutions had at least one core information system in the cloud, half of those had two, and twenty-five percent had three.

  • The Campus Computing Project Survey (2013) reported that more than half of all institutions consider it strategic to move their ERP to the cloud. The survey also predicts thousands of instances of mission-critical applications like research administration, HR, student services, and financials will move to the cloud by 2018.

  • Eight of the Top Ten IT issues highlighted in the Educause Review for 2014 include some cloud angle.

Personally, I’m finding it increasingly common to hear that an institution’s strategy is to first look for new application services in the cloud. And, to only consider introducing new services in the campus data center after cloud options have been ruled out.

At rSmart, we’re both a provider and a consumer of cloud services. Strategically we look for services that increase our effectiveness as a team without taking focus away from delivering on the company’s mission. We want as much of our energy focused on helping colleges and universities keep their money in their mission, and as little as possible running our email, marketing, and finance systems. The same seems to be true for an increasing number of higher education institutions.

There are enormous benefits to treating computing and application services like an elastic commodity that can scale and adapt with an organization’s needs. There are also material risks that need to be thoughtfully addressed and managed. Mission-critical applications that are highly configured to the organizations business processes, and have hundreds or thousands of campus users, deserve particular consideration.

Brad Wheeler, CIO at Indiana University and Kelley Business School professor, recently recorded a guest lecture at Stellenbosch University in South Africa on the economics of open source. The full presentation is a good listen, but if you only have a few minutes, Brad touches on an important aspect of the trend toward cloud computing at about 28 minutes into the lecture

Rights and Provisioning Matrix

Rights and Provisioning Matrix

His focus is on two dimensions: Ownership (Y-axis) and Location (X-axis). Brad makes it clear that giving up control on both dimensions dramatically increases the risk. If you don’t own it and it’s off-site, you better hope that the vendor’s values and direction stay aligned with yours.

I use a lot of cloud-based services so I understand this risk well and have occasionally experienced the impact. One recent example happened when Beats Music acquired MOG. Many years ago I decided that there was no need to own physical media for music anymore. I could get the music I like streamed to me at home, in the car, at work, and on the road. My service of choice has been MOG. It is integrated with my Sonos at home and set up on all of my devces. I have all of my playlists there, etc. When they announced the acquisition I hoped that Beats would leverage MOG’s great platform and that I’d eventually move to Beats. Well, as it often happens, it didn’t work out that way and now I’m starting over with Spotify. So it goes.

Music playlists and personal entertainment are trivial examples compared to the disruption that occurs when mission-critical enterprise systems are used by hundreds or thousands of people in the organization. When the application is running in the cloud and the vendor owns the software, the vendor holds all the cards. And in a situation where the vendor goes in a direction that’s not aligned with your organization, you just don’t have many options.

Fortunately, there is another option. Kuali (the “K” in Brad’s slide) is a global collaboration of more than seventy colleges, universities, and companies working together to create an option that is “owned” by higher education. rSmart, a co-founder of Kuali, is one of those organizations and our unique role is to provide colleges and universities with a trusted cloud option for these mission-critical systems. With rSmart and Kuali in the cloud, institutions can leverage the economies of scale of the cloud and retain peace of mind. That’s because control of the software’s direction lies firmly in the hands of higher education.

Climate change in higher education is inevitable. As consumers of higher education continue to face soaring tuition costs, their expectations are rising accordingly. Now is the time for institutions to find ways to be more agile and leverage the benefits and economies of scale that come with the cloud.

With rSmart and Kuali, we can help you make sure your cloud resembles the kind that accent on a beautiful blue sky day. And, you won’t be put in a position to have to weather an untimely storm with ominous looking thunderheads.


Tagged: cloud, education, erp, kuali, open source, rSmart, SaaS

by Chris at April 07, 2014 08:10 PM