Planet Sakai

August 29, 2016

Dr. Chuck

Abstract: Building the Next Generation Digital Learning Environment using Tsugi

This presentation will give an overview of the Tsugi project and applications of the Tsugi software in building a distributed approach to teaching and learning tools and content. One company involved in the Internet of Things claims that “The next big thing will be a lot of small things”. If we apply this logic to the educational technology marketplace, an essential element needed to achieve the NGDLE is to reduce the granularity of the learning content and applications to the individual teacher or even individual student. Tsugi is a 100% open source effort that is part of the Apereo organization.

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

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

by Charles Severance at August 29, 2016 01:54 PM

August 27, 2016

Dr. Chuck

Dynamic .htaccess to deal with Url Rewriting mod_rewrite.c, and FallbackResource

As I built Tsugi, I want to ship with a decent, working .htaccess in folders that need it. My most typical use case is that I want to map all the URLs in a folder into a file like index.php.

There are two good ways to do this. The old standby is a long set of mod_rewrite rules. The new, much more elegant trick is to use FallbackResource in mod_dir in later versions of Apache 2.2.

The problem is that clever hosting providers upgrade to the new Apache and then figure they can remove mod_rewrite so you know how to do it in either case but don’t have a good way to trigger when to use what approach.

This is my approach that I use in Tsugi when I want to map all URLs to one file:

    <IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
        RewriteEngine on
        RewriteRule ^ - [E=protossl]
        RewriteCond %{HTTPS} on
        RewriteRule ^ - [E=protossl:s]
        RewriteRule "(^|/)\." - [F]
        RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
        RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
        RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !=/favicon.ico
        RewriteRule ^ index.php [L]
    <IfModule !mod_rewrite.c>
        FallbackResource index.php

It is not perfect but kind of deals with things as the move forward. If mod_rewrite is there – use it – it works in later Apache versions as well but if mod_rewrite is there, use it and if not, hope that FallbackResource is there.

Now of course there are some Apache versions / setups where this fails – but on average, over time as Apache’s get upgraded, things get simpler and over time the mod_rewrite code just will stop activating.

I also added this information to a Stack Overflow question.

by Charles Severance at August 27, 2016 02:00 PM

August 25, 2016

Steve Swinsburg

Migrating to GradebookNG?

GradebookNG is now included in the recently released Sakai 11!

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

You can do this in two ways:

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

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

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


by steveswinsburg at August 25, 2016 10:02 PM

August 24, 2016

Michael Feldstein

College Scorecard: With victories like these, who needs failures?

Goldie Blumenstyk had a fascinating interview with the Depart of Education’s Ted Mitchell on Friday that is well worth reading and / or watching (they have video of the interview along with full transcript). One of Mitchell’s key points jumped off the page for me.

I think it [College Scorecard] was one of the department and the administration’s greatest victories

Really? I can see the consolidation of student loans, a strong focus on college affordability, shifting of conversation away from just elite schools, and significant push on funding public schools as worthy victories to mention. But the College Scorecard – I don’t buy it.

Blumenstyk pushed back on Mitchell, which led to this interesting exchange [emphasis added].

GOLDIE BLUMENSTYK: I’m glad you mentioned the College Scorecard. I was thinking about that a little bit. It’s probably one of the places where the department had perhaps its biggest defeat, or maybe you might consider it a retreat. We were originally envisioning the Scorecard as a tool for accountability. Obviously, a lot of colleges and a lot of other people opposed that idea. And it became a complicated process even to create the effective scorecard. What did you learn from that process?

TED MITCHELL: So I guess I would have a slightly different interpretation.

GOLDIE BLUMENSTYK: I would imagine.

TED MITCHELL: I think it was one of the department and the administration’s greatest victories in two ways. First of all, we made an ambitious goal. We worked hard to get there. And as we got closer, we realized that the goal might be the wrong one and that the kind of accountability that we had talked about at the beginning of the process isn’t the kind of accountability that we think really, actually does matter on the ground. The kind of ability — excuse me. I get so excited talking about Scorecard. The kind of accountability that matters on the ground is the kind of accountability that allows an individual user to identify what’s important to them, to get reliable information about that, and then to make decisions about it.

We decided that it’s better for students and parents and counselors and helpers to be able to ask the queries that they want to ask rather than to hear what the government thinks is rated A, B, or C. So I think we listened. We learned. And we came up with a product that’s superior than what we started with.

Let’s take this argument and see where it takes us. Just under a year ago, Russ Poulin from WCET and I wrote a series of posts calling out major flaws in the College Scorecard, culminating in a joint article in the Washington Post. In these posts, we called out the following flaws in the Scorecard:

  1. The data set is limited to Title IV schools, excluding those who don’t accept federal financial aid;
  2. (At the time) the Scorecard excluded nearly one in three 2-year colleges;
  3. Graduation rates are based on first-time full-time student cohorts that represent less than 20% of all students;
  4. Transfer rates are not included; and
  5. Average costs of attendance are based only on the roughly 50% of students taking federal financial aid.

Of these issues, nearly one year later, only problem #2 has been fixed (and kudos to ED for this fix). Problem #1 doesn’t affect that many schools, so we’ll ignore that for now.

Graduation and Transfer Rates

Earlier in the interview Mitchell acknowledged a very important point.

I think one of the things that has motivated the Obama administration from the beginning has been a recognition that in order to achieve our goals as a country and in order to support individuals in their striving for better lives, we have to understand that the college student of today is not the college student of my generation or your generation. The 18-year-old who got dropped off in the minivan at State U. is not a majority anymore. It’s the 24-year-old returning veteran. It’s the 36-year-old single mom. It’s the person who’s fully employed trying to up skill.

Then why does the ED continue to use first-time full-time student cohorts – “the 18-year-old who got dropped off in the minivan at State U” – to measure graduation rates? In this post last year I pointed out that University of Maryland University College (UMUC) has less than 2% of their students fitting this first-time full-time definition, yet the College Scorecard screams out at the user that the school has only a 4% graduation rate[1].


UMUC has the data on different cohorts that give graduation rates from 18% – 56%, yet none of this matters for the Scorecard.

There is also no acknowledgement that “success” does not always equal graduation – it can include transferring from a 2-year to a 4-year school. This data is available in a data dump from the Scorecard, but it is nowhere to be found for the consumer web page that the vast majority of prospective students and parents will use. From my post:

Consider the harm done to prospective UMUC students by seeing the flawed, over-simplified ED College Scorecard data, and consider the harm done to UMUC as they have to play defense and explain why prospects should see a different situation. Given the estimate that non-traditional students – those who would not be covered at all in IPEDS graduation rates – comprise more than 70% of all students, you can see how UMUC is not alone. Community colleges face an even bigger problem with the lack of transfer rate reporting.

Average Costs

There are similar problems when considering the average cost of attendance, since those measurements come solely from students taking federal financial aid. Glendale Community College did a study on the effects of this measure on the group of community colleges in the Los Angeles area.

Enrollment fees are set by the state legislature, so all community colleges in the state charge the same amount there. Other fees are set by the colleges, but they shouldn’t be too different, should they? Cost of living varies widely across the state, so maybe that is factored in and would cause variations.

This is the reason that the study focused just one the Los Angeles area, to minimize (but not eliminate) variations in cost of living.

California community college fees are very low compared to fees in most states, and nearly all low-income students receive state aid such as Board of Governors (BOG) fee waivers. Students who receive no federal financial aid are not included in the Scorecard cost indicator, even if they receive BOG waivers and other state aid.

The result is an enormous variation in average costs measures that bears little resemblance to reality for the majority of students. I updated Glendale’s chart to include data on six colleges that were missing as of last fall.

GCC Study Updated

Accountability Without Accuracy

I’ll go back to Mitchell’s definition of the great accountability achieved with the Scorecard.

The kind of accountability that matters on the ground is the kind of accountability that allows an individual user to identify what’s important to them, to get reliable information about that, and then to make decisions about it.

The data in the Scorecard is flawed, and I am stunned to see this listed as one of their greatest victories.

  • For the vast majority of students who are not first-time full-time students, they have no access to realistic graduation rates and the ones presented are misleading.
  • For the more than 50% of students not taking federal financial aid, they have no access to realistic average costs of attendance, and in cases where there is significant state aid, the resulting data can be non-sensical.

I’ll end with the concluding paragraphs from the Washington Post article I wrote with Russ Poulin.

We applaud the concept of a Scorecard. A consolidated, consumer-focused website with accurate, comparable data on every institution could do more to improve institutional behavior than a boatload of regulations. Just consider how colleges jockey to improve their position on the current (less reliable) rankings sites.

It is difficult for students to have a clear vision of the future, when they are looking at it through fuzzy lenses.

  1. Graduation rates measured at 150% of nominal time; thus 6-year rates for 4-year schools and 3-year rates for 2-year schools.

The post College Scorecard: With victories like these, who needs failures? appeared first on e-Literate.

by Phil Hill at August 24, 2016 10:38 PM

Adam Marshall

Interesting article about Sakai (WebLearn) development activity

Influential Education Technology consultant and blogger Micheal Feldstein has written a fascinating and positive article looking at the relative heath of the Sakai (aka WebLearn), Moodle and Canvas projects based on “development activity”. To do this he has analysed statistics from Github which is an open source repository used by all three projects.

Michael also reports on the good impression that the new release of Sakai (version 11) is making. One great ‘take-away’ quote from Michael is “Folks who haven’t looked at Sakai in a while may be surprised by what they see in this year’s release. I was.”

Oxford will be releasing WebLearn 11 (which is based on Sakai 11) in time for the Michaelmas term 2016. In case you missed it before, here’s the community video showing some of the highlights of Sakai 11.


In addition to the upgrade, there are a number of other activities around WebLearn taking place over the coming months which will bring changes to WebLearn and facilitate long-term developments in support of the University’s Digital Education Strategy.



If you have any queries, please contact

by Adam Marshall at August 24, 2016 03:26 PM

Steve Swinsburg

Oracle 12c via Vagrant

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

Grab it from github:

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

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

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

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


by steveswinsburg at August 24, 2016 11:59 AM

August 22, 2016

Sakai Project

Sakai Accessibility Ra11y Plan update

Phase 1 of the Ra11y plan [1] is complete!  We are one (big) step closer to WCAG2 Certification. 
What does this mean? It means that we completed a substantive review of the accessibility of the Sakai system by contracting out the assessment
to a reputable 3rd party, SSB Bart [2]. Improving Sakai's accessibility means making it easier for people of all abilities to use our system. Our aim, as it always has been, is to make the system genuinely as accessible as possible, which directly impacts students, instructors, and other users in a positive way with a better user experience. We also wish to achieve WCAG 2 certification, which validates the community's hard work in this area. A double win!
The good news is that Sakai, as it stands now, is assessed at 74% compliant, which is not a bad starting point. Also we have gone painstakingly through the 453 identified issues and consolidated them into 51 Jiras [3] .  We are off to a great start and we don't want to lose the momentum!

by NealC at August 22, 2016 02:04 PM

August 17, 2016

Dr. Chuck

Abstract: Building the Next Generation Digital Learning Environment (NGDLE)

The concept of a Learning Management System is nearly 20 years old. For the most part, modern-day Learning Management Systems are simply well-developed versions of those first learning systems developed at universities and commercialized through companies like Blackboard, WebCT, and Angel. Since the early LMS systems were developed for a single organization and developed as a single application, it was natural for them to keep adding more functionality to that single application. Each vendor added proprietary formal expansion points to their LMS systems like Building Blocks and PowerLinks. The concept of a single expansion point across multiple LMS systems was proposed by the Sakai project in 2004. The idea evolved over the next few years to become the IMS Learning Tools Interoperability Specification (LTI) released in 2010. LTI provided a basic expansion point across the whole LMS marketplace. LTI greatly expanded the number of applications that could be integrated into an LMS – but those integrations were naturally limited because of the simplicity of the early versions of LTI. In this talk we will look at the standards activities over the past six years that have been laying the groundwork to move from simple plug-in integrations to an open multi-vendor learning ecosystem where the LMS is just one part of that ecosystem. Many are now calling the concept of the new structure of a broad and interoperable market for educational software as the Next Generation Digital Learning Environment (NGDLE). We will look at the work that has been done and an outline of what is left to do to deliver an open learning ecosystem.

by Charles Severance at August 17, 2016 04:11 PM

August 16, 2016

Michael Feldstein

Changes at D2L: A second-hand view from users conference

As I have described to several executives at D2L, there is an interesting gap between the progress we have seen with the company’s product improvements and the reaction we hear from many of their customers. With the tighter integration with LeaP and the improved usability, particularly in content authoring, I would have expected to hear more customers react to the changes. But when talking directly to many of the institutions using the Brightspace LMS, staff describe D2L as if the company and product line had not changed in several years. What is not clear is whether this gap is due the company missing the mark (and my judgement of improvements not aligning with what colleges and universities want) or whether there is just a lag where it will take time for most customers to believe in and take advantage the new product designs and features.

2016 has been an eventful year for D2L. COO Cheryl Ainoa, a longtime veteran of Yahoo! and most recently Intuit, joined the company in April. Although this move was not advertised through press releases or even blog posts, I believe this is a significant change to how the company operates. This is not the first time that D2L has reached outside the industry for a top executive, as they employed Dennis Kavelman from RIM / Blackberry as COO from 2012 – 2014 (the period where D2L raised $165 million in two mammoth funding rounds). But I have heard that the addition of Ainoa has already seen results internally. And in the ‘keeping work in perspective’ category, founder and CEO John Baker and his wife had their first child right before the Fusion Users Conference.


On the product front, D2L has positioned itself to offer as many leading features within the LMS as possible. While the company has been quite active with IMS Global to work on interoperability standards, it appears that in their hearts D2L would prefer to have users stay within the LMS. They have added their own adaptive learning software through the acquisition of Knowillage (now known as LeaP), although LeaP still integrates with most other LMSs. They have added many features to enable Competency-Based Education, including automation of feedback and automatic triggers for next steps, to a greater degree than most of their competitors.

More recently D2L has started to introduce the Daylight Experience, meant to upgrade the user experience of faculty and students using Brightspace. Daylight has started to roll out this summer with the goals of providing a great first impression, enable responsive design, and simplifying the visual design. Below is a view of what’s next as Daylight applies to Brightspace.

D2L Daylight

From the demos I’ve seen, D2L has made the biggest usability improvements to the system in terms of course design, allowing drag-and-drop, and simplified workflows. The primary features of the Brightspace LMS (and LeaP adaptive platform) that D2L is emphasizing are those that enable personalized learning and competency-based education. For a view of Daylight changes to the LMS, see the Fusion (D2L users conference) keynote starting at 12:30; for more of the view of outcomes / CBE features in the LMS, see keynote starting at 39:56.

Market Position

On the sales front, D2L has experienced somewhat slow but steady growth in new US / Canadian higher education clients as seen below, but they have not had the big-name wins of the caliber of UMUC[1], Tennessee Board of Regents, University System of Georgia, as they had 2013 and earlier. This year, however, D2L’s Brightspace has been selected at Kaplan University for higher ed, and Florida Virtual School, K12 Inc, and the State of New Mexico for K-12. It is worth noting that for the recent wins, the client (or D2L, these are press releases after all) chose to make the personalized learning aspect of Brightspace a key differentiator.

Implementations Update June 2016

D2L has made an aggressive effort to win those schools such as Kaplan that are forced to migrate from Pearson’s LearningStudio due to that system’s end-of-life notice earlier this year. In fact, Pearson and D2L have partnered by a preferred vendor arrangement that has helped Texas Christian University, Saint Leo University and several others choose to migrate to Brightspace.

Brightspace is the recommended LMS for Pearson LearningStudio customers, who consist of institutions with full or partial online programs and who were notified of Pearson’s plan to retire the Pearson LearningStudio platform.

At the same time, D2L has long had a reputation for strong customer retention, keeping 98 – 99% of their clients each year. There have been client losses, primarily to Canvas (San Jose State University, for example), but not that many of them. See the very bottom of this chart for comparative size of D2L migrations away from their LMS.


While D2L has had some big wins this year, they also face some big losses (partially due to Unizin). The University of Iowa, Ohio State University, the University of Oklahoma and the University of Wisconsin Madison have all decided within the past year to migrate to Canvas. That last one is very significant, as the University System of Wisconsin was the key win that put D2L on the map as a major contender in the LMS market in 2002. Note that only UW Madison has made decision to migrate – not the entire system. We have not yet seen a significant change in market data in our LMS subscription service data, but these specific accounts – both wins and losses – could indicate upcoming market share changes.

And this gets back to the gap noted in the first paragraph. When I talk to people at schools migrating from D2L or considering whether to migrate, I do not hear much about the recent product changes or the new management described above. For several of these schools, the issue isn’t even whether they like or dislike the recent product and management changes, it’s as if these changes are a non issue in their decision-making. No conclusions yet, just noting the gap.

Why Second-Hand?

The reason I titled this post as a second-hand view is that D2L is the only major LMS provider (and I include Moodle and Sakai here) that discouraged our participation in their users conference (and we did not attend), citing concerns over direct conversations with attendees without getting their permission first. Other providers are happy to allow and even encourage this type of interaction. In the nature of full disclosure, we think it is important for the reader to understand this difference in access.

Michael and I value the ability to not just hear official presentations and get in-depth demos, but to also go, roam, and talk to customers. D2L staff did go out of their way to provide demos and to have knowledgeable staff available on the calls, but this is different than hearing from colleges and universities about their experience and judgement. We do have other tools at our disposal, including our consulting work for schools, but we’re limited in what we can do with that information due to confidentiality agreements. We also get unsolicited reports from LMS customers, but those tend to skew towards the negative as people are more inclined to share bad experiences than good. And of course we do a lot of online secondary research, including analysis of social media posts.

I will note that I heard that the Fusion users conference reaction seemed very positive. One source in particular noted a lot of energy in the hall and positive reception to the announced changes to the product line, to the point where they were very surprised by what they were seeing (had not expected to be impressed).

Nevertheless, while we are seeing and reporting on some positive developments with D2L, our confidence in how well those changes are actually impacting real customers is limited. General feedback from the conference seemed to be positive, but individual conversations with several schools paints a different picture. So take some of this analysis with a grain of salt. We are working with D2L to improve our ability to benefit from future conferences and get more insight in the future. In the meantime, it will be important to watch and see if D2L can extend some of the bigger higher ed wins for other LearningStudio schools and even beyond, and if D2L can avoid losing more big name accounts.

Update 8/16: Added K12, Inc to list of recent wins. Corrected “University of Oklahoma” even though they abbreviate to OU.

Update 8/17: I had missed the official decision on U Wisconsin Madison migrating to Canvas. Post updated to reflect this decision and context.

  1. Disclosure: I advised UMUC during their strategy and evaluation process in 2011-2012.

The post Changes at D2L: A second-hand view from users conference appeared first on e-Literate.

by Phil Hill at August 16, 2016 10:16 PM

August 15, 2016

Michael Feldstein

TechCrunch: “EdTech – 2017’s big, untapped and safe investor opportunity”

David Bainbridge, CEO of UK-based Knowledgemotion, wrote a post on Saturday in TechCrunch titled “Edtech is the next fintech” calling out the huge, untapped potential of EdTech. Thanks to Alan Levine for sharing this one. Spoiler alert:

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. The opportunities edtech promises the world’s largest content providers, the biggest educational institutions and any investor looking for a “sure thing” are almost endless. While it might be slightly late to the “digital-first” party, edtech is poised to be the biggest and possibly most profitable digitalized sector yet.

This is exciting! Not only could EdTech be the biggest market sector yet, it is also “also the safest bet for investors”. Oh my goodness, tell me more.

First of all “FinTech” is short-hand for financial companies that are changing the financial and banking industries. Think PayPal and Intuit for old-timers, or Square, or multiple payment processing companies letting other companies accept payments over the Internet. To get an idea of this market, consider global financing to fintech from 2010 – 2015.


This gets to the TechCrunch article’s real setup, noting that investors might not keep investing in fintech at the same rates:

This presents a window of opportunity for investors trying to spot, catch and ride the wave of the next “fintech.”

Enter edtech — 2017’s big, untapped and safe investor opportunity.

Safe and huge? Let’s go.

There are a few caveats to consider first, however. Let’s call them quibbles.

Timing and Shape of Investment Waves

It turns out that if you read TechCrunch, you might have seen a 2015 article showing that edtech actually predates fintech in investment waves. There was one in 1999 – 2000 that quickly fizzled, and the currently one started in 2007 – well before the ramp up in fintech and much slower.

And unfortunately for those wanting to catch the upcoming wave, there are some strong signs that the wave has already crested. As CB Insights described in April EdTech, financing for the sector has started to slump and deals “have flatlined”.

Dollars vs. Knowledge

There is the additional detail that FinTech’s actual product is flow of dollars (or Yuan, Euros, Pounds, whatever) while EdTech’s actual product is flow of knowledge in people. If there are more efficient and useful business models to process money, individuals and companies can shift quickly and with no real change in the value of the dollar itself. If there are alternate ways to educate people, it takes a long, long time for the people to flow through a new system, and the nature of learning and knowledge gained might be completely different. Look at MOOCs, which promised new business models and new flows of people. In EdTech, there are often new models (consider coding bootcamps for a more recent example), but the typical response is not to completely replace schools or institutions, but rather for these schools to slowly (and painfully) adapt and pick up many of the same technologies and approaches.

And it is very easy to measure the results of FinTech – you can see how many dollars flow through different gateways or processing systems, and the value of the underlying unit does not change. But when student change how they are educated, it is very difficult to measure the results. How much did someone learn, and what is the efficacy of the new approach? Knowledge does not have precise definitions and assessments are nowhere close to perfect measurements. And even more, there are multiple interdependent variables that cannot be separated – course design, teaching quality, student demographics, etc, etc. As Michael described in the Chronicle after the SRI analysis of Gates Foundation-funded adaptive learning programs:

That said, the murkiness of the results are not only, or even mainly, due to the limitations of adaptive learning. This study is plagued by a fundamental and pervasive methodological problem in educational research — namely, that it is often either impossible or unethical to control variables in a way that gets empirically solid, reproducible results.

Anyone who has had at least one high-school science class will probably remember that the key to doing science is to control the variables. To measure the impact of a variable, one must make sure that the variable is the only relevant detail that changes in your experiment. In educational research, the biggest variables are often the students.

There are efforts such as competency-based education that do attempt to better define learning outcomes and shift students to new models, but there are efforts on the periphery. The point here is that students are not dollars and knowledge is not easily measurable.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reported inconclusive results in their worldwide study last year of the results of technology usage in schools. As the OECD education director described:

But Mr Schleicher says the findings of the report should not be used as an “excuse” not to use technology, but as a spur to finding a more effective approach.

The challenge for “scaling” in EdTech is not fundamentally about new technology. It is about finding out effective teaching practices and professional development efforts that leverage EdTech. The scaling or diffusion of innovations by the nature of education will be long and complex – not at all fast and disruptive in the same way as online payment processing or similar FinTech innovations.

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

Other than the EdTech wave actually starting and peaking much earlier and much slower than FinTech, and other than the underlying product being on the opposite ends of the spectrum in term of complexity and ability to measure results, and other than the lack of massive scaling for new EdTech, the author is right that EdTech is an upcoming wave to spot and ride just like FinTech. Fine article.

OK, I take that back, even the play sucked. What this TechCrunch article describes is exactly what we don’t need in EdTech and really doesn’t work in EdTech. We don’t need investors looking for get-rich-quick schemes and unlimited profits from an over-simplified understanding of education, expecting quick results. There are plenty of examples of proper technology usage enhancing learning and enriching student lives. And there is a valuable role for careful investment to enable the development of EdTech. Technology does have enormous potential in education. But what we need is patient and knowledgeable capital – investors willing wait for good ideas to mature and be ready to spread without pushing companies to scale too early. We need investors who understand that the greatest opportunities in EdTech come when the technology enables new pedagogical approaches in the hands of caring and knowledgeable educators. Pure platform plays in EdTech are very rare at least in terms of providing real results. Education requires more of a services approach in combination with the technology. Working with educators, learning from them, applying different solutions in different contexts.

No, EdTech is not the next FinTech, and that is a good thing. Unlike the article.

The post TechCrunch: “EdTech – 2017’s big, untapped and safe investor opportunity” appeared first on e-Literate.

by Phil Hill at August 15, 2016 04:50 AM

August 12, 2016

Adam Marshall

WebLearn 11 is coming: a new mobile-friendly version of WebLearn will be released for the next academic year

WebLearn will be upgraded to the latest version of the underlying software platform (Sakai 11) in time for Michaelmas Term 2016.

This upgrade will ensure that staff and students benefit from the latest set of enhancements, including a new ‘responsive design’ which enables optimal usability on mobile devices.

Benefits of WebLearn 11

  • Updated, modern look-and-feel
  • Responsive user interface for easy access and viewing across all devices including desktops, tablets and smartphones
  • A redesigned ‘Sites’ tab which enables you to organise, ‘favourite’ and ‘pin’ your most-used sites, providing ‘one-click’ access from the main menu bar
  • New-look Lessons tool, including multiple column, grid-style layout to reduce the need for scrolling
  • Improved Gradebook tool, with direct spreadsheet-style entry of marks, automatic saving and data validation, and student summary view
  • Anonymous posting to the Forums tool
  • Improved HTML editor, including ‘auto-save’ facility, LaTeX mathematical notiation and new file browser
  • Support for IMS LTI (v2.0) and IMS LTI Content Item (for enhanced functionality with third-party plug-in tools)
  • Latest underlying software support (Java and Tomcat) according to industry standards



Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Will I have to do anything so that my site still works as it currently does?

A: No – existing live sites will be automatically migrated to the new version.

Q: Will I have to do anything so my site works seamlessly on a mobile device?

A: Yes, check how the design and layout function on small screens. You may need to edit content so it is responsive, i.e., displays well on a mobile phone

Further information

  • Further information was provided at the WebLearn User Group on 27 June 2016.
  • Detailed information will be sent to all WebLearn staff users when the new version of WebLearn is available.
  • WebLearn support and training materials will be updated and promoted during the 2016/17 academic year.
  • We are also taking a long-term strategic approach to technology-enhanced teaching and learning at Oxford through the VLE Review, which will take place throughout the 2016/17 academic year.


by Adam Marshall at August 12, 2016 03:06 PM

August 11, 2016

Adam Marshall

Sakai is leading the field!

Dr Chuck's ring of LTI complianceHere’s a note I just received from Chuck Severance.

“The first Learning Management System (VLE) in the world to pass the soon-to-be-announced IMS Learning Tools Interoperability Content Item Message spec is Sakai 11.

This means Sakai 11 has formal certification in IMS Learning Tools Interoperability, 1.0 LTI 1.1, LTI 2.0, and LTI ContentItem in Sakai-11.”

Chuck is the “guy with the Sakai, Moodle and Canvas tattoos” and has been instrumental in developing the IMS LTI Content Item Message specification and has single-handedly implemented it inside Sakai.

This feature will be available for use in WebLearn 11 from Michaelmas term 2016.

What is IMS LTI Content Item Message?

“Content-Item Message 1.0 is an LTI specification for exchanging content between applications and tools. The types of content which can be shared includes a broad range of types such as static links, embedded images or other media types and files, extending the LTI toolbox and streamlining the process of setting up an LTI tool link.  Content-Item Message enables external (LTI) tools to appear in the same way that internal tools do.  Using Content-Item Message will eliminate a common need for custom integrations.” (from


by Adam Marshall at August 11, 2016 03:28 PM

July 15, 2016

Apereo Foundation

June 28, 2016

Ian Boston

Referendums are binary so should be advisory

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

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 20.08.07

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

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

by Ian at June 28, 2016 07:09 PM

June 21, 2016


Upgrade Date Announced

Sakai has been scheduled to be upgraded on:

August 5, 2016 from 6am to 10am EST.

The upgrade should take about 4 hours. During this time Sakai will be completely inaccessible to you and to students.

A confirmation email will be sent following the upgrade, letting you know that you can again login to Sakai.

The upgrade will take Sakai from version 10 to version 11, and includes updates some new features and most of all a new look that’s meant to make accessing Sakai on mobile and tablet devices much easier. See this list for a full list of the new features and changes. You can track availability of Sakai using the Johnson University Internet Services page. Login credentials will not be affected.

The User Guide is a good place to start when you have immediate questions.

Contact the Help Desk if you have issues following the upgrade.

Why isn’t the upgrade happening sooner?

by Dave E. at June 21, 2016 03:36 PM

Upgrade Schedule Rationale

The most important aspect of the upgrade is to make it as smooth as possible and minimize frustration and headache for both faculty and students.

Sakai is a world class, open source learning management system providing a platform for tens of thousands of students in various educational settings and used by the likes of Duke, Standford, Oxford and others.  The global Sakai community is currently in the process of field testing Sakai 11 and making sure it’s ready for ‘prime time’.  This testing is critical to put Sakai 11 through it’s paces to insure quality assurance for every adopting institution and organization.

The Quality Assurance testing is done by faculty, students and administrators in institutions who are using Sakai currently.  This QA process in collaboration with Sakai Developers helps insure Sakai 11 is ready.

In order to insure a smooth upgrade and provide ample time for instructors to prepare for their upcoming fall courses, course sites for the Fall 2016 term will be made available July 5, 2016.  This provides faculty with course sites a full month prior to the upgrade and about three weeks of lead time before fall term courses begin on August 22, 2016. This is a change from the plan to wait until the after the Sakai upgrade to create fall term course sites.

Contact the Department of Online Education with questions.

by Dave E. at June 21, 2016 03:35 PM

June 17, 2016

Apereo Foundation

Alex Balleste


More than two years ago Juanjo Meroño and I started the project LooWID ( As many of you already know it's an open source videoconference platform based on WebRTC that allow users to join in small rooms and share webcam, screen and audio and share files directly from browser to browser. Eduardo Rey has been also involved designing and implementing the interface and that helped a lot to have a nice platform.

It has been an good experience since we moved to make it open source instead of offering just as a service. Before we opened the project we tried to get feedback from friends and family and there were some interesting results. We asked them to fill a survey to guess what business model would be the best for LooWID. We were concerned that we should offer it as free but we needed to find a way to fund the infrastructure, and perhaps if the project grows contract an small team to work on it.  We were asking about the way the project must be funded. There were some options like, mandatory pay for use, advertisements, or donations. Around  90% of answers were 'donations' but in the following questions asking if they would donate to use a service like that, in small donations regularly or a bigger one (10€ - 15€) once, they all absolutely answer 'NO'.

So our conclusion was that people won't pay for a service that is offered by others for free, so we decided to change the direction and go to a fully opened to try to involve more people in the project in order to keep it alive. We knew that our motivation in the project would end if there was no response, so opening we wanted to get more people involved looking for more feedback to get energy to continue.
In some way we got it because we got a lot of nice words in the project, a lot of translations of platforms like German, Russian, Hungarian, other helped promoting the app with their tweets, and also Jose Rabal helped us with security, so the project got some good stuff, but the same main developers  that were at the beginning.

Now 1.4.1 release is out and included some interesting things like oembed integration in chat, but we realized that we can not afford big challenges like the one we were working on: the WebRTC relay. We were looking a way to grow up the numbers of users that were consuming streams in a LooWID room creating a relay in each  client in order to build multiple tree structures that would guarantee thousands of users getting video and audio running a simple 1GB Ram server. That sounds great, isn't it? But reality is that the time we can invest after work is too small and that makes it impossible to assume bigger goals like that :-(

So we've frozen the project for a while, trying to rest and get energy again. I hope that soon we'll start working again in some new features.

by Alex Ballesté ( at June 17, 2016 01:36 PM

June 16, 2016


How do I select a profile image?

Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 4.08.24 PMSelecting a profile image in Sakai allows others to see who you are, and even shows up in discussion forums – helping others in the class identify who you are.

Selecting and uploading an image is easy and takes just 60 seconds.

To choose a profile image:

  1. image7Select Profile on the left (laptop or desktop) or if you’re on a mobile or slate, select the profile image on the top right and in the drop down menu select “Profile”.
  2. On the new window that appears hover over the profile image and select “Change picture”. If you’re on a mobile or slate, tap the profile image, and then tap the “Change picture” link that appears.
  3. Next select Choose File and upload an image from your device by browsing to an image on your computer or taking one with your mobile.
  4. After selecting the image you want to use, click or tap Upload.

Your new image should now show up in the Profile area and in the top right near the logout menu.

Be sure to select an image that helps others identify and recognize who you are.

by Dave E. at June 16, 2016 08:22 PM