Planet Sakai

June 15, 2018

Michael Feldstein

Revisiting 2012 Post on Barriers That MOOCs Would Face

Inside Higher Ed published an article today, titled "Free MOOCs Face The Music", about edX quietly adding support fees for many of their courses. Dhawal Shah and I both commented that we were not surprised by the move.

Writing about the introduction of the fee, Dhawal Shah, founder and CEO of Class Central, a review site for online courses, said the announcement was the latest in a phenomenon he termed “the shrinking of free.” Regardless of MOOC provider -- be it edX, Coursera, Udacity or FutureLearn -- “all have cut back on what was originally free in MOOCs.”

Phil Hill, co-founder of Mindwires Consulting and an author of the e-Literate blog, agreed that the edX announcement was not surprising. Early MOOC providers like edX thought they would be able to “get really big for free,” said Hill. “Magic didn’t happen, and now they’re facing reality.”

There's more information in the article worth reading, but I would like to revisit a post here at e-Literate from 2012 to help explain the point I made. In "Four Barriers That MOOCs Must Overcome To Build a Sustainable Model", I noted:

The current generation of courses has proven the feasibility of massive online enrollments, but the Kolowich article reveals that the result is based on a form of adult continuing education. The majority of students in the Udacity and Coursera courses analyzed were professionals in the software industry – hardly the target audience for those seeking a change in how we educate postsecondary students. The current MOOCs provide a nice proof-of-concept, but hardly solve significant educational problems.

So what are the barriers that must be overcome for the MOOC concept (in future generations) to become self-sustaining? To me the most obvious barriers are:

  • Developing revenue models to make the concept self-sustaining;
  • Delivering valuable signifiers of completion such as credentials, badges or acceptance into accredited programs;
  • Providing an experience and perceived value that enables higher course completion rates (most today have less than 10% of registered students actually completing the course); and
  • Authenticating students in a manner to satisfy accrediting institutions or hiring companies that the student identify is actually known.

Given this short timeline and the nature of investment-backed educational experiments, I think the real focus should be on whether and how MOOCs or successor models build on current scalability and openness while overcoming these four barriers.

What have we seen since 2012?

  • Revenue Models: Coursera, FutureLearn, and edX moving towards an OPM business model, and Udacity focusing on corporate education;
  • Credentialing: All MOOCs offering some sort of verified certificates, and in the OPM cases offering actual degrees through their partner institutions;
  • Course Completion: MOOCs realizing that the two issues above lead to higher completion rates; and
  • Authentication: Verified certificates and OPM models requiring student authentication through webcams and approaches similar to online proctoring companies, and even partnering with proctoring companies.

At this stage  pretty much everyone recognizes a blatant 'I told you so' post written while Michael is on vacation and unable to talk me out of it, so I'll move along and cut off further commentary.

The post Revisiting 2012 Post on Barriers That MOOCs Would Face appeared first on e-Literate.

by Phil Hill at June 15, 2018 12:15 AM

June 12, 2018

Michael Feldstein

UF Online’s New Corporate Partner: Discover Financial joins Walmart with Online Education benefit

Last week Walmart announced a new education benefit for its employers, subsidizing undergraduate college degrees at select online programs at the University of Florida (through UF Online), Brandman University, or Bellevue University.

The company said it estimates as many as 68,000 of its employees initially could sign up for the new college program. Walmart employs 1.5 million in the U.S. The company declined to comment on how much this initiative will cost it.

Employees will contribute $1 per day, for 365 days every year, toward their education, so long as they're enrolled. Walmart will cover the rest of the tab. Workers will be able to choose from the three nonprofit schools and have the option of taking classes online with the flexibility to study during the evenings or on weekends.

Today UF Online announced another partner: Discover Financial Services, issuers of the Discover Card and Diners Club International, with its 14,000 employees.

Discover announced a significant new education assistance benefit that provides all eligible U.S.-based employees the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree online from an accredited public or non-profit private university at no cost.

Known as The Discover College Commitment, the benefit covers tuition and required fees, books and supplies needed to complete select online degrees at one of three schools – the University of Florida (via UF Online), Wilmington University and Brandman University. The benefit has no tenure requirement so employees can start participating as soon as they want regardless of how long they have been with the company, including new employees on their first day.

The two partnerships are part of what UF Online calls their Employer Pathways, and in the process seem to be defining an alternate method of marketing and enrollment management, in contrast with most Online Program Management (OPM) assumptions.

Employees from Walmart and Discover Financial Services have expanded opportunities to earn a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida (UF) thanks to a new and significant investment in their education from their employers. This remarkable step by these and other large employers demonstrates the value of a UF degree and the accessibility of UF Online, UF’s online undergraduate experience. Employers will provide a robust support package covering tuition, fees, plus access to life coaching and college readiness programs.

Discover is offering this new benefit to select programs at UF Online, Wilmington University, and Brandman University.

Discover is covering 100% of cost for select bachelor’s degrees. Discover is proud to offer “The Discover College Commitment” program – an innovative full-ride college education benefit, providing US-based employees the opportunity to participate in one of several select high-quality, fully paid, online bachelor’s degrees.

Both packages of education benefits is managed by Guild Education, "a tuition reimbursement and education platform that helps large employers extend education benefits, including tuition reimbursement, to workers".

I think these moves are more significant than just individual benefits. What we are seeing is UF Online, along with a handful of others, defining a different approach to marketing and finding potential online students, at least for undergraduate degrees. Historically, there is a common assumption that to enable a scalable online program there is a need for traditional digital marketing as the primary approach - Google AdWords, call centers, social media campaigns - with a partnership or two thrown in on the side. The origin of the OPM market is centered on providing these services in exchange for a percentage of tuition revenue, and for the majority of cases, the OPM's spending on this marketing and enrollment management category is the most expensive service in the package. The Employer Pathways approach by UF Online has the potential to flip the student acquisition assumptions - primarily driven by employer partnerships with traditional digital marketing channels as a secondary approach.

Walmart and Discover already have potential students identified, and the companies have the incentive to internally market these education benefits to employees. UF Online needs to support that internal marketing and feed applicants into the same application process, but they have a reduced need for general-purpose marketing. UF Online started out with Pearson Online Learning Services (formerly known as Embanet) to be their OPM partner, but in late 2015 they pushed Pearson out and decided to take over this management internally.

I talked to Evangeline (Evie) Cummings, Associate Provost and Director of UF Online, at WCET's Leadership Summit last week, and she described how UF Online is trying to reduce their marketing spend and instead invest more in faculty and course development. Part of that move is to spend less trying to get out-of-state students, which may pay higher tuition but still cost much more per student in acquisition costs. But the other move is to decrease the need to spend on traditional marketing channels.

We can think of Guild Education in this case as a derivative of the unbundling version of OPM, enabling the front-end services with an alternative approach and what appears to be a lower revenue share.

Rather than charge a transaction fee per student to the employer, Guild takes a cut of the tuition revenue from the universities it works with. This revenue-share model is an "elegant" solution for institutions that want to grow their enrollment online but don't want to spend more on marketing, said Carlson. It's also an attractive proposition for employers, who don't have to pay any additional charges on top of the contribution they make to their employees' tuition. The tuition fees are not discounted for the employers and will be charged at in-state or out-of-state rates depending on the location of the student. Neither Guild nor the three universities involved in the Walmart offer would disclose what percentage of tuition revenue Guild will take.

The bulk of the OPM market serves master's programs, and UF Online is centered on bachelor's degrees with a handful of master's, so this approach might not work across the board. But I'll bet that there will be plenty of undergraduate online initiatives that will be looking to UF Online and wondering if they should develop similar degree pathway partnerships as the centerpiece of their student acquisition plans. The online education space is maturing and becoming a lot more interesting.

The post UF Online’s New Corporate Partner: Discover Financial joins Walmart with Online Education benefit appeared first on e-Literate.

by Phil Hill at June 12, 2018 09:58 AM

June 11, 2018

Apereo OAE

Strategic re-positioning: OAE in the world of NGDLE

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

Beyond the LMS/VLE

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

Integration points and data flows

OAE has three principal objectives in this area:

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

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

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

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

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

June 11, 2018 12:00 PM

June 08, 2018

Michael Feldstein

D2L Bets on The Cloud and Advances in User Experience

One of the arguments that we have made as part of our LMS Market Analysis service is that if you look beyond market share numbers, there has been a tectonic shift in the academic LMS market that started around 2012, moving from being Blackboard-centric to Canvas-centric. Meaning that the current market trends are largely driven by Canvas adoptions and market reactions to Canvas adoptions. This change has elevated the need for viable LMS solutions to have both a cloud-based deployment strategy as well as a more modern, intuitive user experience than what was acceptable just five years ago.

Blackboard's move to Learn SaaS (deployment) and Learn Ultra (new user experience) is a prime example of this market dynamic, and it has tended to get the lion's share of analysis, including here at e-Literate. We have described that D2L has joined Canvas in "an emerging two-horse race for new implementations", but we could do a better job of describing why we believe they are gaining in the market.1

Short story - D2L has made fairly substantial bets on cloud deployment and a streamlined user experience, and the product design changes present the best explanation for the market gains.

Head in the Cloud

The data looking at new LMS implementations (changing from one system to another) in higher ed across the four global regions we cover in our market analysis shows a remarkable movement away from self hosting, or on-premises hosting, towards a combination of managed hosting by the LMS vendor or cloud hosting designed by the vendor but running on AWS, in particular. From 15% external hosting to 77% in just one decade. Within the external models, there is another major shift away from managed hosting and towards cloud hosting.

Growth of LMS external hosting

D2L has long worked on managed hosting options, but in late 2013 the company introduced Continuous Delivery where software releases are pushed to customers incrementally, such that customers would jointly run the latest versions of Brightspace, their LMS. This move is important, as one primary benefit of cloud deployment is to remove the explosion of software configurations and versions that make it expensive and difficult to diagnose and fix bugs and to release new features.

Three years later in 2016 D2L announced their move to AWS for cloud deployment.

AWS Data Centers for D2L

While we heard grumblings from multiple clients during the transition - especially thru early 2017 - D2L clearly made some hard choices and and is aggressively moving to the cloud, not just as an option, but as their primary delivery model. According to David Koehn, VP of Product Management at D2L:

  • All new Brightspace implementations are on AWS cloud;
  • Virtually all current Brightspace implementations use Continuous Delivery; and
  • Approximately 50% of current customers are already on the AWS version of cloud deployment; and
  • By the end of 2018, a large majority of customers will be on cloud deployment.

Contrast this move to the cloud with Blackboard's where they plan to continue offering self hosting, managed hosting, and their own AWS-based cloud hosting options at the customer's choice, while they believe SaaS and Ultra will lead on new sales. The primary constraint being that to go to Learn Ultra experience, you must first be on Learn SaaS, the cloud hosting option. But the key point is that Blackboard has tended to view the cloud as one deployment option among others, and the numbers show it. According to a company blog post this week from CEO Bill Ballhaus:

As of today, more than 50 clients are running Ultra, with dozens more planning to start using the Ultra experience and courses in the second half of the year. Also, 361 clients around the globe have moved to SaaS deployment for Learn.

Our data show more than 2,000 higher ed customers on Learn, but if you add in K-12 and corporate customers, this roughly equates to just over 10% on or moving to Learn SaaS and 2% on Learn Ultra. These are generous numbers, but more on that in a separate post.

The point is that D2L is making a much more aggressive and focused bet on the cloud than is Blackboard, for better or worse. Canvas, of course, is designed natively for the cloud, and essentially 100% of their customers are on the AWS cloud.

Run to Daylight

David Koehn also pointed out that the real driver for the AWS cloud move by D2L is to enable a redesign of the user experience and to provide improved scalability and reliability. In other words, the cloud deployment is a means to the Daylight end.

Daylight is the name for D2L's redesign of the user experience and its streamlined user interface. When it was first announced just over a year ago, I was somewhat skeptical as the initial changes were evident in different fonts and cleaner look-and-feel, but not significant improvements in the workflow for faculty and students.

As time goes on and I see more advanced demos, my view is changing. The Daylight Experience does have some real improvements not just in look-and-feel but in fewer and more intuitive clicks to get the same job done. A major focus on the release this summer (in time for D2L Fusion users conference) is more fully encouraging usage of the activity stream for higher ed clients (this feature was initially targeted at K-12 market but has been adapted for colleges and universities).

Brightspace add assignment

D2L has long played the Mutually Assured Destruction game of features, targeted at cumbersome procurement processes. D2L (along with Blackboard and Moodle) has a deep set of features which contrasts with Canvas and its streamlined set of features that rely on third-party integrations to solve some of the more specialized use cases. For D2L, it is important to maintain these features as a competitive differentiator with Canvas, and the design approach guiding them is Progressive Disclosure. This design technique relies on progressing from simple to complex, showing the user the information and options they need when they need it or request it and not before.

Consider adding a multiple choice quiz, where the desire is to make this process very simple, but to then have a page or area that exposes more and more options as requested by user or in context of the quiz setup.

Brightspace details on quiz

As D2L further implements this design approach within the Daylight Experience, we are seeing a more modern and intuitive user experience for Brightspace customers, yet one that is showing real promise to also tap into deeper feature sets. And these changes are being used in production.

Again by way of contrast, Blackboard's user experience redesign for Learn Ultra has had a bumpy ride, with multi-year delays of getting any customers to use in production. They took more of a big bang approach to releasing Learn Ultra, and when customers pushed back saying that Ultra wasn't ready, this led to additional delays and eventually a change in the design team. D2L's Daylight has proven to be a more iterative release of their new user experience.

What to Watch

This year it is becoming difficult to separate LMS products from company finances. Instructure is trying to balance Canvas and Bridge growth to satisfy public markets along with a new executive team. Blackboard is dealing with corporate debt challenges while needing to fully release Learn Ultra. As mentioned in this post, D2L is moving strongly to the cloud with a new user experience while managing expenses. Schoology is trying to grow higher ed market under the radar. Moodle HQ took investment for the first time. There are a lot of open questions on the future of the academic LMS market, and we expect much to be revealed at the big summer (and fall) events.

As for D2L Fusion, we plan to get a better read on how customers and prospects are reacting to the cloud deployment move and streamlined user experience. We are seeing real changes in the Brightspace design and deployment model, but do paying and prospective customers value these changes? Furthermore, will D2L be able to improve its customer service and delivery on promises made for new customers as well as it has improved its product design?

As for Blackboard, Learn Ultra now has D2L's Brightspace as a major user experience to compete with as well as Canvas. There is a lot more changing in the LMS market than what is obvious on the surface.

Update: Clarified D2L numbers to be specifically for AWS cloud deployment. Also changed several instances of "cloud hosting" to be "cloud deployment" to make terminology more accurate.

  1. Disclosure: D2L, Blackboard, and Instructure are subscribers in our LMS Market Analysis service and sponsoring participants in our Empirical Educator Project.

The post D2L Bets on The Cloud and Advances in User Experience appeared first on e-Literate.

by Phil Hill at June 08, 2018 12:17 PM

June 02, 2018

Dr. Chuck

Deprecate and Remove support for IMS LTI 2.0 from Sakai

At this point, all the major LMS vendors that support LTI 2.0 have quietly decided to move away from LTI 2.0 and towards LTI 1.3 and ContentItem and follow-ons.

LTI 2.0 has a few good features and a lot of bad ideas.  Sakai’s LTI 2.0 (and almost LTI 2.1) is one of the best in the industry and one of only two formally certified LTI 2.0 LMS’s.

But even with all those positives, LTI 2.0 in Sakai is many lines of intricate code that if never used is a liability for security and maintenance – and as new features like LTI 1.3, its services, and new follow-on specs emerge – it is nice to clean up a large amount of code to make space for new stuff.

So at this point LTI 2.0 is deprecated in Sakai 12.x and will be removed in an upcoming release of Sakai.

If you have any concerns – or tools that require LTI 2.0 – please note them in this JIRA:

Or let me know using some other channel.

by Charles Severance at June 02, 2018 01:27 PM

May 28, 2018

Apereo Foundation

May 14, 2018

Sakai Project

Sakai 12.1 Released

Sakai Project is pleased to announce on behalf of the worldwide community that Sakai 12.1 is released and available for downloading!

by MHall at May 14, 2018 07:35 PM

The Site Builder Project: Now Under Construction

The UVACollab Applications Group, which manages the instance of Sakai that serves the University of Virginia, has begun an exciting project to redesign its site creation and tool management workflows.

by MHall at May 14, 2018 07:33 PM

Sakai 12.0 at the University of Dayton

We are pleased to announce that the University of Dayton has upgraded their instance of Sakai to version 12.0 as of May 9th, 2018! For the last two months, the Office of eLearning at UD has tirelessly worked to migrate all of their customizations from Sakai 11.4 to Sakai 12.0. Completing this critical task on such a short timeline would not have been possible without the fantastic work done by so many members of the Sakai community. Thank you all!

by MHall at May 14, 2018 07:31 PM

Apereo Foundation

We Are Sakai: 12th Annual LAMP Pedagogy and Technology Conference

We Are Sakai: 12th Annual LAMP Pedagogy and Technology Conference

The12th annual Pedagogy and Technology Conference will be held July 24 through 26 in Berea, Kentucky. Keynote speaker will be Wilma Hodges.

by Michelle Hall at May 14, 2018 06:10 PM

Dr. Chuck

Sakai 12.1 Released

The text of this post is taken from the announcement made by Wilma Hodges – The Sakai Community Facilitator.

I’m pleased to announce on behalf of the worldwide community that Sakai 12.1 is released and available for downloading! [1]

Sakai 12.1 has 97 improvements [2] in place including

  • 20 fixes in Gradebook (aka GradebookNG)
  • 9 fixes in Tests & Quizzes (Samigo)
  • 7 fixes in Assignments
  • 6 fixes in Resources
  • 5 fixes in Lessons

Other areas improved include:

  • Calendar
  • CKeditor
  • Dropbox
  • Forums
  • Portal
  • Preferences
  • Profile
  • Roster
  • Section Info
  • Security
  • Signup
  • Site Info
  • Statistics
  • Syllabus
  • Web Content

Four security issues fixed in 12.1 (details will be sent to the Sakai Security Announcements list)

Please also note the upgrade information page [3] for important notes related to performing the upgrade. 2 Quartz jobs need to be run to complete the conversion steps for Sakai 12, including a new one for the Job Scheduler in 12.1.

[1] Downloading information available at –

[2] 12.1 Fixes by Tool –



by Charles Severance at May 14, 2018 12:40 PM

May 01, 2018


Will Sakai look different following the upgrade?

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

Desktop/Laptop view:

Sakai 11
Sakai - Pre Upgrade Desktop View

Following Upgrade:
Sakai - Post Upgrade Desktop View

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

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

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

Gradebook Calculation Anomoly

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


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


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

Sakai Upgrade Features

As someone who uses Sakai (student or faculty) you may be wondering about how the upgrade will affect you and what you do in course sites.  By and large this upgrade is not expected to be as monumental as the last upgrade to Sakai (from version 10 to 11 in December 2016).  It does however bring a few new features and a bit more polish to some areas.  You may or may not notice these enhancements or features depending on your familiarity and experience with Sakai:

  • New Commons – social networking style tool allowing posts with url to thumbnail expansion, and unthreaded replies.
    commons posting
  • Improved mobile responsiveness and course navigation
  • Gradebook performance enhancements
  • Enhancements to Lessons (discussions, calendar, resources and name personalization widgets)
  • Assessments extended delivery (Tests and Quizzes): delivery of assessments for select individuals and groups (eg. student time accommodations)
  • Inclusion of “My Official Course Enrollments” area of Home for Students
  • Improved collapsible course navigation menu
  • Improved Favorite Sites Organization – Auto-Add new Sites to Favorites Bar
  • Responsive Rich Text Edit window
  • Move View Site As drop down to top banner
  • And other improvements.

by Dave E. at May 01, 2018 05:47 PM

April 27, 2018

Adam Marshall

WebLearn and Turnitin Courses and WebLearn User Group: Trinity term 2018

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

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

WebLearn 3-hour courses:

Byte-sized lunch time sessions:

These focus on particular tools with plenty of time for questions and discussion

Plagiarism awareness courses (Turnitin):

User Group meetings:

by Jill Fresen at April 27, 2018 09:53 AM

April 23, 2018

Dr. Chuck

Sakai Community Leadership Update

By now, you know that Neal Caidin will no longer be our full-time Community Coordinator as of April 30, 2018 because of a reduction in Apereo membership revenue for Sakai. We still have funding – just not enough for a full-time coordinator. We will miss Neal’s smile, talent, and tireless dedication to our community.

The Sakai PMC, Sakai Commercial Affiliates, and Apereo Board have been coordinating on how to fill the roles that will be left open when Neal leaves. I attach a draft of a document we have been developing that looks at the community leadership roles in general that are currently filled by Neal and others.

We will fill these roles by a combination of volunteer leadership and by paying for time. Some of these roles are 20 hours per week and so we will use Sakai membership money to fill them. Here is a list of the people who will be leading us in these roles going forward; where we have a lead / back-up in the position, there are two names:

  • Community Facilitator: Wilma Hodges (Longsight)
  • Release Manager: Matthew Jones (Longsight)
  • Branch Manager: Matthew Jones (Longsight) / Earle Neitzel (Longsight)
  • QA Lead: Dede Hourican (Marist) / Jolie Tingen (Duke)
  • A11Y Lead: Tiffany Stull (Virginia) / Terry Golightly (Johnson)
  • I18N Lead: Miguel Pellicer (EDF)
  • Security Lead: Miguel Pellicer (EDF)

At this point, we have worked out an arrangement with Longsight to cover some of Wilma’s and Matt’s time taking on the Community Facilitator and Release Manager roles. The terms of the arrangements have been shared with the Apereo, the Sakai PMC and all the Sakai Commercial Affiliates. The PMC is making these appointments for 3 months and will review these roles August 1, 2018, and then formally consider others who might be interested in these roles.

The other roles are not directly compensated at this point, so we should thank those who have taken on this leadership as volunteers–as well as others who are not currently listed but are already part of our community leadership. To provide some support to these volunteer leaders, the PMC will retain some of the Sakai member funds and make them available to help with travel and other necessary expenses if a person’s organization is not able to cover them in the individual’s volunteer role. This will not be a lot of money but we feel that it can be very helpful in ensuring that our volunteer leadership makes it to meetings, conferences, and events.

The PMC will monitor the costs of these new approaches and make adjustments over the coming months, including additional compensated roles as finances permit. All funds that are spent will be done so in the open within the PMC and all of the Sakai SCAs. The PMC chair will report a summary of the expenditures around community support to the whole community quarterly.

You are welcome to join the PMC public mailing list to watch this happening more closely if you are interested and want to participate.!forum/sakai-pmc

Our goals in this staffing activity is to end up with Sakai community leadership that is both broad and deep and can handle turnover in these roles. We want to encourage involvement from all of our SCAs if they have interest.

by Charles Severance at April 23, 2018 09:17 PM

April 05, 2018

Adam Marshall

WebLearn version 11-ox10 released 3 April 2018

(Compiled by Nick Wilson)
WebLearn was upgraded to version 11-ox10 this week (w/c 2nd April 2018). A number of bug fixes and improvements were implemented, described below.


The ‘Embed Replay Recording’ button has been added to the CK Editor in the Resources tool

Copyright status

Two additional copyright statuses have been included in the Resources tool (‘Crown copyright’ and ‘EU copyright’)


The Assignments tool now displays the correct maximum file size for Turnitin attachments (40MB):

The correct status of an open anonymous assignment is now shown:

Contact Us Tool

The text in the ‘Problem with access or content’ section in the Contact Us tool has been updated.


  1. A security vulnerability has been patched in which password reset tokens are not bound to users.
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by Jill Fresen at April 05, 2018 03:28 PM

April 01, 2018

Aaron Zeckoski

March 25, 2018

Aaron Zeckoski

Leading Softly

I'm coming back to blogging after a few years buried under project work, and I want to explore some lessons learned as a technology leader managing a department growing rapidly and going through significant changes. My department builds educational software products and has grown from a couple employees and a dozen consultants to over 70 employees and 100 contractors/consultants over 3 years.
The saying goes, "What got you here, won't get you there". This is especially true for leaders in technical fields like software engineering. It means you probably have the hard skills (coding, automation, design, coordination, etc.) and logical problem solving that helped you be successful as an individual contributor. Now you are in leadership and probably finding those skills are not helping you solve the same problems. Here are a few lessons I learned last week of the softer skilled sort.

1) Unmet expectations are the root cause of upset people
If you are dealing with friction with someone at work (or helping 2 people in your team deal with their friction) then your best option is to look for the unmet expectation. Maybe they expected to be treated with more respect, or that you would be on time for the meeting, or that something would be done more quickly. Try to determine what the unmet expectation was and help address it and you will remove the source of the problem. This alone won't solve everything but it will help resolve the issue.

2) If you impact someone else, then at least inform them, and ideally engage them
This is easiest to think about using some examples. Are you waiting on something from another person in order to get your job done and it is late but you haven't heard anything? Do you depend on a process controlled by someone else to get your job done? Have you been pulled into a meeting beyond your control without knowing why? Do you get assigned to projects without having a say? All of these are examples of being impacted by the decisions of someone else. This is pretty common and probably pretty annoying for you (or whomever is on the receiving end). If you are the one causing the impact to someone else, try to always keep them informed. If there is flexibility, then engage them in the decision making about it (even if you only ask for their feedback). You would want this if you were in their place so treat others like you want to be treated.

3) Good communication is the key to everything
I've come to realize that most relationship and work challenges are caused by poor communication. Did servers go down during a recent release because the database configuration was mismatched between prod and dev? Bad communication. Did a recent feature get built differently than customers wanted? Bad communication. Are users angry because a bug was released that the testers knew about? Bad communication. Was someone surprised by bad news that they should have been aware of? I think you get it... The simplest step to improving communication is to simply take the extra time to do it. It's not a magic bullet, but most poor communication happens because we didn't bother taking the extra time to communicate for understanding. Try asking people to echo things back when you talk to them this week and do them the favor of doing the same. You won't regret spending some extra time on communication but you will regret not doing it when things go wrong.

Also find this on Medium and LinkedIn

by Aaron Zeckoski ( at March 25, 2018 11:47 PM