Planet Sakai

July 31, 2015

Adam Marshall

WebLearn unavailable on Tuesday 4th August 2015 from 7-9am

cisco-routerWe plan to upgrade WebLearn to version 2.10-ox4 on Tuesday 4th August 2015 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 July 31, 2015 12:38 PM

July 30, 2015

Adam Marshall

Sakai Has Greater User Satisfaction Than Moodle or Canvas



I saw an interesting report into customer satisfaction of Learning Management Systems (aka VLEs) by the G2 crowd today which shows that there is a higher satisfaction amongst Sakai (WebLearn) users than amongst Moodle or Canvas users.

I know the sample size is fairly small but it still means that we’re doing something right!

G2 Crowd‘s strap-line is “Compare the best business software with G2 Crowd’s industry-leading review platform”

by Adam Marshall at July 30, 2015 04:31 PM

July 28, 2015

Michael Feldstein

Reuters: Blackboard up for sale, seeking up to $3 billion in auction

As I was writing a post about Blackboard’s key challenges, I get notice from Reuters (anonymous sources, so interpret accordingly) that the company is on the market, seeking up to $3 billion. From Reuters:

Blackboard Inc, a U.S. software company that provides learning tools for high school and university classrooms, is exploring a sale that it hopes could value it at as much as $3 billion, including debt, according to people familiar with the matter.

Blackboard’s majority owner, private equity firm Providence Equity Partners LLC, has hired Deutsche Bank AG and Bank of America Corp to run an auction for the company, the people said this week. [snip]

Providence took Blackboard private in 2011 for $1.64 billion and also assumed $130 million in net debt.

A pioneer in education management software, Blackboard has seen its growth slow in recent years as cheaper and faster software upstarts such as Instructure Inc have tried to encroach on its turf. Since its launch in 2011, Instructure has signed up 1,200 colleges and school districts, according to its website.

This news makes the messaging from BbWorld as well as their ability to execute on strategy, particularly delivering the new Ultra user experience across all product lines – including the core LMS – much more important. I’ll get to that subject in the next post.

This news should not be all that unexpected, as one common private equity strategy is to reorganize and clean up a company (headcount, rationalize management structures, reorient the strategy) and then sell within 3 – 7 years. As we have covered here at e-Literate, Blackboard has gone through several rounds of layoffs, and many key employees have already left the company due to new management and restructuring plans. CEO Jay Bhatt has been consistent in his message about moving from a conglomeration of silo’d mini-companies based on past M&A to a unified company. We have also described the significant changes in strategy – both adopting open source solutions and planning to rework the entire user experience.

Also keep in mind that there is massive investment in ed tech lately, not only from venture capital but also from M&A.

Update 1: I should point out that the part of this news that is somewhat surprising is the potential sale while the Ultra strategy is incomplete. As Michael pointed out over the weekend:

Ultra is a year late: Let’s start with the obvious. The company showed off some cool demos at last year’s BbWorld, promising that the new experience would be Coming Soon to a Campus Near You. Since then, we haven’t really heard anything. So it wasn’t surprising to get confirmation that it is indeed behind schedule. What was more surprising was to see CEO Jay Bhatt state bluntly in the keynote that yes, Ultra is behind schedule because it was harder than they thought it would be. We don’t see that kind of no-spin honesty from ed tech vendors all that often.

Ultra isn’t finished yet: The product has been in use by a couple of dozen early adopter schools. (Phil and I haven’t spoken with any of the early adopters yet, but we intend to.) It will be available to all customers this summer. But Blackboard is calling it a “technical preview,” largely because there are large swathes of important functionality that have not yet been added to the Ultra experience–things like tests and groups. It’s probably fine to use it for simple (and fairly common) on-campus use cases, but there are still some open manholes here.

Update 2: I want to highlight (again) the nature of this news story. It’s from Reuters using multiple anonymous sources. While Reuters should be trustworthy, please note that the story has not yet been confirmed.

Update 3: In contact with Blackboard, I received the following statement (which does not answer any questions, but I am sharing nonetheless).

Blackboard, like many successful players in the technology industry, has become subject of sale rumors. Although we are transparent in our communications about the Blackboard business and direction when appropriate, it is our policy not to comment on rumors or speculation.

Blackboard is in an exciting industry that is generating substantial investor interest. Coming off a very successful BbWorld 2015 and a significant amount of positive customer and market momentum, potential investor interest in our company is not surprising.

We’ll update as we learn more, including if someone confirms the news outside of Reuters and their sources.

The post Reuters: Blackboard up for sale, seeking up to $3 billion in auction appeared first on e-Literate.

by Phil Hill at July 28, 2015 07:48 PM

July 27, 2015

Apereo Foundation

Michael Feldstein

UC Davis: A look inside attempts to make large lecture classes active and personal

In my recent keynote for the Online Teaching Conference, the core argument was as follows:

While there will be (significant) unbundling around the edges, the bigger potential impact [of ed innovation] is how existing colleges and universities allow technology-enabled change to enter the mainstream of the academic mission.

Let’s look at one example. Back in December the New York Times published an article highlighting work done at the University of California at Davis to transform large lecture classes into active learning formats.

Hundreds of students fill the seats, but the lecture hall stays quiet enough for everyone to hear each cough and crumpling piece of paper. The instructor speaks from a podium for nearly the entire 80 minutes. Most students take notes. Some scan the Internet. A few doze.

In a nearby hall, an instructor, Catherine Uvarov, peppers students with questions and presses them to explain and expand on their answers. Every few minutes, she has them solve problems in small groups. Running up and down the aisles, she sticks a microphone in front of a startled face, looking for an answer. Students dare not nod off or show up without doing the reading.

Both are introductory chemistry classes at the University of California campus here in Davis, but they present a sharp contrast — the traditional and orderly but dull versus the experimental and engaging but noisy. Breaking from practices that many educators say have proved ineffectual, Dr. Uvarov’s class is part of an effort at a small but growing number of colleges to transform the way science is taught.

This article follows the same argument laid out in the Washington Post nearly three years earlier.

Science, math and engineering departments at many universities are abandoning or retooling the lecture as a style of teaching, worried that it’s driving students away. [snip]

Lecture classrooms are the big-box retailers of academia, paragons of efficiency. One professor can teach hundreds of students in a single room, trailed by a retinue of teaching assistants.

But higher-education leaders increasingly blame the format for high attrition in science and math classes. They say the lecture is a turn-off, higher education at its most passive, leading to frustration and bad grades in highly challenging disciplines.

What do these large lecture transformations look like? We got the chance in our recent e-Literate TV case study to get an inside look at the work done at UC Davis (episode 1, episode 2, episode 3), including first-person accounts from faculty members and students.

The organizing idea is to apply active learning principles such as the flipped classroom to large introductory science classes.

Phil Hill: It sounds to me like you have common learning design principles that are being implemented, but they get implemented in different ways. So, you have common things of making students accountable, having the classes much more interactive where students have to react and try to apply what they’re learning.

Chris Pagliarulo: Yeah, the main general principle here is we’re trying to get—if you want to learn something complex, which is what we try to at an R1 university, that takes a lot of practice and feedback. Until recently, much of that was supposed to be going on at home with homework or whatnot, but it’s difficult to get feedback at home when the smart people aren’t there that would help you—either your peers or your professor.

So, that’s the whole idea of the flipped classroom where come prepared with some basic understand and take that time where you’re all together to do the high-quality practice and get the feedback while we’re all together. Everything that we’re doing is focused on that sort of principle—getting that principle into the classroom.

Professor Mitch Singer then describes his background in the redesign.

Phil Hill: Several years ago, the iAMSTEM group started working with the biology and chemistry departments to apply some of these learning concepts in an iterative fashion.

Mitch Singer: My (hopefully) permanent assignment now, at least for the next five years, will be what we call “BIS 2A,” which is the first introductory course of biology here at UC Davis. It’s part of a series, and its primary goal is to teach fundamentals of cellular and molecular biology going from origins up to the formation of a cell. We teach all the fundamentals in this class: the stuff that’s used for future ones.

About three to four years ago, I got involved in this class to sort of help redesign it, come up with a stronger curriculum, and primarily bring in sort of hands-on, interactive learning techniques, and we’ve done a bunch of experiments and changed the course in a variety of ways. It’s still evolving over the last several years. The biggest thing that we did was add a discussion section, which is two hours long where we’ve done a lot of our piloting for this interactive, online, personalized learning (as the new way of saying things, I guess). This year (last quarter in the fall) was the first time we really tried to quote, flip part of the classroom.

That is make the students take a little bit more responsibility for their own reading and learning, and then the classic lecture is more asking questions trying to get them to put a and b together to come up with c. It’s sort of that process that we’d like to emphasize and get them to actually learn, and that’s what we want to test them on not so much the facts, and that’s the biggest challenge.

If you want to see the potential transformation of this core, it is crucial to look at the large lecture classes and how to make them more effective. The UC Davis case study highlights what is actually happening in the field, with input from real educators and students.

The post UC Davis: A look inside attempts to make large lecture classes active and personal appeared first on e-Literate.

by Phil Hill at July 27, 2015 07:16 PM

July 25, 2015

Michael Feldstein

Blackboard Ultra and Other Product and Company Updates

Phil and I spent much of this past week at BbWorld trying to understand what is going on there. The fact that their next-generation Ultra user experience is a year behind is deservedly getting a lot of attention, so one of our goals going into the conference was to understand why this happened, where the development is now, and how confident we could be in the company’s development promises going forward. Blackboard, to their credit, gave us tons of access to their top executives and technical folks. Despite the impression that a casual observer might have, there is actually a ton going on at the company. I’m going to try to break down much of the major news at a high level in this post.

The News

Ultra is a year late: Let’s start with the obvious. The company showed off some cool demos at last year’s BbWorld, promising that the new experience would be Coming Soon to a Campus Near You. Since then, we haven’t really heard anything. So it wasn’t surprising to get confirmation that it is indeed behind schedule. What was more surprising was to see CEO Jay Bhatt state bluntly in the keynote that yes, Ultra is behind schedule because it was harder than they thought it would be. We don’t see that kind of no-spin honesty from ed tech vendors all that often.

Ultra isn’t finished yet: The product has been in use by a couple of dozen early adopter schools. (Phil and I haven’t spoken with any of the early adopters yet, but we intend to.) It will be available to all customers this summer. But Blackboard is calling it a “technical preview,” largely because there are large swathes of important functionality that have not yet been added to the Ultra experience–things like tests and groups. It’s probably fine to use it for simple (and fairly common) on-campus use cases, but there are still some open manholes here.

Screenshot 2015-07-25 09.34.48

Ultra is only available in SaaS at the moment and will not be available for on-premise installations any time soon: This was a surprise both to us and to a number of Blackboard customers we spoke to. It’s available now for SaaS customers and will be available for managed hosting customers, but the company is making no promises about self-hosted. The main reason is that they have added some pretty bleeding edge new components to the architecture that are hard to wrap up into an easily installable and maintainable bundle. The technical team believes this situation may change over time as the technologies that they are using mature—to be clear, we’re talking about third-party technologies like server containers rather than homegrown Blackboard technologies—they think it may become practical for schools to self-host Ultra if they still want to by that time. But don’t expect to see this happen in the next two years.

Ultra is much more than a usability makeover and much more ambitious than is commonly understood: There is a sense in the market that Ultra is Blackboard’s attempt to catch up with Instructure’s ease of use. While there is some truth to that, it would be a mistake to think of Ultra as just that. In fact, it is a very ambitious re-architecture that, for example, has the ability to capture a rich array of real-time learning analytics data. These substantial and ambitious under-the-hood changes, which Phil and I were briefed on extensively and which were also shared publicly at Blackboard’s Devcon, are the reason why Ultra is late and the reason why it can’t be locally installed at the moment. I’m not going to have room to go into the details here, but I may write more about it in a future post.

Blackboard “Classic” 9.x is continuing under active development: If you’re self-hosted, you will not be left behind. Blackboard claims that the 9.x code line will continue to be under active development for some time to come, and Phil and I found their claims to be fairly convincing. To begin with, Jay got burned at Autodesk when he tried to push customers onto a next-generation platform and they didn’t want to go. So he has a personal conviction that it’s a bad idea to try that again. But also, Blackboard gets close to a quarter of its revenue and most of its growth from international markets now, and for a variety of reasons, Ultra is not yet a good fit for those markets and probably won’t be any time soon. So self-hosted customers on Learn 9.x will likely get some love. This doesn’t mean development will be as fast as they would like; the company is pushing hard in a number of directions, and we get the definite sense that there is a strain on developer resources. But 9.x will not be abandoned or put into maintenance mode in the near future.


If you want to get a sense of what Ultra feels like, try out the Blackboard Student mobile app: The way Blackboard uses the term “Ultra” is confusing, because sometimes it means the user experience but sometimes it means the next generation architecture for Learn. If you want to try Ultra the user experience, the play with the Student mobile app, which is in production today and which will work with Learn 9.x as well as Learn Ultra. Personally, I think it represents some really solid thinking about designing for students.



Moodle may make a comeback: One of the reasons that Moodle adoption has suffered in the United States the past few years is that it has lacked an advocate with a loud voice. Moodlerooms used to be the biggest promoter of the platform, and when Blackboard acquired them, they went quiet in the US. But, as I already mentioned, the international market is hugely important for Blackboard now, and Moodle is the cornerstone of the company’s international strategy. They have been quietly investing in the platform, making significant code contributions and acquisitions. There are signs that Blackboard may unleash Moodlerooms to compete robustly in the US market again. This would entail taking the risk that Moodle, a cheaper and lower-margin product, would cannibalize their Learn business, so file this under “we’ll believe it when we see it,” but Apple has killed the taboo of self-cannibalization when the circumstances are right, and they seem like they may be right in this situation.

Collaborate Ultra is more mature than Learn Ultra but still not mature: This is another case where thinking about Ultra as a usability facelift would be hugely underestimating the ambition of what Blackboard is trying to do. The new version of Collaborate is built on a new standard called WebRTC, which enables webconferencing over naked HTML rather than through Flash or Java. This is extremely hard stuff that big companies like Google, Microsoft, and Apple are still in the process of working out right now. It is just this side of crazy for a company the size of Blackboard to try to release a collaboration product based heavily on this technology. (And the only reason it’s not on the other side of crazy is because Blackboard acquired a company that has one of the world’s foremost experts on WebRTC.) Phil and I have used Collaborate Ultra a little bit. It’s very cool but a little buggy. And, like Learn Ultra, it’s still missing some features. At the moment, the sweet spot for the app appears to be online office hours.



My Quick Take

I’m trying to restrain myself from writing a 10,000-word epic; there is just a ton to say here. I’ll give a high-level framework here and come back to some aspects in later posts. Bottom line: If you think that Ultra is all about playing catch-up with Instructure on usability, then the company’s late delivery, functionality gaps, and weird restrictions on where the product can and cannot be run look pretty terrible. But that’s probably not the right way to think about Ultra. The best analogy I can come up with is Apple’s Mac OS X. In both cases, we have a company that is trying to bring a large installed base of customers onto a substantially new architecture and new user experience without sending them running for the hills (or the competitors). This is a really hard challenge. Hardcore OS X early adopters will remember that 10.0 was essentially an unusable technology preview, 10.1 was usable but painful, 10.2 was starting to feel pretty good, and 10.3 was when we really began to see why the new world was going to be so much better than the old one. If I am right, Ultra will go through the same sort of evolution. I don’t know that these stages will each be a year long; I suspect that they may be shorter than that. But right now we are probably partway through the 10.0 era for Ultra. As I mentioned earlier in the post, Phil and I still need to talk to some Ultra customers to get a sense of real usage and, of course, since it will be generally available to SaaS customers for use in the fall semester, we’ll have more folks to talk to soon. We will be watching closely to see how big the gaps are and how quickly they are filled. For example, how long will it take Blackboard to get to the items labeled as “In Development” on their slides? Does that mean in a few months? More? And what about the “Research” column? Based on these slide and our conversations, I think the best case scenario is that we reach the 10.2 era—where the platform is reasonably feature-complete, usable, and feeling pretty good overall—by BbWorld 2016, and with some 10.3-type new and strongly differentiating features starting to creep into the picture. Or they could fall flat and utterly fail to deliver. Or something in between. I’m pretty excited by the scope of the company’s ambition and am willing to cut them some slack, partly because they persuaded me that what they are trying to do is pretty big and party because they persuaded me that they probably know what they are doing. But they have had their Mulligan. As the saying goes (when properly remembered), the proof of the pudding is in the eating. We’ll see what they deliver to customers in the next 6-12 months.

Watch this space.

The post Blackboard Ultra and Other Product and Company Updates appeared first on e-Literate.

by Michael Feldstein at July 25, 2015 02:58 PM

July 24, 2015

Adam Marshall

Now Open! Call for Proposals for the Sakai Virtual Conference 2015



Here’s an announcement about this year’s Sakai Virtual Conference which is to be held in the afternoon and evening of Wednesday 4th November. (Sakai is of course the software upon which WebLearn is based.) 

It would be fabulous if Oxford could build upon the success of Lucy Tallents’ TWSIA 2015 Award and showcase some more of the most excellent work that is taking place at Oxford. The central WebLearn team will be very happy to support and individuals or teams who plan to submit a proposal.

Even if you don’t propose a virtual session, why not mark the date in your diary and plan to attend the conference? As noted above, due to the difference in time zones, the conference will start in the afternoon and run into the evening, however, there is no compulsion to attend every minute of the conference!

Now Open! Call for Proposals for the Sakai Virtual Conference 2015

You are invited to submit a proposal for this year’s Sakai Virtual Conference! The premise of the virtual conference is simple: An On-line, Sakai Teaching and Learning focused conference to connect with colleagues across the globe, share stories and best practices, and envision how you might use Sakai in the future. You can enjoy interaction with your peers in the Sakai community, all without leaving home!

We are actively seeking presenters who are knowledgeable about teaching with Sakai. You don’t need to be a technical expert to share your experiences! Submit your proposal today! The deadline for submissions is September 6th, 2015.

This on-line event will emphasize the use of Sakai for teaching and learning, although there will also be some technical sessions in the program. The conference committee has planned the following tracks/session types:

  • Faculty Course Showcase – Demonstrate exemplary instructional strategies and course design by showcasing your course.
  • Instructional Design/Support – How do you support your end users?  Share best practices for instructional design, training, and professional development at your institution.
  • Effective or Innovative Practice – Are you using Sakai in a unique or uniquely effective way? For example, are you doing something innovative in Mobile/Responsive Design or Accessibility? Show us your effective or innovative practice!
  • Learning Analytics - How are you using Learning Analytics in conjunction with your Sakai LMS to promote institutional objectives? Have you implemented a dashboard or student intervention success plan, Learning Records Store, xAPI, etc.?
  • Technical Session – Do you have a topic that would be of interest to Sakai developers or IT staff? Would you like to demo new features or functionality coming in Sakai 11? Present on a technical topic “under the hood” of Sakai.
  • Birds of a Feather – Lead an informal/unstructured online discussion about a topic of your choice.
  • Lightning Talks – Do you have a project or perspective you’d like to share? Maybe you have an idea to improve Sakai that you’d like to promote? Lightning talks are 5 minute presentations which will be combined into an exciting and fast-paced conference session.
  • UX Testing – We will be conducting live usability testing during the conference. Do you have a research question and test script you’d like to propose as part of our UX track? Help us improve the Sakai user interface through UX testing!
  • Sakai en Español - Envía tu presentación sobre cualquiera de estos temas en español. (Note: The Spanish track will begin two hours prior to the main conference sessions so that attendees have the option to attend the presentations in Spanish as well as other conference tracks.)

The Sakai Virtual Conference will take place entirely on-line on Wednesday, November 4th.  You’ll make your presentation in a virtual “room,” take live questions from the audience, and get the conference experience without the expense of travel. There will be opportunities for networking and informal discussions, as well as a chance to win prizes donated by our sponsors.

Help us make this year’s Sakai Virtual Conference a success!

We look forward to your proposal!


Ian Dolphin, Executive Director, Apereo Foundation
Neal Caidin, Sakai Community Coordinator, Apereo Foundation
Wilma Hodges, Sakai Virtual Conference 2014 Planning Committee Chair

by Adam Marshall at July 24, 2015 11:05 AM

July 19, 2015

Dr. Chuck

How much Freon does a General Motors 3800 AC system hold

Since I Googled for a very long time and could not find the answer to this super simple question I figured I would help owners of Chevrolet, Buick, Oldsmobie cars with the venerable 3.8 litre engine when they are recharging their AC.

Most of the systems take 2.2 pounds of freon. There is a nice little sticker on your car that tells you how much freon to add. So make sure to check the sticker – it will probably say 2.2 pounds.

by Charles Severance at July 19, 2015 12:30 AM

July 16, 2015

Apereo Foundation

New Apereo Teaching and Learning Group

A new Apereo Teaching and Learning google group has been created.

by MHall at July 16, 2015 11:42 PM

Incubation Round-up

Congratulations to Opencast and Xerte, two software communities that graduated from the Apereo incubation process in June. Welcome!

by MHall at July 16, 2015 11:30 PM

Sakai Project

Sakai 10.5 Release

The Sakai community is pleased to announce the release of Sakai 10.5

by MHall at July 16, 2015 11:25 PM

June 27, 2015

Steve Swinsburg

Sakai and MariaDB via Vagrant

Sakai has recently switched over to using the MariaDB connector for MySQL databases, and a number of institutions are running MariaDB in production, so I thought I might as well change my dev machine over to MariaDB.

To ease the transition, I whipped up a Vagrant box so I could run this in a VM and spin it up whenever I needed it.

Clone this:

Run this: vagrant up


by steveswinsburg at June 27, 2015 03:06 PM

June 25, 2015

Dr. Chuck

How is Sakai faring in the face of competition from Canvas?

(This was originally an email sent to the Sakai developer list)

A member of an institution that uses Sakai recently heard an interesting comment from a Canvas LMS representative:

“Sakai is such a cool concept but I do wonder where it will end up in the future as most its founding schools (and the schools putting resources into developing it) have now left and come to Canvas (for example, University of Indiana, University of Michigan, Stanford University).”

I thought this deserved a public reply.

My first observation is that a salesperson spreading FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) about Sakai suggests to me that they may not have a strong positive feeling about their own product. Most salespeople will tell you that the best thing to do is focus on what makes your product strong without even talking about other products.

That aside, let me give my response to your question. Each year I do some analytics on the developer list activity:

This chart shows a trend that at this point is about five years old. In the beginning early adopters such as Michigan, Indiana, Stanford, and Cambridge were pulling a lot of load as the product was literally being built and rebuilt. Also in the earliest years, new schools were adopting Sakai continuously so a lot of the e-mail activity was helping new schools.

The early lead schools dropped in activity in 2009. In 2009 Michigan was still the #1 participant in the dev list but a lot of increased participation was also coming from companies like LongSight and Unicon; participation from the other commercial affiliates (often using addresses) was increasing as well.

In some ways, 2009-2011 was Sakai’s period of greatest risk as a community. A lot of things were trending downward and near the end of 2011 there was a very good chance that Sakai 2.9 would never see the light of day and it would be “last one out turn off the lights”.

The future of Sakai was originally planned to be a ground-up rewrite known as Sakai 3, however, this didn’t work out as planned and instead a brand new product known as Apereo Open Academic Environment (OAE) was developed. (OAE became a new type of learning platform based on social networking principles: sharing, co-editing, discovery and commenting upon content.)

But in 2012-13, there was a big turnaround with a redesigned Sakai 2.9 which included the brand new Lesson Builder tool.

Following that came consolidation with the tool-rich and innovative Sakai 10. Those who were still in the community put in a lot of effort – Michigan and Longsight were in really strong leadership positions. Other schools like Rutgers, NYU, Columbia, Duke, UNC, and others don’t show up in this dev list graph but they provided much of the money and developer talent to get us through Sakai 2.9 and Sakai 10.

Interestingly in the 2013-14 timeframe we see a couple of factors at work. First the 2102-13 sprint was over – we had Sakai 10. Here is a SlideShare I did that celebrated that moment:

The upcoming Sakai 11 release is the most important release for several years, however, aside from the addition of a responsive design, it is unique in that we are not expanding functionality as much as in the past: we are actually removing more code than we are adding and doing a bunch of UI rework in tools like Lessons, Gradebook and Portal. These more design-oriented activities tend not to cause lots of traffic on the dev lists.

Another interesting trend is that now that we have weekly developer team and teaching and learning meetings with up to 20 people regularly attending: the community is coordinating verbally and collectively in these meetings therefore less email is needed.

As we emerge into 2015, activity and commitment is very strong. The commercial affiliates (large and small) are a very important part of the community. Indiana and Stanford are quite low compared to earlier levels of participation. But something interesting is happening – some of the code that was traditionally the exclusive domain of Stanford or Indiana is now being maintained by the whole community. The interesting result is that the pace of development in those areas of the code base is increasing because now the whole community can move the code forward.

More community members are stepping forward to help because they know that they no longer assume that Indiana, Stanford and Co. will pick up the slack.

During 2011-2014 as the founding institutions slowly backed away, patches and bug fixes started to pile up. Now that the community has inherited the code-base and collective responsibility, the outstanding issues are rapidly being addressed. This is not meant as a criticism of the original partners, they built the core codebase that we all have and without them, we would have nothing. We are very much in their debt.

Looking forward, our community is solid and making lots of progress every single week. We have the luxury of putting a lot of effort into the UI and catching up with applying a backlog of local improvements from places like Oxford, Dayton, Columbia, NYU, Duke, Notre Dame, and UNC. These improvements are enriching our product. In addition, schools like Valencia, Murcia, Rutgers, and UCT are continuing to make strong direct contributions to the code base.

As we see Sakai 11 coming out with its new Morpheus responsive mobile-friendly portal and all of the user interface and performance improvements, I can see why Canvas sales people might be getting a little nervous and use a bit of FUD to try to scare you to switch now.

Thanks to Adam Marshall of Oxford for his editing help on rewording this from an email to a blog post.

by Charles Severance at June 25, 2015 08:51 PM

Steve Swinsburg

MySQL via Vagrant

Ever needed an instance of MySQL to test something or develop against or just for fun but didn’t want to go through the hassle of installing etc?

Clone this:

Run this: vagrant up


by steveswinsburg at June 25, 2015 12:55 PM

June 23, 2015

Earle Nietzel

throw ThoughtException

A ThoughtException represents a thought about software engineering! You can think of it as exceptions to thinking about software which any software programmer might have.

by Earle at June 23, 2015 08:26 PM

June 16, 2015

Dr. Chuck

Annoucing the (very early) Sakai – Tsugi Bridge

In my previous post, I announced a Java implementation of my Tsugi library. Java Tsugi has as its goal to allow externally hosted LTI applications to be quickly developed and hosted.

But there is more….

I have been long positing that Tsugi would be a way to build portable applications that ran in any Java framework. Take a look at this slide set starting at slide 24 through the end. Pay particular attention to slide 28.

I claim that the same Tsugi application can run standalone in a Tomcat or in a Sakai-provisioned Tomcat as a Sakai tool with zero code changes. I see Tsugi as a great way to build the next generation of Sakai tools like XWiki – we can build an LTI capable XWiki to plug into Sakai or any other LMS.

I have made some really initial steps in this repo:

This is contains a Sakai implementation of the Tsugi APIs so that the Tsugi Java Servlet can be provisioned run in a Sakai Tomcat. The implementation is currently empty – but I have worked out the class loader issues that allow me to provision a Tsugi servlet with a different implementation without changing the servlet.

So this is very much a start – the has a lot of steps – and at the end all you get is a 500 error as shown below – but it does show how we can eventually connect the Tsugi and Sakai worlds.


by Charles Severance at June 16, 2015 05:16 PM

June 01, 2015

Steve Swinsburg

Sakai, ditch the custom classloaders

A few years ago I added support to the Sakai Maven Plugin to deploy everything that normally goes into /shared/lib and common/lib into just /lib, as per the standard Tomcat classloader layout.

To use, add to the build command. Everything gets deployed to /lib and Sakai starts up without any modifications (except the standard connector modification in server.xml and the optional performance improvements in

Enjoy the future!

by steveswinsburg at June 01, 2015 11:06 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 26, 2015

Sakai Project

Marist College Concludes its First Sakai-Based MOOC

Marist is concluding their first MOOC on Enterprising Computing

by MHall at May 26, 2015 11:50 PM