Planet Sakai

May 29, 2015

Michael Feldstein

UF Online and Enrollment Warning Signs

The University of Florida Online (UF Online) program is one of the highest profile online initiatives to be started over the past few years (alongside other public institution programs such as California’s Online Education Initiative, OpenSUNY, Cal State Online, and Georgia Tech / Udacity). UF Online, which I first described in this blog post, is an exclusively-online baccalaureate program leading to a UF degree for lower costs than the traditional on-campus experience.

As part of a new program augmenting UF Online, qualified students that are not admitted to the University of Florida due to space constraints can be accepted to UF Online’s PaCE program, although the Washington Post in April called out that these students had not asked to be part of UF Online.

Some 3,100 students accepted as freshman by the University of Florida for the fall got a big surprise along with their congratulations notices: They were told that the acceptance was contingent on their agreement to spend their first year taking classes online as part of a new program designed to attract more freshmen to the flagship public university.

The 3,118 applicants accepted this way to the university — above and beyond the approximately 12,000 students offered traditional freshman slots — did not apply to the online program. Nor were they told that there was a chance that they would be accepted with the online caveat. They wound up as part of an admissions experiment.

Fast forward to this week’s news from the Gainesville Sun.

Fewer than 10 percent of 3,118 high school students invited to sign up for a new online program after their applications were rejected for regular admission to the University of Florida have accepted the offer.

The 256 students who signed up for the Pathway to Campus Enrollment [PaCE] program will be guaranteed a spot at UF after they complete the minimum requirements: two semesters and at least 15 hours of online course work. [snip]

The PACE program was created as a way to boost the numbers of first-time-in-college students enrolling in UF Online, to provide an alternate path to residential programs, and to populate major areas of study that have been under-enrolled in recent years.

The fact that less than 10% of students accepted the offer is not necessarily news, as the campus provost predicted this situation last month (see the Washington Post article). What is more troubling is the hubris exhibited by how UF Online is reacting to enrollment problems. Administrators at the university seem to view UF Online as a mechanism to serve institutional needs and are not focused on meeting student needs. This distorted lens is leading to some poor decision-making that is likely making the enrollment situation worse in the long run. Rather than asking “which students need UF Online and what support do they need”, the institution is asking “what do we need and how can we use UF Online to fill any gaps”.

Let’s step back from PaCE and look at the bigger picture. The following chart shows the targeted enrollment numbers that formed the basis for the UF Online strategic plan, compared to actual and currently estimated enrollment (click to enlarge).

Enrollments vs Plan Spring 2015

As of this term, they are off by ~23% (1000 out of a target of 1304 students), which is not unreasonable for a program that started so quickly. What is troubling, however, is that the targets rise quickly (3698 next spring, 6029 the year after) while the actuals have not shown significant growth yet. Note that UF Online is estimating enrollment to double, from 1000 to 2000, for fall 2015 – that is a bold assumption. To make the challenge even more difficult (from March article in Gainesville Sun):

That growth in revenue also depends largely on a growing number of out-of-state online students who would pay four to five times higher tuition rates, based on market conditions.

Specifically, the business plan assumes a mix of 43% out-of-state students in UF Online by year 10, yet currently there are only 9% out-of-state students. How realistic is it to attract large numbers of out-of-state students given the increasing options for online programs?

In the midst of the challenging startup, UF Online had to deal with the premature departure of the initial executive director. After a one-year search process, UF Online chose a new leader who has absolutely no experience in online education.

UF Online is welcoming Evangeline Cummings as its new director, and she has the task of raising the program’s enrollment. [snip]

Cummings starts July 1 with a salary of $185,000. She is currently a director with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

UF spokesman Steve Orlando wrote in an email that she showed skills desirable for the position. “The search committee and the provost were looking for someone with the ability to plan strategically and to manage a large and complex operation,” he said.

At this point, it might have been worth stepping back and challenging some of the original assumptions. Specifically, is UF Online targeting the right students and addressing an unmet need? The plan assumes there are many students who want a U of Florida degree but just can’t get in or want to do so from out of state. This is different than asking what types of students need an anywhere, anytime online program from an R1 university and then figuring out what to provide in an academic program.

Instead, the administrators came up with the PaCE program as a way to augment enrollment. Which academic majors are allowed under PaCE?

The PACE program was created as a way to boost the numbers of first-time-in-college students enrolling in UF Online, to provide an alternate path to residential programs, and to populate major areas of study that have been under-enrolled in recent years.

The school didn’t say “what are the majors that students need once they transfer to the residential program”, they asked “how can we use these online students to fill some gaps we already have”. And students who sign the PaCE contract (yes, it is a contractual agreement) cannot change majors even after they move to a campus program.

And while the students are in UF Online:

PACE students can’t live in student dormitories, and their tuition doesn’t cover meals, health services, the recreation center and other student activities because they aren’t paying the fees for those services. They can’t get student tickets to UF cultural and sporting events.

They also can’t ride for free on Regional Transportation Service buses or get student parking passes.

PACE students also will not be able to participate in intercollegiate athletics or try out for the Gator Marching Band. They can use the libraries on campus but can’t check out books.

U of Florida seems to have spent plenty of time figuring out what not to provide these students.

One additional challenge that UF Online will face is student retention. The Instructional Technology Council (ITC) described in this year’s Distance Education report:

Nationally, student retention in online courses tends to be eight percentage points lower than that of face-to-face instruction. Online students need to be self-disciplined to succeed. Many underestimate how much time online coursework requires. Others fall behind or drop out for the same reasons they enrolled in online courses in the first place—they have other responsibilities and life challenges, such as work and/or family, and are too busy to prepare for, or complete, their online coursework.

Yet UF Online is targeting the students who might have the most trouble with online courses. First-time entering freshman, particularly students who actually want a residential program and might not even understand online programs, are not ideal students to succeed in a fully-online program. San Jose State University and Udacity learned this lesson the hard way, although they threw MOOCs and remedial math into the mix as well.

UF Online seems to be institutionally-focused rather than student-focused, and the initiative is shaping up to be a case study in hubris. Without major changes in how the program is managed, including the main campus input into decisions, UF Online risks becoming the new poster child of online education failures. I honestly hope they succeed, but the current outlook is not encouraging.

The post UF Online and Enrollment Warning Signs appeared first on e-Literate.

by Phil Hill at May 29, 2015 01:33 AM

May 28, 2015

Apereo OAE

Apereo OAE cloud hosting partnership

Cloud or above-campus services can provide many benefits for higher education, including management simplicity and cost effectiveness. Such services can also create challenges; from reducing the ability to integrate or innovate, through to legal, ethical and data privacy concerns that cross national boundaries. Apereo exists to help higher education and other institutions meet those challenges. Above all, we believe that cloud based offerings should enable choice, openness, and institutional control, rather than setting up yet another remote, rent-extracting gatekeeper. That's why the Apereo Open Academic Environment is available by a variety of routes to suit the needs of your institution.

One route will be familiar. Your institution can choose to download OAE, and install and run it for your faculty and students - and, if you wish, others. OAE is licensed under an Apache license, allowing you the freedom to customize, tweak, and run OAE in a  variety of contexts. OAE is a growing and vibrant community which provides peer to peer support in a classic open source manner. Our ESUP colleagues in France have chosen this route to deployment for French higher education.

If, on the other hand, you wish to avoid the complexity of installation, configuration, and maintenance, and take advantage of OAE's strong network effects and its ability to seamlessly collaborate and share across institutional boundaries, other options are open to you. Apereo has partnered with a commercial provider - *Research, a member of the core OAE stakeholder group - to provide a graduated, co-operative hosting agreement. This agreement has three main options:

  • Option 1: Receive an institutional tenant that can be used for free without an SLA/data processing agreement, but under a reasonable use policy. Under this arrangement, individual users will need to accept a Terms and Conditions agreement before using the environment
  • Option 2: Receive an institutional tenant with an SLA and a data processing agreement. The institution will only be charged the full economic costs of providing this service to the institution, plus a 20% contribution towards the further development of the OAE platform.
  • Option 3: Become a strategic OAE project partner and contribute to the strategic direction of the project. In exchange, the project partner receives an option to use Option 2 at no cost for 12 months. The project partner investment goes directly to the Apereo OAE project to support further design, development and maintenance.

All these options allow your institution to retain full control of the look-and-feel of the tenant, and to control which institutions you choose to collaborate and share with. Content migration tools will become available in the next period of OAE development that will allow you to move between options. They will be free and open source. 

You can read the details behind these options and the full partnership agreement below. We believe they provide a path to participation, sustainability and growth that remains 100% open. Join the 383 institutions with OAE tenancies, and begin to explore the next generation of academic collaboration today.


by Nicolaas Matthijs at May 28, 2015 03:51 AM

May 27, 2015

Adam Marshall

New version of WebLearn released (v2.10-ox3.1) on 19 May 2015

WebLearn was upgraded on 19th May 2015 to version 2.10-ox3.1. If you want more details then please contact the WebLearn Team. For more detailed information and other minor changes, please looked at the detailed release notes.

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

The following list also includes some issues that were fixed on w/c 25th May 2015 as part of the 2.10-ox3.3 release.


  • Deleted sites can be recovered, to do this visit ‘My Workspace’ > ‘Worksite Setup’ and opt to show “Softly Deleted Sites”, then select the sites that you would like to restore. You will need to attach any restored sites to your hierarchy of sites by using the ‘Bring Site’ facility within the parent site.
  • Site Members Tool: site participants with the ‘maintain’ role now see hidden site participants and email addresses by default
  • Lessons Tool: student comments can now be marked (graded) and pages from Resources (referenced via Content Links) now use the WebLearn style-sheet
  • Contact Us Tool: long messages can now be sent
  • Reading Lists:
    • SOLO search can be used to locate items within Internet Explorer
    • Recent changes to SOLO caused links on many Reading Lists to stop working – we have now made changes to fix the problems. We apologise for these problems, unfortunately we were not informed of changes to SOLO so could not assess any impact.

by Adam Marshall at May 27, 2015 02:14 PM

May 26, 2015

Michael Feldstein

Worth Considering: Faculty perspective on student-centered pacing

Over the weekend I wrote a post based on the comment thread at Friday’s Chronicle article on e-Literate TV.

One key theme coming through from comments at the Chronicle is what I perceive as an unhealthy cynicism that prevents many people from listening to students and faculty on the front lines (the ones taking redesigned courses) on their own merits.

Sunday’s post highlighted two segments of students describing their experiences with re-designed courses, but we also need to hear directly from faculty. Too often the public discussion of technology-enabled initiatives focus on the technology itself, often assuming that the faculty involved are bystanders or technophiles. But what about the perspectives of faculty members – you know, those who are in the classrooms working with real students – on what challenges they face and what changes are needed from an educational perspective? There is no single perspective from faculty, but we could learn a great deal through their unique, hands on experiences.

Consider the the specific case of why students might need to work at their own pace.

The first example is from a faculty member at Middlebury College describing the need for a different, more personalized approach for his geographic information system (GIS) course.

Jeff Howarth: And what I would notice is that there would be some students who would like me to go a little bit faster but had to wait and kind of daydream because they were just waiting. And then there were some students that desperately wanted me slow down. Then you get into that kind of slowest-car-on-the-freeway, how-fast-can-you-really-go type of thing. So, I would slow down, which would lose part of the group.

Then there would be some folks that probably would want me to slow down but would never ask because they don’t want to call attention to themselves as being the kind of—the slow car on the freeway.

Michael Feldstein: At this point, Jeff realized that even his small class might not be as personalized as it could be with the support of a little more technology.

Jeff Howarth: What I realized is that, if I just started packaging that instruction, the worked example, I could deliver the same content but allow students to first—if I made videos and posted it on something like YouTube, I was putting out the same content, but students could now watch it at their own pace and in the privacy of being able to go as slow as they need to without the social hang-ups of being considered different.

Students could now watch it at their own pace and … and go as slow as they need to without the social hang-ups of being considered different. So, that was really the first step of—I did all of this, and then I told another colleague in languages what I was doing. And he said, “Well, that’s called ‘flipping the classroom.’” And I thought, “OK.” I mean, but that’s not really why. I did it without knowing that I was flipping the classroom, but then that’s how it happened.

Compare this description with an example from an instructor at Essex County College teaching developmental math.

Pamela Rivera: When I was teaching the traditional method, I’ll have students coming in and they didn’t know how to multiply. They didn’t know how to add and subtract. Rarely would those students be able to stay throughout the semester, because after the third—no, even after the second week, everyone else was already in division and they’re still stuck.

And the teacher can’t stop the class and say, “OK, let’s continue with multiplication,” because you have a syllabus to stick to. You have to continue teaching, and so those students will be frustrated, and so they drop the class. The Teacher can’t stop the class…because you have a syllabus to stick to.

At the same time, you had students who—the first couple of weeks they’ll be extremely bored because they already know all of that. And so, unfortunately, what would happen is eventually you would get to a point in the content that—they don’t know that, but because they have been zoning out for weeks, they don’t get that “OK, now, I actually have to start paying attention.” And so, yes, they should have been able to do that, but they still are not very successful because they were used to not paying attention.

Remarkably Similar Descriptions

Despite these two examples coming from very different cases, the actual descriptions that faculty offer on the need for course designs that allow students to control their own pacing are remarkably similar. These isolated examples are not meant to end debate on personalized learning or on what role technology should play (rather they should encourage debate), but it is very useful to listen to faculty members describe the challenges they face on an educational level.

The post Worth Considering: Faculty perspective on student-centered pacing appeared first on e-Literate.

by Phil Hill at May 26, 2015 05:43 PM

May 24, 2015

Michael Feldstein

Worth Considering: Students can have their own perspectives on edtech initiatives

Triggered by Friday’s article on e-Literate TV, there have been some very interesting conversations both in the Chronicle comment thread and on the e-Literate TV site. The most, um, intense conversations have centered on the application of self-regulated learning (SRL) in combination with adaptive software (ALEKS) to redesign a remedial math course at Essex County College. Michael has been wading in very deep waters in the comment threads, trying emphasize variations of the following point.

But that debate should be in the context of what’s actually happening in real classrooms with real students, what the educational results are, and what the teachers and students involved think of their experiences.

Right now, the “sides” are having a fight–it’s not really a debate because the sides aren’t really talking to each other–in near total absence of any rational, educator-evaluated, evidence-based conversation about what these approaches are good for. One side says they will “fix” a “broken” education system, while the other side says they will “destroy” the education system. Well, what are the students saying?

One key theme coming through from comments at the Chronicle is what I perceive as an unhealthy cynicism that prevents many people from listening to students and faculty on the front lines (the ones taking redesigned courses) on their own merits. Michael called out this situation in the same comment:

What bothers me is the seemingly complete lack of interest among the commenters in this thread about actually hearing what these teachers and students have to say, and the disregard for the value of their perspectives. It is possible to raise legitimate concerns about techno-solutionism, anti-labor practices, and other serious abuses while simultaneously acknowledging that so-called “personalized learning” approaches can have real educational value when properly applied in the appropriate context by competent and concerned educators and serious students.

One of our primary goals for e-Literate TV is to give additional access to those on the front lines, thus allowing debates and conversations about the role of ed tech and personalized learning approaches. However, it is important to recognize that students can have their own perspectives and are not just robots who are told what to say and do. Consider the following panels discussion with students. To me, the students are quite well-spoken and have real insights.

Sade: A typical day is, like, you basically come in—you go and you log on and you do your ALEKS. You do it at your own pace. Every individual works at their own pace. That’s why I like it. Because some people are ahead, and if you’re in a typical, a regular class, then you have to go with the pace of everybody else. Even if you don’t understand, you have to be—you have to try to catch up. Here, you work at your own pace.

Viviane: It’s been a very good experience for basically the same reasons. Where you just sit and you work and if you can solve 10 problems in one hour, it’s better for you if you keep working at your own pace.

And there’s also—the professor that helps you, or you can even bother one of your classmates and say, “Hey, can you help me out over here with this problem?” or something like that. I mean it’s—I feel as if it’s a very interactive and open classroom.

As per other classes, I don’t think that a regular math class would be able—I mean you wouldn’t be able to sit and ask another classmate for help or anything like that. You would have to just wait for your professor.

Most students we talked to appreciated the self-paced nature of the lab portion (working on the computers emporium style with faculty roaming the room for one-on-one support), but it is very clear that the technology itself was one component of the solution. Students are reflecting back that it is the combination of self-paced design along with interactive support that is critical to success. Not only that, but note how students value the ability for peer support – students helping students. That design element of courses is often overlooked.

In another segment, students explored this concept in more depth with an additional element of ownership of the learning process.

Phil: Most of the students we talked to seem to have internalized the lessons of self-regulated learning and feel empowered to learn.

Sade: It’s really good because, for example, say I’m doing a topic, and I’m stalling. Vivian is faster than I am. I could work by my own pace and then it’s a professor there that I could raise my hand. “Excuse me. I don’t understand this. Could you help me with it?”—because everybody learns at their own pace. Everybody learns at their own pace.

Khalid: Yeah, we are typically just sitting down on the computer screen, but we’re sitting next to our classmates, so if there’s a problem on it, I could ask my classmate. Like, that’s actually the best thing about ALEKS, is that there’s an explain button right there.

We would do well to listen to students more often, judging input on their own merits.

Update: Fixed first video link.

The post Worth Considering: Students can have their own perspectives on edtech initiatives appeared first on e-Literate.

by Phil Hill at May 24, 2015 09:06 PM

May 21, 2015

Dr. Chuck

Will the College Professor Profession Still Exist in 20 Years

On our University of Michigan School of Information faculty mailing list someone said they heard the statement that MOOCs may lead to the end of the notion of Professor in 20 years and wondered if the statement was true. The setup was so delightful that I took the bait. Here is a reworded version of my answer.

The statement made by your colleague is pretty typical of someone primary input material is articles in the news media. The reality is much more subtle.

So far there are four kinds of educational experiences that are often labeled as “MOOCs”.

(1) The original massive free course with tens to hundreds of thousands of students that take a “course” for free or perhaps get a verified certificate of completion for about $50.00. These MOOCs do not confer college credit and while they are great learning experiences for motivated learners, because students only pay if they finished and liked the course – the rigor and pace of these large MOOCs is lower than for a typical on-campus course to maintain student engagement to the end of the courses. These MOOCs are not a substitute for college – but they are great preparation for someone coming back to college, exploring a new topic area, or learning for enrichment.

(2) There is another “form” where a set of MOOCs (1) are bundled into a “Specialization” where an overall certificate is awarded in a topic area like “Data Science” from Johns Hopkins. These about $1000 to complete. There scope is generally smaller than what we would call a minor on campus – they are focused on a single topic and deliver a coordinated set of essential classes to advance knowledge on that topic. These are becoming quite popular with people that already have one or more degrees and want a tangible credential to help them move into a new line of work.

(3) The “MOOC Degrees” – like the Masters In Computer Science from Georgia Tech and the recently announced iMBA from University of Illinois. These award real credit at a discounted rate and award a real degree at the end of the program of study. Some have complained that there is no indication whether the degree is awarded as the on campus or online variant. These courses enroll students in the hundreds or perhaps reaching a thousand per course. But these courses do award credit and a traditional degree. I prefer to call these “scaled online programs” (SOPs) that use MOOC technology and pedagogy to reduce cost and increase scale. In these SOPs, the instructional and assessment patterns are far more like an online degree than the original super-large MOOC(1). The Illinois degree is just starting but Georgia Tech has admitted several thousand students into their program since it started.

(4) Another recent variation is the ASU / Edx Global Freshman Experience – where they want to provide a scalable online experience covering the general education requirements typically covering the freshman year at many universities. Students will earn ASU credit at a reduced rate with the hope of completing an inexpensive Freshman year and transferring into a traditional program with sophomore standing.

We can better understand the doomsday scenarios if we look at each of these in detail.

So far the the “Real MOOCs” (1) have only made things better. Our incoming students who take these classes are stronger and the rest of the students taking these classes were not likely to enroll in any formal degree programs.

The specializations (2) are a really interesting growth area and have the potential to be profitable in the small. A department or a few faculty can be paid off well, but it is not likely to make a dent in the overall budget of a department or university. As these become more successful (and I think they will), they have the potential to reduce the demand for professional masters (like our MSI degree) in some fields. I am pretty confident that in 3-4 years people who already have an undergraduate degree will have a wide range of highly applicable specializations they can enroll in if they want to supplement their knowledge at relatively low cost and without having to quit their job to come back to school for two years and go into debt – so this is something to watch.

We shall see if the MOOC Degrees (3) grow. In reality these are not all that much different than online degrees that we have had for over a decade except that they are cheaper. If ten-year-old online MBA programs have not significantly displaced on campus education, these new MOOC-styled online degrees are not likely to have any different effect. These degrees still need faculty and a university and the money goes to the university. The question in these is one of brand value.

If Georgia Tech graduates 10,000 masters degree students per year and only 10 of them are on-campus – what will the value of the GT brand really be? There are already lots of places where you can get a low-cost quickie masters – I think that if GT is successful at delivering big numbers, they will soon be seen as the “Community College of Computer Science Masters Degrees” and badly devalue their overall brand. If they can’t scale it up – what was the point? If the reality is somewhere in between – then it won’t be a profit windfall. Ultimately I think that the GT Masters and Illinois iMBA will either be copied everywhere or stay relatively small. In either scenario, the net is no real change.

One interesting thing reported about the GT program is the fact that >70% of the students in the scalable online masters are US students and >70% of the student in the on-campus masters are international students. There are a lot of ways to look at that data. One way is to think that the online masters is reaching students that are unlikely to ever come to any campus for a residential masters. So they have an education available to them that they would not otherwise be able to take – so that is a good thing. When you make revenue from populations that were previously unserved, it does not harm your old lines of revenue.

But the profits in these “Online Degrees using MOOC Pedagogies” (3) are not likely to be to “windfall” levels. From what I hear about old-style online programs is that they do not make signifciatly more profit than on-campus programs if done well. And sometimes they are more expensive to produce. They increase revenue and increase expenses and lead to a little more profit – but they are not a windfall. And these new MOOC degrees(3) are specifically designed to keep the marginal cost per student low. Lower costs mean you need to scale to make profit – but how much profit? If a lot of schools enter the space and compete revenue will move towards cost – and “poof” no more windfall.

The programs that try to sell low-cost credits to freshman and sophmores (4) are also nothing new. Students can take on campus or online courses from community colleges right now. It is hard to see how the ASU/edX program will be much different other than the fact that unimagiantive New York Times writers will fetishize it for a while. And yes – this will be a cash cow for ASU – they will charge a little more than community college and give students a slightly “more transferable” brand of credit. In some ways, this ASU/edX effort might be seen as re-launch of the out-of-vogue “for profit” universities – except now it hides itself within in an old-line brand and will be more international.

In the long run, this too will not be substantially different except that ASU will be lining its pockets at the expense of the students, parents and federal government instead of the for-profits. And if ASU produces 100K sophomores, schools will start to devalue their transfer credits without telling the students – so the students will be triply screwed and ASU will laugh all the way to the bank. If ASU sells a “US Freshman Experience” to a large number of international students who are very unlikely to get student visas as Sophmores, it will be very profitable but also very misleading and sad. It will be fun while the NYT writes about it and ASU reports exciting numbers – but then it will crash on its own weight and traditional education will not be changed.

The fallacy is that somehow these “rebranded” old ideas will lead to windfall profits and cause a seismic shift where the students get their education. The problem is that the market, and the relationship between cost to produce an education and the price we charge for an education, the scarcity of education and the value of scarce degrees, and the natural intrinsic value of an in-person residential experience means that the current way we do higher education is really hard to displace. Things are the way they are because of the value that everyine is getting from the current system.

While it is unlikely that the MOOCization of old ideas will topple any existing structures, the MOOC movement will enhance some brands and harm others. Univerities and faculty members will gain from participation if they make wise choices and investments.

The right strategy is to actively engage in all of it and find what makes higer education better – and do more of that. Because making education better is what makes universities more valuable and ensures the long-term survival of higher education.

by Charles Severance at May 21, 2015 11:39 AM

May 15, 2015

Adam Marshall

WebLearn unavailable on Tuesday 19 May 2015 from 7-9am

It is planned to upgrade WebLearn to version 2.10-ox3 on Tuesday 19 May 2015 from 7-9am. There will be no service during this period.

We apologise for any inconvenience that this essential work may cause.

by Adam Marshall at May 15, 2015 03:32 PM

May 14, 2015

Adam Marshall

Introducing Replay – Lecture Capture

*Educational Media Services is running a pilot project, called Replay, using Panopto lecture capture software to record lectures as a revision aid for Oxford students. Panopto is easy to use and unobtrusive. It captures audio and slides, automatically synchronises them, and makes them available via WebLearn to students on the course. Video recording using a webcam or network camera is also possible. Academics and/or local support staff can view each recording through a simple online editor before releasing it to students. The option to release the recordings to the general public via iTunes U can be discussed as a separate service.

Surveys suggest that Oxford students value recorded lectures as a study aid; they can listen and concentrate during lectures, without having to take substantial notes. Students can review the recording on demand, particularly to go over difficult concepts and to revise for exams. They can search for particular words within the text on the slides, as well as in the audio track. The option to access the recordings after the lecture and view/listen to them as often as necessary promotes inclusive education practices, particularly for students with disabilities or special learning needs. Research conducted in the HE sector more widely suggests that the availability of recorded lectures does not adversely affect student attendance at face-to-face lectures.

Benefits for lecturers include the fact that the recording equipment is inexpensive and non-intrusive (usually only a microphone). A level of informality is acceptable, as opposed to a professional recording for public consumption. A lecturer can record supplementary lecture material in their own office, simply using a webcam and a microphone.

Departments who are interested in becoming involved in the pilot project, should contact There is no charge for participation during the pilot, although shared costing models are being considered for a future service.

More information and useful links:

by Adam Marshall at May 14, 2015 09:55 AM

May 13, 2015

Sakai Project

Announcing the eleventh major release of the Apereo Open Academic Environment; OAE Jack Snipe or OAE 11

The Apereo Open Academic Environment (OAE) project team is extremely pleased to announce the eleventh major release of the Apereo Open Academic Environment; OAE Jack Snipe or OAE 11.

May 13, 2015 04:37 PM

Apereo OAE

Apereo OAE Jack Snipe is now available!

The Apereo Open Academic Environment (OAE) project team is extremely pleased to announce the eleventh major release of the Apereo Open Academic Environment; OAE Jack Snipe or OAE 11.

OAE Jack Snipe brings a wide range of new features and capabilities, including group profile pages, the ability to delete and archive groups, an editor role for collaborative documents and increased configuration support for landing pages and the footer. Next to that, OAE Jack Snipe also includes an extraordinary number of usability gains, accessibility improvements and bug fixes.


Group Profiles

OAE Jack Snipe brings group profile pages, allowing for groups to be better contextualised and presented to non-members. A group profile page contains a description of the group, ensuring that the subject and goal of the group is clear to the visitor, a public activity feed, showcasing the recent activity that has taken place in the group, and a list of featured members, providing an idea of the people involved in the group.

Group profiles are anticipated to be especially useful when browsing and discovering public or joinable groups, but will also provide convenient additional context when visiting groups you're already a member of.

Delete group

OAE Jack Snipe makes it possible for group managers to delete groups, allowing for inactive or unused groups to be removed from membership libraries. Deleted groups are not removed from the system entirely though, but are archived instead. Therefore, deleted groups can be re-activated by an administrator at any point in time.

Editor role

Recent usage feedback has indicated a need for allowing people to edit a collaborative document without being able to perform other administrative tasks such as deleting the document. Examples include a collaborative writing course where students needed to be able to contribute to a collaborative document without being able to delete it.

Therefore, OAE Jack Snipe introduces an editor role for collaborative documents. Users and groups with the editor role will be able to edit the collaborative document without being able to manage it (delete, manage access, etc.)

List items

Up until Apereo OAE 10, the display of list item titles was limited to a single line of text. As space was limited, this often meant that the title was cut off too quickly, making it difficult to identify an item.

OAE Jack Snipe ensures that all list items (libraries, search, etc.) will display a much larger part of the item's title (up to 2 full lines), making it a lot easier to identify the item you're looking for. We are convinced that this relatively small usability improvement will make a world of difference when using the system.

Mobile login

On mobile devices, there will no longer be a need to sign in every time a user visits their tenant. A session will now be remembered for up to 30 days, ensuring that OAE and its activity feed can be accessed quickly and easily.

REST API improvements

As easy-to-use and well documented REST APIs have always been a critical part of the OAE architecture, OAE Jack Snipe introduces a range of REST API enhancements.

Next to various REST API usability improvements, OAE Jack Snipe introduces a cross-origin resource sharing (CORS), making it easier for external applications to integrate with the OAE REST APIs.

The Swagger REST API documentation framework has also been upgraded to the latest version, adding some nifty additional features to the REST API documentation pages.

Google Authentication

The Google Authentication integration that ships with Apereo OAE has been upgraded to work with the latest version of the Google Authentication API. Next to that, it is now also possible to configure multiple Google Apps authentication domains per tenant.

Landing page configuration

Apereo OAE tenant landing pages can be fully customised, allowing for an institution to present and contextualise their tenancy with great flexibility. OAE Jack Snipe introduces a number of additional tenant landing page configuration and customisation options, providing even greater control over their look and feel.

Footer configuration

The page footer can now be fully configured and customised on a per installation basis. Amongst other things, this will allow Apereo OAE hosting providers to name the installation, link to a website for the installation and link back to the website for the hosting provider.

Try it out

OAE Jack Snipe can be tried out 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 number 11.0.0 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 10 to version 11 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 the mailing list at

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

by Nicolaas Matthijs at May 13, 2015 02:56 PM

May 12, 2015

Steve Swinsburg

Sakai 11: Java 8, Tomcat 8

Sakai 11 now requires Java 8 and Tomcat 8.

However, when you upgrade (and configure), you’ll notice a rather long startup time due to a change in the JAR scanning behaviour of Tomcat:

Server startup in 252800 ms

This scanning is unnecessary for Sakai though, so add this to your Tomcat/conf/context.xml file:


    <JarScanFilter defaultPluggabilityScan="false" />

And now you should have a much happier (and usable) startup time:

Server startup in 55836 ms

Got any more tips to improve startup times? Post in the comments!

by steveswinsburg at May 12, 2015 12:03 PM

May 06, 2015

Sakai Project

Notice of the Apereo Foundation Annual General Meeting

Notice of the Apereo Foundation Annual General Meeting

The Annual Meeting provides a forum to discuss the previous year of foundation activity, together with future plans. It also elects up to three members of the Apereo Board of directors for a three year term. The AGM will take place on Tuesday 2nd June, 2015, 3:45pm to 4:30pm in the Maryland A Room, at the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel.

May 06, 2015 09:44 PM

May 04, 2015

Sakai Project

April 27, 2015

Dr. Chuck

Summer of Sakai@UMSI (Designers/Developers wanted)

This summer I have so much work I want to do on the Sakai Open Source Learning Management System (LMS) that I could use some help. I am hoping to find a few designers and/or developers to help me so I can make even more progress. These are unpaid positions – kind of like an unpaid internship. If all goes well, at the end of the summer you will have made real contributions to an open source project and your contributions will be in GitHub. My preference is students in the Ann Arbor or mid-Michigan area this summer so we can spend some time together.

We will meet weekly over the summer and I will buy lunch or dinner. It is not essential that everyone is in North Quad all the time – but I would like to work co-located “startup-style” at least one day per week over the Summer. While I do not have any funding at all – if things go well, we might find some way to get one or more of the students in this program to come to Open Apereo 2015 in early June.

The real goal is for everyone in the group to make real contributions to the trunk source code of Sakai. I will act as your Mentor, review your code and make sure it is committed into the trunk:

If we move quickly your code will make the Sakai-11 code freeze in late June.

I have a wide range of tasks that include:

– Adding new small features to existing tools
– Rewriting several of the smaller tools (we call these synoptic tools)
– Improving the UI/UX across all of the tools to align with our new responsive UI (code named Morpheus)
– Building whole new prototype proof-of-concept UI/UX designs
– Improving the performance of Sakai hosted in the cloud

I will adapt the tasks to the each of the skill sets of the people who are selected for the program. These are the skill sets that I need:

– JavaScript
– Java

Some of the projects are mostly CSS/JavaScript while others require back-end code in Java/SQL. One way or another I want to come up with something that you will produce that will be production quality and part of Sakai going forward.

I want folks who can commit a significant amount of time to this effort to make it worthwhile. The work will be done in the open and the Sakai developer and user list will be informed of progress – so you do not have to join the group just to be informed.

Here is a form to apply to my Summer of Sakai.

Depending on the level of interest, I may adjust my ideas as to how to do this. If we get a lot of talented folks interested that cannot make it to Ann Arbor – I may to try to find more mentors. After all Sakai is an open project and I should be open to better ways of doing what I want to do this summer.

by Charles Severance at April 27, 2015 06:22 PM

February 15, 2015

Dr. Chuck

The most clever spam comment I have ever seen

If you run a blog – you have a periodic task of clearing out spam comments. I don’t get too much spam so every few weeks is enough. But I thought this spam comment was worth keeping. It is clearly a grammar to generate many variations of similar comments. Apparently the spammer forgot to generate the text – they just posted the input to the spam text generation process. Perhaps they mis-read their “Dummy’s Guide to Spam Commenting as a Profession”.

I think it would be super cool to have a Python assignment to read this data and pick amongst the choices and randomly generate the real comments. It should be pretty straightforward. So without further ado, here is a very flexible and repurposable spam comment:

{I have|I’ve} been {surfing|browsing} online more than {three|3|2|4} hours
today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours.
{It’s|It is} pretty worth enough for me. {In my opinion|Personally|In my view}, if all {webmasters|site owners|website owners|web owners} and
bloggers made good content as you did, the {internet|net|web} will be {much
more|a lot more} useful than ever before.|
I {couldn’t|could not} {resist|refrain from} commenting.
{Very well|Perfectly|Well|Exceptionally well} written!|
{I will|I’ll} {right away|immediately} {take hold of|grab|clutch|grasp|seize|snatch} your {rss|rss feed} as I {can not|can’t} {in finding|find|to
find} your {email|e-mail} subscription {link|hyperlink} or
{newsletter|e-newsletter} service. Do {you have|you’ve} any?
{Please|Kindly} {allow|permit|let} me {realize|recognize|understand|recognise|know} {so that|in order that} I {may just|may|could} subscribe.
{It is|It’s} {appropriate|perfect|the best} time to make
some plans for the future and {it is|it’s} time to be happy.
{I have|I’ve} read this post and if I could I {want to|wish
to|desire to} suggest you {few|some} interesting things or {advice|suggestions|tips}.

{Perhaps|Maybe} you {could|can} write next articles referring to
this article. I {want to|wish to|desire to} read {more|even more} things about it!|
{It is|It’s} {appropriate|perfect|the best} time to make {a
few|some} plans for {the future|the longer term|the long run}
and {it is|it’s} time to be happy. {I have|I’ve} {read|learn} this {post|submit|publish|put up}
and if I {may just|may|could} I {want to|wish to|desire
to} {suggest|recommend|counsel} you {few|some} {interesting|fascinating|attention-grabbing} {things|issues}
or {advice|suggestions|tips}. {Perhaps|Maybe} you {could|can} write {next|subsequent} articles {relating
to|referring to|regarding} this article. I {want to|wish to|desire to} {read|learn} {more|even more}
{things|issues} {approximately|about} it!|
{I have|I’ve} been {surfing|browsing} {online|on-line} {more than|greater than} {three|3} hours {these days|nowadays|today|lately|as of late}, {yet|but} I {never|by no means} {found|discovered} any {interesting|fascinating|attention-grabbing} article like yours.
{It’s|It is} {lovely|pretty|beautiful} {worth|value|price} {enough|sufficient} for me.
{In my opinion|Personally|In my view}, if all {webmasters|site
owners|website owners|web owners} and bloggers
made {just right|good|excellent} {content|content material}
as {you did|you probably did}, the {internet|net|web}
{will be|shall be|might be|will probably be|can be|will likely be} {much more|a lot more} {useful|helpful} than ever before.|
Ahaa, its {nice|pleasant|good|fastidious} {discussion|conversation|dialogue}
{regarding|concerning|about|on the topic of} this {article|post|piece of writing|paragraph} {here|at
this place} at this {blog|weblog|webpage|website|web site},
I have read all that, so {now|at this time} me also commenting {here|at this place}.|
I am sure this {article|post|piece of writing|paragraph} has touched all the internet {users|people|viewers|visitors}, its really really {nice|pleasant|good|fastidious} {article|post|piece of writing|paragraph} on building up
new {blog|weblog|webpage|website|web site}.|
Wow, this {article|post|piece of writing|paragraph} is {nice|pleasant|good|fastidious},
my {sister|younger sister} is analyzing {such|these|these kinds of} things, {so|thus|therefore} I am
going to {tell|inform|let know|convey} her.|
{Saved as a favorite|bookmarked!!}, {I really like|I like|I love} {your blog|your
site|your web site|your website}!|
Way cool! Some {very|extremely} valid points! I appreciate you
{writing this|penning this} {article|post|write-up} {and the|and
also the|plus the} rest of the {site is|website is} {also very|extremely|very|also really|really} good.|
Hi, {I do believe|I do think} {this is an excellent|this is a great} {blog|website|web site|site}.
I stumbledupon it ;) {I will|I am going to|I’m going to|I may} {come back|return|revisit} {once again|yet
again} {since I|since i have} {bookmarked|book marked|book-marked|saved as a
favorite} it. Money and freedom {is the best|is the greatest} way to change, may you be rich and continue to {help|guide}
{other people|others}.|
Woah! I’m really {loving|enjoying|digging} the template/theme of this {site|website|blog}.
It’s simple, yet effective. A lot of times it’s {very hard|very difficult|challenging|tough|difficult|hard}
to get that “perfect balance” between {superb usability|user friendliness|usability} and {visual appearance|visual appeal|appearance}.
I must say {that you’ve|you have|you’ve} done a {awesome|amazing|very good|superb|fantastic|excellent|great} job with this.
{In addition|Additionally|Also}, the blog loads {very|extremely|super} {fast|quick} for me
on {Safari|Internet explorer|Chrome|Opera|Firefox}.

{Superb|Exceptional|Outstanding|Excellent} Blog!|
These are {really|actually|in fact|truly|genuinely} {great|enormous|impressive|wonderful|fantastic} ideas in {regarding|concerning|about|on
the topic of} blogging. You have touched some
{nice|pleasant|good|fastidious} {points|factors|things} here.
Any way keep up wrinting.|
{I love|I really like|I enjoy|I like|Everyone loves} what you
guys {are|are usually|tend to be} up too. {This
sort of|This type of|Such|This kind of} clever work and
{exposure|coverage|reporting}! Keep up the {superb|terrific|very good|great|good|awesome|fantastic|excellent|amazing|wonderful} works guys I’ve
{incorporated||added|included} you guys to {|my|our||my personal|my own} blogroll.|
{Howdy|Hi there|Hey there|Hi|Hello|Hey}! Someone in my {Myspace|Facebook} group shared this {site|website} with us so I came to {give it a look|look it over|take a look|check it out}.
I’m definitely {enjoying|loving} the information. I’m {book-marking|bookmarking}
and will be tweeting this to my followers! {Terrific|Wonderful|Great|Fantastic|Outstanding|Exceptional|Superb|Excellent} blog and {wonderful|terrific|brilliant|amazing|great|excellent|fantastic|outstanding|superb} {style and design|design and style|design}.|
{I love|I really like|I enjoy|I like|Everyone loves} what you guys {are|are usually|tend
to be} up too. {This sort of|This type of|Such|This
kind of} clever work and {exposure|coverage|reporting}!
Keep up the {superb|terrific|very good|great|good|awesome|fantastic|excellent|amazing|wonderful} works
guys I’ve {incorporated|added|included} you guys to {|my|our|my personal|my own} blogroll.|
{Howdy|Hi there|Hey there|Hi|Hello|Hey} would
you mind {stating|sharing} which blog platform you’re {working with|using}?
I’m {looking|planning|going} to start my own blog {in the near future|soon} but I’m having a {tough|difficult|hard} time {making a decision|selecting|choosing|deciding} between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and
Drupal. The reason I ask is because your {design
and style|design|layout} seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for
something {completely unique|unique}. P.S {My apologies|Apologies|Sorry} for {getting|being} off-topic
but I had to ask!|
{Howdy|Hi there|Hi|Hey there|Hello|Hey} would you mind letting me know which {webhost|hosting company|web host} you’re {utilizing|working with|using}?
I’ve loaded your blog in 3 {completely different|different} {internet browsers|web browsers|browsers} and I must say this blog loads a lot {quicker|faster}
then most. Can you {suggest|recommend} a good {internet
hosting|web hosting|hosting} provider at a {honest|reasonable|fair} price?
{Thanks a lot|Kudos|Cheers|Thank you|Many thanks|Thanks},
I appreciate it!|
{I love|I really like|I like|Everyone loves} it {when people|when individuals|when folks|whenever people}
{come together|get together} and share {opinions|thoughts|views|ideas}.
Great {blog|website|site}, {keep it up|continue the good
work|stick with it}!|
Thank you for the {auspicious|good} writeup. It in fact was
a amusement account it. Look advanced to {far|more} added agreeable from you!
{By the way|However}, how {can|could} we communicate?|
{Howdy|Hi there|Hey there|Hello|Hey} just wanted to give you a quick heads up.
The {text|words} in your {content|post|article} seem to be running
off the screen in {Ie|Internet explorer|Chrome|Firefox|Safari|Opera}.
I’m not sure if this is a {format|formatting} issue or something to do with {web browser|internet browser|browser} compatibility but I {thought|figured} I’d post to let
you know. The {style and design|design and style|layout|design} look great though!
Hope you get the {problem|issue} {solved|resolved|fixed} soon.
{Kudos|Cheers|Many thanks|Thanks}|
This is a topic {that is|that’s|which is} {close to|near to} my heart…
{Cheers|Many thanks|Best wishes|Take care|Thank you}!
{Where|Exactly where} are your contact details though?|
It’s very {easy|simple|trouble-free|straightforward|effortless} to find out any {topic|matter} on
{net|web} as compared to {books|textbooks}, as I found this
{article|post|piece of writing|paragraph} at this {website|web site|site|web page}.|
Does your {site|website|blog} have a contact page? I’m having {a tough time|problems|trouble} locating it but,
I’d like to {send|shoot} you an {e-mail|email}. I’ve got some {creative ideas|recommendations|suggestions|ideas} for your
blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great {site|website|blog} and
I look forward to seeing it {develop|improve|expand|grow} over time.|
{Hola|Hey there|Hi|Hello|Greetings}! I’ve been {following|reading} your {site|web site|website|weblog|blog}
for {a long time|a while|some time} now and finally got the {bravery|courage} to go
ahead and give you a shout out from {New Caney|Kingwood|Huffman|Porter|Houston|Dallas|Austin|Lubbock|Humble|Atascocita} {Tx|Texas}!
Just wanted to {tell you|mention|say} keep up the {fantastic|excellent|great|good} {job|work}!|
Greetings from {Idaho|Carolina|Ohio|Colorado|Florida|Los angeles|California}!
I’m {bored to tears|bored to death|bored} at work so
I decided to {check out|browse} your {site|website|blog} on my iphone
during lunch break. I {enjoy|really like|love}
the {knowledge|info|information} you {present|provide} here
and can’t wait to take a look when I get home. I’m {shocked|amazed|surprised} at how {quick|fast} your blog loaded
on my {mobile|cell phone|phone} .. I’m not even
using WIFI, just 3G .. {Anyhow|Anyways}, {awesome|amazing|very good|superb|good|wonderful|fantastic|excellent|great} {site|blog}!|
Its {like you|such as you} {read|learn} my {mind|thoughts}!
You {seem|appear} {to understand|to know|to grasp} {so much|a
lot} {approximately|about} this, {like you|such as you} wrote the {book|e-book|guide|ebook|e book} in it or something.
{I think|I feel|I believe} {that you|that you simply|that you just} {could|can} do with {some|a few} {%|p.c.|percent} to {force|pressure|drive|power} the message {house|home} {a
bit|a little bit}, {however|but} {other than|instead of} that, {this is|that is}
{great|wonderful|fantastic|magnificent|excellent} blog.
{A great|An excellent|A fantastic} read. {I’ll|I
will} {definitely|certainly} be back.|
I visited {multiple|many|several|various} {websites|sites|web sites|web pages|blogs} {but|except|however} the audio {quality|feature} for audio songs {current|present|existing} at
this {website|web site|site|web page} is {really|actually|in fact|truly|genuinely} {marvelous|wonderful|excellent|fabulous|superb}.|
{Howdy|Hi there|Hi|Hello}, i read your blog
{occasionally|from time to time} and i own a similar one and i was just
{wondering|curious} if you get a lot of spam {comments|responses|feedback|remarks}?
If so how do you {prevent|reduce|stop|protect against} it, any plugin or
anything you can {advise|suggest|recommend}?
I get so much lately it’s driving me {mad|insane|crazy} so any {assistance|help|support} is very much appreciated.|
Greetings! {Very helpful|Very useful} advice {within this|in this particular} {article|post}!
{It is the|It’s the} little changes {that make|which will make|that produce|that will make} {the biggest|the largest|the greatest|the most important|the most significant} changes.
{Thanks a lot|Thanks|Many thanks} for sharing!|
{I really|I truly|I seriously|I absolutely} love {your blog|your site|your website}..

{Very nice|Excellent|Pleasant|Great} colors & theme.
Did you {create|develop|make|build} {this website|this site|this web site|this amazing site}
yourself? Please reply back as I’m {looking to|trying to|planning to|wanting
to|hoping to|attempting to} create {my own|my
very own|my own personal} {blog|website|site} and {would like to|want
to|would love to} {know|learn|find out} where you got this from or {what the|exactly what the|just
what the} theme {is called|is named}. {Thanks|Many thanks|Thank you|Cheers|Appreciate it|Kudos}!|
{Hi there|Hello there|Howdy}! This {post|article|blog post}
{couldn’t|could not} be written {any better|much better}!

{Reading through|Looking at|Going through|Looking through} this {post|article} reminds me of my previous roommate!
He {always|constantly|continually} kept {talking about|preaching about} this.
{I will|I’ll|I am going to|I most certainly will} {forward|send} {this article|this information|this post} to him.
{Pretty sure|Fairly certain} {he will|he’ll|he’s going to} {have a good|have a very good|have a great} read.
{Thank you for|Thanks for|Many thanks for|I appreciate you for} sharing!|
{Wow|Whoa|Incredible|Amazing}! This blog looks {exactly|just} like my old one!
It’s on a {completely|entirely|totally} different {topic|subject} but it has pretty much the
same {layout|page layout} and design. {Excellent|Wonderful|Great|Outstanding|Superb} choice of colors!|
{There is|There’s} {definately|certainly} {a lot to|a great deal to} {know
about|learn about|find out about} this {subject|topic|issue}.
{I like|I love|I really like} {all the|all of the} points {you made|you’ve made|you have made}.|
{You made|You’ve made|You have made} some {decent|good|really good} points there.

I {looked|checked} {on the internet|on the web|on the net} {for more info|for more information|to
find out more|to learn more|for additional information} about the
issue and found {most individuals|most people}
will go along with your views on {this website|this site|this web
{Hi|Hello|Hi there|What’s up}, I {log on to|check|read} your {new stuff|blogs|blog} {regularly|like every week|daily|on a regular basis}.
Your {story-telling|writing|humoristic} style is {awesome|witty}, keep {doing
what you’re doing|up the good work|it up}!|
I {simply|just} {could not|couldn’t} {leave|depart|go away} your {site|web site|website} {prior to|before} suggesting that I {really|extremely|actually} {enjoyed|loved} {the standard|the usual} {information|info}
{a person|an individual} {supply|provide} {for your|on your|in your|to
your} {visitors|guests}? Is {going to|gonna} be {back|again} {frequently|regularly|incessantly|steadily|ceaselessly|often|continuously} {in order to|to} {check
up on|check out|inspect|investigate cross-check} new
{I wanted|I needed|I want to|I need to} to thank you
for this {great|excellent|fantastic|wonderful|good|very good} read!!
I {definitely|certainly|absolutely} {enjoyed|loved}
every {little bit of|bit of} it. {I have|I’ve
got|I have got} you {bookmarked|book marked|book-marked|saved as a favorite} {to check out|to look at} new {stuff you|things
you} post…|
{Hi|Hello|Hi there|What’s up}, just wanted to {mention|say|tell you}, I {enjoyed|liked|loved} this {article|post|blog post}.
It was {inspiring|funny|practical|helpful}. Keep on posting!|
I {{leave|drop|{write|create}} a {comment|leave a response}|drop
a {comment|leave a response}|{comment|leave a response}} {each time|when|whenever} I {appreciate|like|especially enjoy} a {post|article} on a {site|{blog|website}|site|website} or {I have|if
I have} something to {add|contribute|valuable to contribute} {to the discussion|to the conversation}.
{It is|Usually it is|Usually it’s|It’s} {a result of|triggered
by|caused by} the {passion|fire|sincerness} {communicated|displayed} in
the {post|article} I {read|looked at|browsed}. And {on|after} this {post|article} Dr.
Chuck’s Blog

by Charles Severance at February 15, 2015 04:10 PM

February 12, 2015


Known issue: Uploads in Resources using Firefox assigns wrong file type

Clients have reported that some files in Resources in certain Sakai sites do not download or open properly. After some testing, our team discovered that uploading files using the Firefox browser (Mac or PC) assigns the wrong file type, and creates issues for clients downloading or accessing the file. How to detect the issue: In […] more >

by Mathieu Plourde at February 12, 2015 10:28 PM

January 22, 2015

Apereo OAE

Apereo OAE Accessibility Review

Are you reading this post with your eyes? To most of you, that probably sounds like a really strange question. For over six million people in the United States alone, however, the answer is not "Yes." That's how many adults have a visual disability, and for them the web is a completely different world than it is for those of us with full sight. That world is no less important, though, and in the OAE Project we want to make the Open Academic Environment a welcome environment for everyone, including those with visual and other disabilities.

The OAE's user interface has always included many features for the disabled, most of which are (deliberately) invisible to users that don't need them. We've designed and developed those features by careful attention to standards and best practices. All members of the core development team are fully abled, however, so we don't have all of the insights necessary to ensure that the OAE provides the best possible accessibility. Beginning with the Ibis release that's changing.

In the fall of 2014 we started working with WebAIM (Web Accessibility In Mind), a leading specialist in accessibility within the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University. The experts at WebAIM spent many weeks using and evaluating the OAE and prepared an initial report with many recommended improvements. The recommendations from that report are captured as specific issues for the OAE project's front end software, and we're dedicating resources to addressing them. Nearly a dozen improvements have already been incorporated into the Ibis release. We're continuing development on the remaining issues, and future OAE releases will include more accessibility features.

Working with the experts from WebAIM has been an amazing opportunity for the OAE development team. Standards and best practice checklists are helpful for ensuring accessibility, but they can't come close to replacing the guidance of real, expert users. Perhaps the most important lesson we've learned is that achieving outstanding accessibility requires thinking carefully about the OAE user interface as a whole and not just as a collection of individual widgets. 

As a specific example, consider the thumbnail images associated with many aspects of the OAE. You can see them with user comments.

Because users relying on screen readers cannot "see" thumbnail images, previous OAE versions added a special, hidden label to those images. The label contained the name of the user making the comment. Although this added label was invisible to sighted users, screen readers would detect it and read it aloud as a substitute for the image. This behavior conforms to relevant standards and checklists, and, before our work with WebAIM, we thought that it helped make the OAE more accessible. 

What we learned from working with WebAIM, though, is how much context matters. It turns out, as in the screen capture above, that almost every time the OAE displays a thumbnail image it also displays text with the user's name right next to the image. That text is in the form of a link, and screen readers also read links aloud. When a screen reader encountered an OAE comment, therefore, it would first read aloud the user's name from the hidden label, and then it would immediately read aloud the user's name again, this time from the text link. This needless repetition was quite annoying, especially for pages with many comments. The hidden label that we added in an attempt to improve accessibility turns out, in many cases, to have actually made the experience worse.

As we continue our work with WebAIM, there will certainly be other cases that overturn our preconceptions. And when we encounter those cases, we'll gladly adjust our assumptions so that the OAE becomes the most accessible platform possible.

And finally, if you are reading this post with your ears instead of your eyes, please let us know how we're doing. We truly do want to make the Open Academic Environment as enjoyable for you as it is for everyone else.

by Nicolaas Matthijs at January 22, 2015 03:51 PM

December 23, 2014

Steve Swinsburg

The spirit of giving

At work, we love cake. Everyone brings in cake, all the time. End of sprint, during sprint, because someone’s mum made way too much, or just because the day ends with ‘day’. It’s surprising that we aren’t all obese, and a little ironic since we work in health care.

So I decided to turn that into a fundraiser and over the past couple of weeks we have been asking for gold coin donations for the cakes, to go towards making some little kids Christmas’ a bit brighter this year through the Salvation Army Christmas Appeal and K-Mart Wishing Tree.

We raised $45 and over the weekend I took the boys out to help pick out some gifts. So this year some needy kids are going to enjoy a brand new digger, a ‘Planes’ Dusty Crophopper figurine and a ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ Dragon Battle Kit!

Here’s a pic of my boy as we put the toys under the K-Mart Wishing Tree.

2014-12-20 12.09.54

by steveswinsburg at December 23, 2014 12:12 AM

December 21, 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 December 21, 2014 12:08 PM

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 December 21, 2014 12:08 PM