Planet Sakai

February 27, 2017

Michael Feldstein

New NBER Study on Online Education is Deeply Flawed

Caroline Hoxby from Stanford University just published a working paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) claiming to analyze “The Returns to Online Postsecondary Education”. tl;dr This report is a hot mess that that conflates online students, enrollments, programs, institutions and uses a bizarre and misleading data set for its analysis.

The headline for most coverage of this report will likely follow the highlighted section of the abstract:

This study analyzes longitudinal data on nearly every person who engaged in postsecondary education that was wholly or substantially online between 1999 and 2014. It shows how much they and taxpayers paid for the education and how their earnings changed as a result. I compute both private returns-on-investment (ROIs) and social ROIs, which are relevant for governments—especially the federal government. The findings provide little support for optimistic prognostications about online education. It is not substantially less expensive than comparable in-person education. Students themselves pay more for online education than in-person education. Online enrollment usually does raise a person’s earnings, but almost never by enough to cover the social cost of the education. There is scant evidence that online enrollment moves people toward jobs associated with higher labor productivity. Calculations indicate that federal taxpayers fund most of the cost of online postsecondary education and are extremely unlikely to recoup their investment in the form of higher future tax payments by former students. The evidence also suggests that many online students will struggle to repay their federal loans.

I’m all for solid research to inform public policy discussions, but it is deeply problematic when the underlying data is such a mess that it’s nearly impossible to separate the baby from the bath water. What are some of the problems? Let’s just start with the simpler “exclusively online” analysis.

Nearly Every Person

The abstract and paper start with the claim to look at “nearly every person who engaged in postsecondary education that was wholly or substantially online between 1999 and 2014”. But go to figure 1, and you see 424 thousand students “exclusively online” in 2013 (~254 thousand undergrad and ~150 thousand grad).

Figure 1

The data source for enrollments is the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), which has been the basis for our analysis of online education here at e-Literate as well as for the Babson Survey Research Group and WCET. We’ve done the data analysis, and for Fall 2013, the IPEDS data showed far different numbers, as seen in our post here. There were ~2.7 million exclusively online students that year, with ~2.0 million under grad and 670 thousand grad. That is an enormous different coming from the exact same data set – how did we get from 2.7 million to 424 thousand?

The fundamental flaw in the NBER paper is that in the effort to translate institution-level data to student-level data to allow tracking of IRS data for returns on investment, the researcher uses a bizarre and misleading definition of “exclusively online” and “substantially online”. For simplicity, let’s just look at exclusively online.

IPEDS asks postsecondary schools the following: (1) Are all programs at your institution offered exclusively via distance education? (2) How many degree/certificate-seeking undergraduates are (a) enrolled exclusively in distance education courses, (b) enrolled in some but not all distance education courses, (c) not enrolled in any distance education course? (3) Repeat question (2) for non-degree/certificate-seeking undergraduates and for graduate students.

A student is classified as attending “exclusively online” if the answer to question (1) is “yes” or if the probability that he or she is enrolled in distance education is 100 percent based on the answers to questions (2) and (3). For instance, if a student were enrolled in graduate coursework, and all graduate students were enrolled exclusively in online courses (possibility (2)(a)), then the student would be classified as exclusively online. Note that undergraduate and graduate students at the same institution could be classified differently.

I was able to roughly duplicate these results, of 424 thousand exclusively online students in 2013 by following these rules. The results:

  • Total enrollment from any school that self-identifies as distance education (DE) only, or grad enrollment where the number of exclusively-DE grad students equals the total number of grad students, or undergrad enrollment where the number of exclusively-DE undergrad students equals the total number of undergrad students. Think Western Governors University.
  • The rules exclude any enrollment at all where there is a mix of exclusively-DE grad students or undergrad students. Think Liberty University. Despite its 69 thousand exclusively online students and its 5 thousand face-to-face students, none of those enrollments count in this study. This is ludicrous, and the vast majority of exclusively-online students in this country attend a college or university that also offers face-to-face programs.
  • Consider that the University of Phoenix classifies all of its online students in the UoP-Online Campus, whereas DeVry University classifies all of its online students to the local traditional campus. All of the University of Phoenix are considered “exclusively online” in the NBER study and none of the DeVry students are. Both for-profit systems, but very different results.

This is how you get from 2.7 million to 424 thousand “exclusively online” students. And the methodology is so arbitrary, the problem is not as simple as saying “oh, this is really about for-profit students. There is no easily-understood subset. And remember that the paper claims to study “nearly every person who engaged in postsecondary education that was wholly or substantially online between 1999 and 2014”.

The “substantially online” definition is even worse, based on probabilities derived from misapplied IPEDS data.

A student’s coursework is classified as “substantially online” if the probability that his or her courses are online is greater than 50 percent where the probability assigned to option (2)(a) is 100 percent, option (2)(b) is 50 percent, and option (2)(c) is 0 percent. Unfortunately, it is not possible to classify substantially-online experiences more precisely. Clearly, the substantially  online category is imprecise and contains students with a variety of online experiences.

This “substantially online” category does capture Liberty University and DeVry University, for example, but it misses the difference between a subset of students taking exclusively online courses and students taking some online courses within a face-to-face program. If you want to study online, you need to view Liberty University’s 69 thousand online students as what they are – exclusively online – and their 5 thousand face-to-face students as what they are.

For what it’s worth, consider that in 2013 there were an additional 2.8 million students in the US who took some of their courses online but not all.

Update: When you total up the 424 thousand “exclusively online” students with the 1.1 million “substantially online” students, you get roughly 1.5 million total online students for 2013. The IPEDS data for that year shows 2.7 million exclusively online students and 5.5 million taking at least one online course. By any measure this report does not look at “nearly every person” who took online education coursework.

Conflation Elation

The report’s description is a mess on terminology. “Exclusively online” and “substantially online” are associated with students, courses, programs, institutions, and a sector. If you take the trouble to look at the methodology, the actual analysis is based on total grad enrollments or total undergrad enrollments at institutions which make it through the bizarre IPEDS filtering method described above.

Questionable Trends

I also have a problem when a report makes simple offhand comments not backed up by its own data [emphasis added].

Online postsecondary enrollment has grown very rapidly in recent years. Figures 1 and 2 show the number of students enrolled in coursework that is, respectively, exclusively and substantially online. (The exact definition of substantially online is given below, but think of it as more than half online.) Both figures show that enrollment grew dramatically after 2005. This is not an accident or an effect of broadband access. Rather, 2005 corresponds to the year in which the U.S. Department of Education eliminated the “50 percent rule” that required an institution’s enrollment to be at least 50 percent in-person for its students to qualify for federal tax credits, tax deductions, grants, loans, and other financial aid. This rule constrained the growth of online education because an institution had to recruit and have a campus (or campuses) to support one in-person student for each online student.

In the case of figure 1 above (exclusively online), there is no apparent increase in enrollment until 2008 / 9. In fact, the data levels off from 2005 – 2008, with slowing growth. What about figure 2 (substantially online)?

Figure 2

In this case, enrollment growth seems to continue the same trajectory around 2005, with some acceleration in 2008 or 9, but much smaller than for exclusively online growth.

Did the 2005 change to the “50 percent rule” affect online education? I’m sure it did, but the data in these figure do not support the claim, which is repeated later in the report.

In section 2, I define online postsecondary education and describe its explosive growth since 2005.

Elastic, Whatever

The reports main goal is to analyze whether the “returns” of online postsecondary education, in terms of increasing salaries and economic benefits, is better or worse that traditional face-to-face education. For the “control group”, the author chooses non-selective institutions with low online enrollments. [emphasis added]

Finally, I classify a student as hardly online and at a non- selective institution if his or her school will enroll any student with a high school degree or GED in undergraduate coursework or enroll any student with a baccalaureate degree in graduate coursework. Because nearly all exclusively online and substantially online institutions are non-selective, this final category (hardly online and non-selective) is the best comparison for online schools. Indeed, recent evidence suggests that it is these institutions that are most likely to lose students to online postsecondary schools. Put another way, students who attend non-selective institutions are more elastic between online and in-person settings than are students who attend selective ones.

This view of online education – students choosing between non-selective face-to-face institutions or online institutions – takes a zero-sum approach, as if you have the same student population just choosing between institution types. This view ignores the large and growing number of working adults who can only attend college – often in degree-completion programs or masters level programs – because of an online option. Their real choice should be seen as online institution or not at all.

Why Should We Care?

This review may seem harsh, but reports like this NBER paper have tremendous influence on policy discussions. This paper will likely be referred to frequently in federal government, state government, and institutional board meetings. How can you perform analysis on such a flawed data set and a flawed understanding of the topic of online education? Hopefully I’m wrong about the potential influence of this report.

Update: While writing this I missed an excellent point by Sean Gallagher about the over-representation of for-profits.

The post New NBER Study on Online Education is Deeply Flawed appeared first on e-Literate.

by Phil Hill at February 27, 2017 11:11 PM

February 23, 2017

Adam Marshall

Learning Management Systems – what comes next? A presentation about the Next Generation Digital Learning Environment (NGDLE) by Dr Charles Severance, Mon 27 Feb at 12.30

We are thrilled to announce that Dr Charles Severance from the University of Michigan will be giving a short talk about the “Next Generation Digital Learning Environment” (NGDLE) in IT Services, Banbury Rd on Monday 27th February at 12.30.

This is a version of the talk that he first aired at the Educause Learning Initiative (ELI) conference last week.

A NGDLE was proposed by Malcolm Brown in 2015 [1] and is seen as an evolution of the “monolithic VLE”. It is built upon open learning tools interoperability standards and it envisages a small central ‘hub’ (host) supplemented by an “App Store” of plug-in tools.

Charles has led the development of an open source framework (Tsugi [2] which is a project hosted by the Apereo Foundation [3]) to support this vision.

Please book via this link: https://oxford.imparando.com/accessplan/clientinput/course/coursebooker.aspx?coursedateid=30062

Here’s how Charles describes his talk.

“This presentation will give an overview of the Tsugi project and applications of the Tsugi software in building a distributed approach to teaching and learning tools and content. It is not sufficient to simply make a bunch of small web-hosted things and claim we have “implemented” the NGDLE. We must be able to coherently search, find, re-construct and re-combine those “small pieces” in a way that allows teaching and learning to happen. To do this, each of the learning application and content providers must master detailed interoperability standards to allow us “mash up” and bring those distributed and disparate elements back together. While there has been much said about the ultimate shape and structure of the NGDLE, and there are many current and emerging interoperability standards, there is little effort to build and train providers with usable technology that will empower thousands or hundreds of thousands of people to create and share applications and content that will populate the new learning ecosystem.

In effect, we need to build the educational equivalent of the Apple App Store. Except that it needs to be open and extensible and not depend on a single vendor intent on maximizing shareholder value. This presentation will show how the Tsugi project is doing research into how this works in actual practice. Tsugi is a 100% open source production-ready application and content hosting system that is simple enough to use to allow interoperable and pluggable learning applications or learning content to be built, hosted, deployed and shared by individuals or various-sized organizations.”

Charles is a Clinical Associate Professor and teaches in the School of Information at the University of Michigan. He is the Chair of the Sakai Project Management Committee (PMC). Previously he was the Executive Director of the Sakai Foundation and the Chief Architect of the Sakai Project and worked with the IMS Global Learning Consortium promoting and developing standards for teaching and learning technology.

Full bio: http://www.dr-chuck.com/dr-chuck/resume/bio.htm

by Adam Marshall at February 23, 2017 01:30 PM

Apereo OAE

New release: Apereo OAE 12.5.0!

After a period of hibernation, Apereo Open Academic Environment (OAE) project is happy to announce a new minor release: OAE 12.5.0.

This release comprises some new features, usability improvements and bug fixes.

Our next step will be to improve documentation and to make the project more approachable to newcomers, but the team is also continuing to modernise the code base, so fear not; the next major release is on the horizon!

Changelog

Administration improvements

Both tenant and global administators can now use the administration interface to add a new logo for a tenancy.

Search improvements

Private tenancies will no longer have content from other tenancies showing up in the search and similarly their content or users will never be visible in the search results of other tenancies.

Linked content improvements

If a link is created pointing directly to a file, we will no longer trigger a download prompt when it's opened. Instead, OAE will attempt to embed the file where possible.

Activity feed and email bug fixes

A bug where some user thumbnails occasionally caused a 401 error in the activity feed was fixed, as was an error where some characters were rendering incorrectly in emails.

Group bug fixes

Deleted users will no longer have links to their homepages in groups. Additionally, a bug where a user's name would sometimes not be displayed correctly in a group's members list was fixed.

Try it out

OAE 12.5.0 can be experienced on the project's QA server at https://oae.oae-qa0.oaeproject.org. It is worth noting that this server is actively used for testing and may be wiped and redeployed every night.

The source code has been tagged with version number 12.5.0 and can be downloaded from the following repositories:

Back-end: https://github.com/oaeproject/Hilary/tree/12.5.0

Front-end: https://github.com/oaeproject/3akai-ux/tree/12.5.0

Documentation on how to install the system can be found at https://github.com/oaeproject/Hilary/blob/12.5.0/README.md.

The repository containing all deployment scripts can be found at https://github.com/oaeproject/puppet-hilary.

Get in touch

The project website can be found at http://www.oaeproject.org. The project blog will be updated with the latest project news from time to time, and can be found at http://www.oaeproject.org/blog.

The mailing list used for Apereo OAE is oae@apereo.org. You can subscribe to the mailing list at https://groups.google.com/a/apereo.org/d/forum/oae.

Bugs and other issues can be reported in our issue tracker at https://github.com/oaeproject/3akai-ux/issues.

February 23, 2017 01:00 PM

February 21, 2017

Michael Feldstein

Recommended Reading: WCET Survey Report and Tony Bates Commentary

WCET released its survey results on the price and costs of online education last week, focusing on US higher education, and it has caused quite a stir due to the headline, first-look analysis. As Inside Higher Ed described in the article “Online Education Costs More, Not Less”:

The myth that online education courses cost less to produce and therefore save students money on tuition doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, a survey of distance education providers found.

While there is value in countering a myth held by many state legislators and policy makers that online education is a surefire way to save money – and the report does shoot down this myth – it is unfortunate that most of the public discussion is based on the oversimplified summary described above and and entirely-justified pushback that online education does not have to cost more.

The report itself tackles the difficult subject of price (what a student pays) and costs (what it takes to produce) of online vs. face-to-face education with much more nuance and information that gets lost in the conversation. In particular, the “demographics” section is laudable as one of the best description of survey respondents and how this response compares to national averages. And there is text noting discrepancies and limitations to the survey results. 

For price, the report notes that three out of four institutions charge students the same tuition for online courses and enrollment, but when you add in course fees, more than half of institutions end up with student paying more for online. For costs, the report deconstructed an online course “into twenty-one components in four categories (preparing, teaching, assessing students, and supporting faculty and students)”. For these components, the overwhelming conclusion of respondents was that online costs the same or more than face-to-face.

I had planned to do my own analysis of this report, including the areas that are leading to such strong discussion in media (see the comments to IHE article), social media (see this Google+ thread) and private WCET discussion threads. But Tony Bates beat me to it, and his post “What counts when you cost online learning?” should be required reading to help understand the survey. Most of my commentary could be titled “What Tony Said”.

Much of the media coverage has focused on the finding that respondents to the survey on which this report is based were by and large of the opinion that distance education costs more than classroom teaching. But you need to read the report more carefully to understand why respondents responded in this way. It all comes down to how you cost distance education or online learning. In particular, you need to understand the context of the report.

After a valuable summary of the report, Tony gets into his commentary.

Unfortunately, though, for methodological reasons, I fear the report has confused rather than clarified the discussion about costs and price. In particular, by focusing on components that are specific to distance education, such as faculty support, the use of technologies, and the cost of state authorization of DE, the report has clearly given the impression that most educators believe that distance education is more expensive. It can be, but it doesn’t have to be.

It is unfortunate that the report has given this impression because you cannot just look at the costs of specific components of distance education without looking also at specific components of face-to-face teaching that are not represented in the costs of distance education, in particular the very substantial ‘sunk’ costs of buildings, parking, etc. There are better ways of measuring the costs of distance education and online programs – see Chapter 7 in Bates and Sangra (2011).

I would add to this analysis two additional sources of confusion:

  • The report conflates online courses and online programs, at one time describing the intent to obtain “information about the real experiences and expenditures of distance education programs and students” while most detailed analysis were at the course level. But ad hoc online courses occurring within a traditional face-to-face program have different economics than fully-online programs where students do not come to campus. And it is at the program level where online education – when accompanied by changes in business model or assumptions – has the greatest potential to reduce overall costs.
  • The report sets up a monolithic online vs. a monolithic face-to-face model, but this ignores the differences between hybrid courses (that often have the same usage of technology and professional development services and reduce usage of physical facilities) and  traditional face-to-face courses. WCET is not the source of this problem, but the question asked reinforces this online vs. face-to-face viewpoint that can be misleading.

Controversies aside, I recommend reading the actual WCET report, with all of its nuance and description and limitations, as well as Tony Bates’ summary post.

The post Recommended Reading: WCET Survey Report and Tony Bates Commentary appeared first on e-Literate.

by Phil Hill at February 21, 2017 02:17 AM

February 20, 2017

Sakai Project

Sakai Surveys Summaries

The 2016 surveys are completed and the results have been summarized. While we need to be cognizant that it is only a small portion of our community who responded (about 14%), there is enough feedback to stimulate valuable community discussion. Also may be worth noting that over1/2 of the respondents to the surveys are self hosted or self hosted with commercial affiliate support. 

by NealC at February 20, 2017 03:10 PM

February 17, 2017

Michael Feldstein

Vert Capital and Scriba Corp: Institutions losing course data in company’s death throes

After last year’s disastrous outage at UC Davis due to Scriba Corp’s change of data center for the Sakai LMS (branded as SmartSite at UC Davis), it turns out that there is more damage to be done as the company slowly disappears. What appears to have happened in the past few months is that Scriba has not been paying this new data center provider (IO Data Centers), and that company is withholding the data on its servers until the issue is resolved. The end result is that several remaining Scriba customers have lost not just a live Sakai site but also the underlying current and historic course data. In at least one case, this dispute has caused a distance education program to be halted until the school figures out how to set up a new LMS site and to recreate their course content.

Based on two people familiar with Scriba’s recent operations, despite several remaining schools continuing to pay hosting fees, Scriba was not fully paying IO Data Centers. While I have no information on whether there was a legitimate complaint or whether this was simply non-payment to save cash while Scriba died, I will point out that last Spring Scriba’s contract with the Apereo Foundation to remain a commercial affiliate was cancelled under similar circumstances. Scriba simply stopped paying Apereo until the foundation’s board voted to terminate their contract.

One remaining program that had been using Scriba’s services was the Naval Postgraduate School’s Leader Development & Education for Sustained Peace (LDESP), a graduate program combining distance education courses and seminars. On one of the program’s websites is the message:

The secure LDESP site is down. We regret to inform you that the LDESP courses are not accessible at this time. We are attempting to migrate the content to an alternative site. We apologize for the inconvenience.

ldesp-page

A source directly involved with that program confirmed that the program lost access to their course data after the Scriba site went down.

Background

Just under two years ago we reported about the strange circumstances of Scriba’s current ownership.

It looks like we have another name and ownership change for one of the major Sakai partners, but this time the changes have a very closed feel to them. rSmart, led by Chris Coppola at the time, was one of the original Sakai commercial affiliates, and the LMS portion of the company was eventually sold to Asahi Net International (ANI) in 2013. ANI had already been involved in the Sakai community as a Japanese partner and also as an partial investor in rSmart, so that acquisition was not seen as a huge change other than setting the stage for KualiCo to acquire the remainder of rSmart.

In late April, however, ANI was acquired by a private equity firm out of Los Angeles (Vert Capital), and this move is different. Vert Capital did not just acquire ANI; they also changed the company name to Scriba and took the company off the grid for now. No news items explaining intentions, no web site, no changes to Apereo project page, etc. Japanese press coverage of the acquisition mentions the parent company’s desire to focus on the Japanese market.

So from the beginning this setup showed problems, and there were serious questions about Vert Capital’s operations. Just over one year later came the move to IO Data Centers as the data center provider, and the massive outage for UC Davis and other schools happened as part of this move. Despite UC Davis paying for premium support and disaster recovery services, Scriba’s CEO Mike Sanders described to me how their database mirroring failed, and they failed to give the required notification for the outage in the first place. I summarized:

I’m sorry for being so direct, but this outage that significantly affected a campus of 32,000 students for the last three weeks of the term comes down to a case of gross negligence. Scriba had no business signing the amended contract terms last year, as they clearly had inadquate staff and processes to actually meet the service levels promised. Scriba did not even attempt to meet their contractual obligations in complying with freezes, 6-week notification, 24-hour recovery, and communications during events.

During the outage, Scriba stopped communicating with most schools, who had no access to course materials and no idea of when the problem might be resolved. UC Davis eventually set up their own Sakai instance while they continued their transition to Canvas. For several other schools, other Sakai commercial affiliates (primarily Longsight) proactively set up new Sakai instances to help the schools out, at least those who still had access to their data. This move continued through the rest of 2016, although not all schools had fully moved off Scriba. Kudos to Longsight and others, by the way, for helping out during these problems.

Scriba slowly ceased to operate as a hosting provider company, and most employees left. I am not aware if anyone is left at this point.

In the meantime, Scriba’s web site is still functioning, soliciting orders for new Sakai instances. Vert Capital’s web site contains no references to Scriba, but they do have two other ed tech companies in their portfolio – Genesis Collaboration and Poolworks.

Implications

Now we apparently can add the new problem of data center disputes and inability for customers to get course content and data they own. This raises the question of what it means to actually own this content. By and large, institutions own their course data in any LMS, regardless of hosting model. Since Sakai is open source, there is no question that the Naval Postgraduate School owns their course content and data from a licensing perspective. But what if Scriba’s contract with IO states that the data center does not have to release any content upon non-payment? I suspect this case will have to be resolved in the courts, or at least with threats of lawsuits. But in the meantime several programs are left without any meaningful access to or usage of the stuff they own. Ownership is a hollow term until this dispute is resolved.

While Scriba Corp has clearly been a bad actor in the ed tech field since their acquisition by Vert Capital and therefore are somewhat unique, this ongoing story should be a wake up call to other schools. Do you have a disaster recovery plan in place, and more importantly, have you tested it? Can you verify that you have access to your course content? There are important considerations.

We do not often run stories at e-Literate purely from anonymous sources, but in this case it seemed important as each independent source backed up what the others were saying. But if I have got any portion of this story wrong, or if Vert Capital wants to correct the record, I will update accordingly.

The post Vert Capital and Scriba Corp: Institutions losing course data in company’s death throes appeared first on e-Literate.

by Phil Hill at February 17, 2017 03:21 AM

February 15, 2017

Apereo Foundation

Open Apereo 2017 Registration is Now Open!

Open Apereo 2017 Registration is Now Open!

The Open Source Conference for Education! 
Early bird pricing now through May 5th.

by Michelle Hall at February 15, 2017 12:19 AM

Open Apereo 2017 Registration is Now Open!

Open Apereo 2017 Registration is Now Open!

The Open Source Conference for Education. Early bird pricing is availiblle now through May 5th.

by Michelle Hall at February 15, 2017 12:19 AM

February 06, 2017

Adam Marshall

Learning Activities to Promote Student Collaboration

Guest post by Lucy Tallents & Jocelyne Hughes

The SHOAL portal will go live in March, following a beta-testing phase in February (to participate in the trial, email shoal@maillist.ox.ac.uk).  As the release date approaches, we will blog about specific learning activities that feature in the portal, organised into themes such as collaboration, feedback, and support for tutorial-based learning.

In this post, we focus on the use of embedded websites to promote collaboration and the exchange of ideas and information between students.

Collaborative data collection

LeafMorph

Problem: On her ‘Exploring data with R’ online course, Lucy Tallents wanted to create a place where students could collaborate to build a simple ecological dataset, which they would use to help them discuss statistical theory and applications.

Solution: After designing a data collection protocol suitable for everyone (measuring five tree leaves collected near their home), Lucy created a Google doc for students to enter the leaf morphology data, and embedded the Google doc within a WebLearn Lessons page.  The instructions for field work, data repository, discussion forum and computer exercises on data analysis are seamlessly connected using the Lessons tool. https://weblearn.ox.ac.uk/portal/site/:central:it:shoal:leaf-morphol

Adapt this idea: In a face-to-face situation, students could collect data in a field or laboratory practical, or during library research.   After collating data on Weblearn, students can analyse and discuss in their own time.  Another approach would be to instruct the students via Weblearn how to collect the data in their own time, and upload it to a Google doc ready for a classroom session on analysis or interpretation.

Jointly-edited mind maps
Mindmap

Problem: On a different course, Lucy wanted to encourage students to use mind-mapping to clarify their understanding of wildlife conservation issues.  Mind-mapping software is freely available, but Lucy’s aim was for students to collaborate in creating a mind map together, so that they could learn from each other’s diverse professional experiences.

Solution: Lucy created a skeleton mind map on Mind42 [www.mind42.com], and added students as collaborators there, which automatically sent them an email inviting them to edit the mind map.  She linked to the Mind42 website within the Lessons tool, from a page which presented the theory and explained the task in more detail.  Students edit the mind map themselves, adding their own ideas and comments, and working towards a consensus on how different conservation drivers and threats are related. https://weblearn.ox.ac.uk/portal/site/:central:it:shoal:mindmap

Adapt this idea: Collaborative mind-mapping can very successfully be used in face-to-face teaching to encourage a more holistic and connected view of a topic, and as a revision aid.  Students can work in small groups or as an entire class, highlighting connections and revealing knowledge gaps.  Another use is to bring together ideas presented in a whole module where lectures are provided by a number of different teachers.  A collective mind map can be created by students to unite the themes presented by diverse staff during the term.

by Adam Marshall at February 06, 2017 03:46 PM

February 02, 2017

Dr. Chuck

What is Tsugi?

tsugi-knifeTsugi is open source software that makes it practical to quickly build and deploy learning sites, tools, and content that is seamlessly integrated into Learning Management Systems using the latest interoperability standards. Tsugi makes it possible for publishers of educational software or content to implement integration with major learning management systems with a relatively low level of developer effort when compared with researching and implementing interoperability standards from scratch.

Who might benefit from Tsugi?

  • Campus IT staff can deploy an extensible local “App Store” integrated into their local learning management system. The App Store can host Tsugi tools developed locally or install and host Tsugi tools from a wide range of sources including free / open source tools provided by the Tsugi project.
  • A faculty member can find and integrate content and tools from their local App Stores and/or other Tsugi-based Learning Object Repositories anywhere on the Internet into their courses.
  • For faculty or campuses producing Open Educational Resources (OER) Tsugi allows easy publishing of reusable and remixable OER content and tools that can seamlessly be imported and/or integrated into learning management systems.
  • For book authors, it is possible to produce a web site for the book that includes supporting materials, quizzes, interactive exercises, and other learning content. Content hosted in the Tsugi Learning Object Repository can be seamlessly integrated into LMS systems, giving independent book authors a way to provide their additional materials and software in a form that is as good or better than integrations provided by the (very expensive) publishers.
  • Instructional designers can work with local developers to quickly develop interoperable learning tools that meet the pedagogical needs of faculty and students. With the productivity gains of the Tsugi library it is feasible to develop unique applications down to the granularity of a particular course. Developer effort goes into building the tool and not developing and debugging low-level code to support interoperability standards.
  • Tsugi is a stand-alone MOOC platform. For a school, individual or even professional society, Tsugi can be deployed on inexpensive hardware to support 100K+ users around the world per course. Tsugi has a built in login, grade-book, badging, and other facilities that allow the quick development and deployment that make it quite simple to share content MOOC-style.
  • Edtech startups can save resources and quickly develop a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) using Tsugi, put it in production and begin showing it to their customers and investors. WHile they may chose to ultimately build their own ground up implementation of IMS standards, since Tsugi is open source they have a nice roadmap and test harness for their own implementation.
  • For a mainstream LMS vendor, encouraging their customers to use Tsugi means that locally developed code at each of their institutions will be consistent, secure, and reliable. LMS vendors will not each have to separately develop “How to make an LTI Tool” documentation – they can just promote the use of Tsugi and leave all the developer training to Tsugi.

What is Tsugi?

Tsugi is a set of flexible “Lego blocks” that work very well together. To meet all of the use cases of Tsugi described above, adopters just pick and choose the elements of Tsugi that are needed.

The primary elements of Tsugi are as follows:

  • A set of library routines that implement standards like IMS Learning Tools Interoperability, IMS Common Cartridge, IMS Content Item, and other standards as they become available. The Tsugi library is broken into three layers:
    • The lowest layer is a direct implementation of each of the standards.
    • The second layer is an “opinionated” API layer that prescribes a relational database model, conventions for the use of session data, compensation for slight differences in LMS implementations of various standards, performance improvements, and reliability improvements taking advantage of the underlying data model.
    • The third layer provides an “UI API” that implements the Tsugi style guide so all Tsugi modules look and function similarly from a UI perspective. As we move from 10’s to 1000’s of independently developed tools, consistency in look and feel across tools from multiple sources will be important.
  • Tsugi has a management console that supports the Tsugi App Store use cases including Tsugi Module installation, providing facilities for API key management as well as the ability to take incoming requests for access keys to hosted Tsugi modules. The management console also makes it so all of the installed modules can be integrated into an LMS using LTI 1.x, LTI 2, or IMS Content Item.
  • A faculty member can develop their course content and host it using Tsugi and then simply import that content into their course shell at the beginning of each semester.
  • Tsugi can also be embedded into a public-facing web site providing learning management system functionality for the web site. When Tsugi is embedded into a web site, it can publish the content and tools hosted on the site as a set of interoperable learning objects using the IMS Common Cartridge or IMS Content Item specifications. Tsugi can transform a static educational content web site into an interoperable Learning Object Repository and a learning community.
  • Tsugi can be further configured to turn a web site into a stand-alone MOOC by supporting login, activity tracking, tool launching, a map of students who are part of the course, and a flexible automated badging system that automatically issues badges that contain the necessary meta data and validation to comply with the Open Badge Initiative (OBI). Examples of this use case include: Web Applications for Everybody and Python for Everybody.

Getting Started with Tsugi

We are developing a free online course (a.k.a. MOOC) to train Tsugi developers and adopters at www.tsugi.org. The training will be a series of modules with assignments, quizzes and peer-graded activities. As developers complete their training they will be automatically awarded OBI compliant badges showing their progress and accomplishments.

And yes, this is kind of “meta” since we are using Tsugi to build a web site that will train Tsugi developers. Why not? Tsugi is the simplest way to build a stand alone training web site. Oh and of course, since Tsugi is also a Learning Object Repository, anyone can integrate the Tsugi training materials into their local LMS and teach their own Tsugi course. It is indeed “Turtles all the way down” with Tsugi.

There is already a set of exercises with sample code and sample implementations suitable for a workshop or short course on Tsugi.

Example Tsugi Tools

There is already an effort within the Apereo foundation to build, review, and share open source Tsugi tools. A number of simple tools are already available in the TsugiTools github repository:

  • A simple attendance tool – This is kept simple so it can be used used as an example of how to build a Tsugi tool
  • A quizzing tool that supports the GIFT format pioneered by Moodle. GIFT is a way to author quizzes using a simple plaintext syntax.
  • A course map that allows students in a class to place themselves on a map an optionally release information about themselves on the map.
  • A peer-grading application the implements a “more social” approach to peer grading. This is quite useful for assessments in MOOCs or social learning situations where there are flexible deadlines and participants are experiencing course material at their own pace.
  • A simple way to create Slack channels for a class and invite all the students to the Slack channel.

These tools from the TsugiTools repository can be automatically installed into a Tsugi instance using the Tsugi application management console.

Another set of Tsugi tools are autograders – but these are generally narrowly focused on one topic and not part of the tsugitools repository.

What Tsugi “Is Not”?

Tsugi is not an enterprise Learning Management System like Sakai, Moodle, Blackboard, Canvas or Desire2Learn. Tsugi works with and enhances all of those LMS’s.

An Enterprise LMS is a “walled garden” shielding course material from anyone except those students and faculty associated with a particular course session. An important use case for an Enterprise LMS is to create a “course shell” for every course section that is taught on a campus. Those course shells are important while the class is in session but become archival as soon as the session is completed. Many schools “clean out” course shells that are older than a certain date. All the courses in an Enterprise LMS are at the same URL – the courses exist “within” the LMS. Faculty / instructional designers must design their student experience using whatever limited facilities the LMS has in terms of content authoring.

When Tsugi is embedded into a web site the use cases are quite different. With Tsugi, each course or set of learning content has its own URL and can be separately hosted (this is why a single Tsugi course can easily scale to >100K users). While Tsugi is highly opinionated as to how tools look and feel, when Tsugi is embedded into a web site, the core content of the web site that surrounds Tsugi is simply web content and can be authored and styled in any way that the owner likes. The web site can “inject” style into Tsugi tools hosted by and used by the web site. It means learning content web sites can be beautiful, engaging, and easily searched. The web site can make use of any of the latest HTML/CSS/JavaScript technologies. Tsugi merely “plugs into” and adds value to the beautiful educational content on the web site.

A Tsugi web site is intended to make its materials available “forever” – long after the end of one semester. A Tsugi web site becomes a source of materials that might be in use in hundreds of classes around the world. Search engines can “find” Tsugi learning content sites.

Programming Languages Supported

Given that Tsugi is intended to level the playing field and make it possible for thousands of new developers to learn to build sophisticated learning tools without requiring a lot of programming experience, Tsugi implements most functionality in PHP first. Choosing PHP also allows small to medium Tsugi installations to run in the commonly available low-cost hosting plans with minimum hardware requirements. Choosing PHP also broadens the developer community that can contribute to, understand and/or expand the core functionality of Tsugi.

But PHP is less popular among professional programmers so there are Tsugi implementations that support multiple programming languages and web environments. Each of these is at a different level of functionality and will be expanded as there is interest.

  • Tsugi Java shares its low-level API implementation with Sakai. It supports LTI 1.x and IMS Content Item. Tsugi Java also has the second-level “opinionated API” implemented for LTI 1.x launches.
  • Tsugi Node has support for the LTI launches with much of the the LTI 1.x standard implemented at both the low level and the “opinionated level”.
  • There is a simple bridge to allow one to use the Tsugi PHP libraries in Laravel applications.

All these implementations depend on the PHP-based management console for services beyond LTI 1.x launches. If there is interest we can build management consoles for other languages.

There is emerging interest and discussions in developing versions of Tsugi for Python/Tornado, Python/Flask, and Rails but these projects have not yet started.

Where is Tsugi Going Next?

Tsugi is still a relatively small open source project and so the roadmap is defined by those who are using Tsugi as they have new needs and interests. That means that those who join the project early will have the ability to influence the early directions of the project. At the same time, Tsugi is continuing to evolve to meet those needs so adopters will need to stay in touch with the Tsugi project to know the latest news about changes, bug fixes, and improvements to the project.

Some of the general areas that Tsugi is likely to expand include:

  • Better support for analytics standards like IMS Caliper and xAPI.
  • More tools like (a) YouTube view tracking, (b) simple scalable threaded discussion tool, (c) a markdown authoring tool for “pages”, (d) a simple “clicker” tool to allow quick polls during a live class, (e) a video quizzing application, (f) a collaborative paper reading / commenting tool, …
  • Of course the support for languages beyond PHP needs to be improved and more programming languages need to be supported.

Tsugi is an Instance of the Next Generation Digital Learning Environment (NGDLE)

The core principles of Tsugi are openness, interoperability, and modularity. Tsugi is not a single product or a single library. It is a set of building blocks that can be composed in a myriad of ways to allow us to take a more flexible, distributed, and engaging approach to building and using learning resources.

Tsugi is trying to build the underlying infrastructure to enable teaching and learning innovation to happen many places independently as part of an ecosystem rather than looking for the “one product” that will solve every problem. While Tsugi is a “learning management system”, a “learning object repository” and an “app store” it takes a distributed approach to all these use cases. This makes it possible to have as many learning-oriented web sites, MOOCs, learning object repositories, and app stores as we like.

Ov course once we make it possible to have thousands of sources of outstanding and easily integrated learning content, we will need to solve the problem of searching and discovery. Which will be a good problem to solve.

by Charles Severance at February 02, 2017 04:53 PM

Adam Marshall

WebLearn version 11-ox4 released on 31st January 2017

WebLearn was upgraded to Version 11-ox4 on the morning on Tuesday 31st January 2017, we apologise for any inconvenience caused by the disruption.

If you would like to suggest improvements to WebLearn then please do so by contributing to the WebLearn User Voice feedback service.

Improvements

  • Lessons tool
    • Brand new Checklist tool: add a series of “to do” items and allow students to mark them as complete
    • Collapsible sections: if you give a title to a Lessons page section, then that section can be made collapsible
    • Various UI improvements
    • Firstname surname (instead of username) is now displayed in the Forums summary

checklist

  • The Researcher Training Tool (RTT) now works well on a mobile device
  • Many accessibility improvements (courtesy of the Ra11y project)
  • SoundCloud audio files with player can now be embedded within Lessons and other pages – as a side note it’s possible to have private audio files hosted on SoundCloud, they are just like regular file but the URL is private, simple opt to share the file and copy the “embed code”

soundcloud

  • Resources – one can now “Copy content from my other sites” on a mobile device
  • HTML WYSIWYG editor
    • an accessibility checker button has now been added – this allows an accessibility report to be generated for all hand crafted web pages, see https://cksource.com/accessibility-checker/demo.html
    • will now auto-save is every 3 minutes
    • the style-sheet used when editing is now the same as that used when rendering a page

accrep

  • Sign Up tool: users should no longer see an ugly stack trace if their session has timed out.
  • The calendar summary now uses the correct icons
  • Reading list authoring: deleting a top-level section now actually removes it from the page

 

by Adam Marshall at February 02, 2017 02:11 PM

January 31, 2017

Sakai Project

Sakai 11.3, Sakai 12.0 and Samigo Extended Delivery

The latest buzz on Sakai 11.3, Sakai 12.0 and the Samigo Extended Delivery feature.
Samigo Test and Quiz Extended Delivery feature is targeted for Sakai 12. Sakai 11.3 we would like to release in the next several weeks. And Sakai 12? Time to develop our Sakai 12 "Story" and target a release before summer. 
 

by NealC at January 31, 2017 08:38 PM

January 30, 2017

Apereo Foundation

January 2017 Update on the Image Quiz Project

January 2017 Update on the Image Quiz Project

The Image Quiz Project was introduced last year with the aim of increasing comprehension of complex subjects through visual learning. Watch our videos!

by Michelle Hall at January 30, 2017 11:02 PM

January 29, 2017

Dr. Chuck

What LMS to Choose After Blackboard?

This weekend I got an email from a leading university that is planning to leave Blackboard and wanted some advice as to how Sakai might fit into their future.

For the past few years, when I get these “What LMS to choose after Blackboard/ANGEL/WebCT…?” emails from folks, I usually send a short note that effectively says, “You have my permission to go to Canvas – everybody is doing it. At least Canvas will be better than Blackboard.” (i.e. Canvas is the new Black)

But this particular morning, with a cup of fresh coffee in hand, I wrote and sent the following note that evolved into an open letter to Blackboard customers who are getting a “little nervous”. The note was to a school outside the US – so you see my focus on privacy issues.

Subject: What LMS to Choose After Blackboard?

Thanks for the note and thanks to your colleague for the reference. I have spent almost 15 years in the LMS market now and know the products and systems very well. As you might well imagine I am very excited about Sakai and believe it to be the best solution in the marketplace for the present and the future.

To me the most important dimensions of an LMS are: (a) an LMS must continuously evolve to meet the needs of on-campus, distance, and education at scale (i.e. MOOCs) as experienced by a modern world-class university, (b) for a university outside the US having 100% control over all student data is a must, and (c) over the next decade while the LMS will continue to be the backbone resource for teaching, increasingly innovation must happen outside the LMS and be seamlessly integrated into the LMS – this allows the LMS to focus on stability, scalability, and consistency while freeing local instructors, instructional designers and IT staff to explore innovative pedagogies freely without compromising the stability of the LMS.

With this context, for a leading institution that is looking forward to innovating in their approach to teaching and learning I feel that Sakai is simply the best LMS in the market. Sakai is the only “100% open source” product and that matters. In a truly open source product, we have no shareholders and no product managers – our shareholders and product managers are our adopters and community – that means you. The schools, companies, and individuals that invest time and resources are the ones that set Sakai’s direction.

Sakai is part of the Apereo Foundation and works with other open source projects that support the academic mission. Perhaps you use CAS as your single signon on your campus. Of particular interest to me is the Tsugi (www.tsugi.org) project that is an open source framework that allows the agile development of a wide range of pedagogically innovative learning tools that are easily and seamlessly integrated into LMSs like Sakai and Canvas using the latest IMS Standards like Learning Tools Interoperability, Common Cartridge, and IMS Content Item.

This is my short assessment of the vendors in the LMS marketplace:

  • Sakai is by far the best LMS for a strong institution that wants to “move forward” and sees the learning technology space as needing further innovation over the next decade. The combination of Sakai and Tsugi is simply the best solution in the marketplace of the notion of a more ecosystem-oriented “Next Generation Digital Learning Environment” (NGDLE). If you want to be part of the community who will define the NGDLE, Apereo Open Source is the answer.
  • Canvas is my second choice as an LMS as it is a leader (like Sakai) in allowing external tools to seamlessly integrate into the product. If you are a school that is interested in being a “fast follower” or have a weak IT team, Canvas is an excellent choice. Canvas is a good choice for second-tier schools or community colleges that want to be innovative but don’t want to be a core influencer in the next generation architecture. Interestingly Tsugi also works very well with Canvas because Sakai and Canvas implement the same IMS standards in very similar ways. Canvas is not “100% open source”. They release portions of their source but the intention is not to have you run your own instance of the software. That of course means that you are putting your data in the cloud in the hands of a US company. I personally think it is important to control one’s own data.
  • Moodle is a fine LMS and it is certainly Open Source – but it is not participative open source like Sakai. End-user adopters have very little influence in the direction of the product. But if you are a small school with a weak IT department, you probably don’t have that much interest in changing the features of your LMS. Moodle generally trails the market in terms of implementing the latest interoperability standards but they get there eventually. Self-hosted Moodle at a small school takes very low levels of developer resources as long as you *never* customize the code base or upgrades quickly become almost impossible. Cloud hosting Moodle with a company in your country is probably sufficient to assuage your data concerns. I would not recommend cloud-hosting *any* LMS with a US-based company at this point.
  • Blackboard has been effectively frozen for the past four years because of their grand rewrite they call “Ultra” that has not gone well. The primary reason for the failure of Ultra is some very bad architectural decisions that make it challenging to make an application as complex as an LMS highly reliable. The result of over-investment in Ultra leaves Learn as a pretty clunky piece of antique software, lagging in implementing the latest interoperability specifications, and a future that will be a very painful upgrade as the gulf between Learn and Ultra widens. I am glad to hear that you are considering leaving Blackboard.
  • Desire2Learn/BrightSpace is a clever company and their customers seem to like the product very much. My experience is that they are the best product for a heavily multi-tenant architecture. Many of their most successful customers are state K12 systems in the US that want to purchase a single product to be used by 100+ small schools. D2L has historically been a laggard in implementing interoperability standards but in the past year or so – they have realized the importance of interoperability and are working to be on par with Sakai and Canvas although it will take some time.

In summary, if you are leaving Blackboard, if you are bold and want to be part of an effort to take on the next decade of challenges in teaching and learning you should choose Sakai. If you have a weak IT organization but want to appear to be “innovative” with less risk and can tolerate the privacy consequences of cloud-hosting with a US company, choose Canvas with my blessing. If you are a smaller school with a weak IT organization, and just want something solid that will work, choose Moodle – either self host it and *never change a single line of code*, or out source hosting to a non-US company.

I use all three of these LMS’s. Sakai is amazing and working with a thriving and robust community of like-minded innovators is even more amazing. Building Tsugi in this same community is the most fun thing I have ever done. Canvas is a good workhorse – it has fewer features but does a solid job on those features and has an industry-leading interoperability strategy. When I have to install and administer my own LMS in my spare time for small-scale applications, I use Moodle. But I have changed 50 lines in my Moodle installation and so I have not upgraded my Moodle for 3 years because I don’t have time to re-debug and re-implement my changes in the latest release.

If you do choose to move from Blackboard to Sakai, there are companies that will help you through the conversion. There are local Sakai hosting companies that we can put you in touch with. There are also Sakai commercial companies that will maintain your Sakai installation on your campus using your hardware so you have 100% control of your data but leave someone else to deal with patches and upgrades. True “100% open source” leads to a diverse, international, rich and innovative commercial provider community.

I am happy to talk more and I expect to be in in your area next month and might be able to swing by your campus to give a presentation on Tsugi, Sakai, and Apereo. Even if you choose Canvas or Moodle – you should join Apereo so you can work with us on Tsugi.

by Charles Severance at January 29, 2017 04:13 PM

Using Tsugi to Build “A MOOC Of My Own” (MOOCOMO)

This presentation will describe and demonstrate the latest use of Tsugi to build a standalone web site that combines Open Educational Materials, Cloud Hosted LTI Tools, a single-course LMS, auto-graders, Open Badges and a learning object repository providing resources for import into other LMS systems. I call all of this combined together “A MOOC Of My Own” (MOOCOMO). I have created two of these MOOCOMO sites that I use in both my on-campus teaching as well as my current and upcoming Coursera (and possibly edX) courses.

This presentation will describe and demonstrate the latest use of Tsugi to build a standalone web site that combines Open Educational Materials, Cloud Hosted LTI Tools, a single-course LMS, auto-graders, Open Badges and a learning object repository providing resources for import into other LMS systems. I call all of this combined together “A MOOC Of My Own” (www.moocomo.org). I have created two of these MOOCOMO sites that I use in both my on-campus teaching as well as my current and upcoming Coursera (and possibly edX) courses.

Submitted to: Sakai Virtual Conference 2016.

by Charles Severance at January 29, 2017 01:48 PM

December 01, 2016

Sakai@JU

What’s Coming in Sakai 11?

In just over two weeks – the Fall 2016 term will end.  At almost the same time, Sakai, the learning management system used by Johnson University (Tennessee, Florida and Online) will undergo an upgrade from Sakai 10.2 to 11.2.

screenshot-2016-12-01-12-45-33

Sakai 11 Interface for Johnson University

This upgrade has been planned for well over 6 months and as with any upgrade hopes to bring better continuity and usefulness to a tool as used by both faculty and students within the context of face to face, hybrid and online courses offered by Johnson University.

So what are the biggest changes you can expect to see?  Apart from reading through the detailed list of changes and new features here’s a simple bullet point list:

  • Gradebook upgrade providing spreadsheet grade entry
  • Clean, modern interface
  • Significantly improved mobile functionality (responsiveness)
  • New and improved features in the Lessons tool
  • Favorite and better organize sites

If you’d like to see an overview provided by New York University – you can see it here. Other videos and tutorial information will be made available in the coming weeks.


by Dave E. at December 01, 2016 06:12 PM

Sakai Project

Sakai 11.2

Even though we have release notes [1], I was wondering if it would be helpful to make a blog post about our maintenance releases. Also motivated by the fact that in 11.2 we had to turn off one of the new features of Sakai 11 for the mobile view, and thought that would be important to communicate. This blog post is really about both Sakai 11.1 and Sakai 11.2 since combined there are 350 improvements since the 11.0 release on 23 July 2016. 

 

by NealC at December 01, 2016 04:59 PM

August 25, 2016

Steve Swinsburg

Migrating to GradebookNG?

GradebookNG is now included in the recently released Sakai 11!

If you want to use the Import From Site feature to migrate content from previous sites to new sites, you need to have GradebookNG in the previous site.

You can do this in two ways:

  1. Add GradebookNG to the sites you are migrating FROM. You can do this manually, or via a database script or a web service.
  2. Convert all of the Gradebook Classic tools in the existing sites to GradebookNG.
    In the upgrade from Sakai 10 to Sakai 11 there is an optional database conversion that you can run that will do this:

    UPDATE SAKAI_SITE_TOOL SET REGISTRATION='sakai.gradebookng' WHERE REGISTRATION='sakai.gradebook.tool';

Note: If you don’t have GradebookNG in the site you are migrating content TO, you can add this to sakai.properties to have it added automatically when you use Import From Site.

site.setup.import.addmissingtools=true

by steveswinsburg at August 25, 2016 10:02 PM

August 24, 2016

Steve Swinsburg

Oracle 12c via Vagrant

I’ve just finished building a new Vagrant box for Oracle 12c. This one uses only Vagrant and a shell script.

Grab it from github: https://github.com/steveswinsburg/oracle12c-vagrant

During the course of this install I came up against several issues with the Oracle silent installer itself. There were files missing, an incomplete compilation of binaries (but Oracle reports a successful install!) and then problems running scripts that ship with the installer. The issues were buried in log files, and sometimes those log files pointed at other log files!

Oracle, if you are listening, you really need to work on your installer…

Check it out, I would love to know what you think.

N.B. For reference, the problems I encountered are here and here.

 

by steveswinsburg at August 24, 2016 11:59 AM

June 28, 2016

Ian Boston

Referendums are binary so should be advisory

If you ask the for the solution to the multi faceted question with a binary question you will get the wrong answer with a probability of 50%. Like a quantum bit, the general population can be in any state based on the last input or observation, and so a Referendum, like the EU Referendum just held in the UK should only ever be advisory.  In that Referendum there were several themes. Immigration, the economy and UK Sovereignty. The inputs the general population were given, by various politicians on both sides of the argument, were exaggerated or untrue. It was no real surprise to hear some promises retracted once the winning side had to commit to deliver on them. No £350m per week for the NHS. No free trade deal with the EU without the same rights for EU workers as before. Migration unchanged. The Economy was hit, we don’t know how much it will be hit over the coming years and we are all, globally, hoping that in spite of a shock more severe than Lehman Brothers in 2008, the central banks, have quietly taken their own experts advice and put in place sufficient plans to deal with the situation. Had the Bank of England not intervened on Friday morning, the sheer cliff the FTSE100 was falling off, would have continued to near 0.  When it did, the index did an impression of a base jumper, parachute open drifting gently upwards.

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 20.08.07

The remaining theme is UK Sovereignty. Geoffrey Robertson QC  makes an interesting argument in the Guardian Newspaper, that in order to exit the EU, the UK must under its unwritten constitution vote in parliament to enact Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. He argues that the Referendum was always advisory. It will be interesting, given that many of those who have voted now regret their decision, if they try and abandon the last theme that caused so many to want to leave. The one remaining thing so close to their heart that they were prepared to ignore all the experts, believe the most charismatic individuals willing to tell them what they wanted to hear. UK Sovereignty, enacted by parliament by grant of the Sovereign. I watched with interest not least because the characters involved have many of the characteristics of one of the US presidential candidates.

If you live in the UK, and have time to read the opinion, please make your own mind up how you will ask your MP to vote on your behalf. That is democracy and sovereignty in action. Something we all hold dear.

by Ian at June 28, 2016 07:09 PM