Planet Sakai

May 20, 2018

Michael Feldstein

Top Hat’s OER Announcement: Doubling down on faculty engagement

Several months ago I wrote a post looking at the Top Hat's push into digital curricular materials through their Textbook product and Marketplace for digital course content. Leading up to that post, I had been planning to cover the Open Educational Resources (OER) angle, as the Marketplace included a number of openly-licensed material, much of it from OpenStax, and Top Hat had already begun marketing itself as an OER provider. At the time, the OER strategy seemed a work in progress. In fact, I found that some of my questions for company staff about OER basics - the role of Creative Commons licenses, community dynamics exhibited at the OpenEd conference, etc - led to a lack of answers, and at the time there was no export capability to get OER out of the platform.

To Fee or Not to Fee

The situation has changed since January, and with last month's announcement of Top Hat's Open Content Initiative the company is taking a stand on whether it is appropriate to charge for platform access. The idea of hosting and modifying OER on a fee-based platform became a big topic last year. Lumen Learning pioneered the Red Hat type model in 2014, and last year there was a big movement with Cengage, Knewton, OpenStax, Macmillan, and Top Hat all offering OER within their platforms. In many cases, the OER content itself has been redesigned from traditional textbook-in-PDF format to learning objective-driven content with aligned assessments.1

Top Hat has now removed the student platform fees and added an export-to-epub feature. As evidenced in a company blog post by CEO Mike Silagadze, they are not shy about it either.

At Top Hat, we’ve been working on making education more effective and affordable since 2009. Now, we’re happy to make a move that delivers on both fronts. Beginning April 12, with the launch of our Open Content Initiative, we’re offering completely free access to thousands of textbooks and other Open Educational Resources (OER)—freely accessible and openly licensed learning materials—on the Top Hat Marketplace.

It’s about time. Students have been forced to weigh the pros and cons of emptying their wallets and draining their financial aid to buy textbooks for far too long. [snip] Just as bad, digital publishing platforms and e-readers have been charging a toll to students—disguised as a platform fee—to access free, openly licensed OER.

Enough is enough.

I asked Silagadze about a point I noted when describing Cengage's OpenNow product:

For each course [VP of Content Strategy] Constantini estimates that the modifications take $50k - $100k of internal work, including verifying of licenses for embedded elements. I would note a certain irony here in that OpenStax produces more-or-less traditional digital textbooks requiring publishers or OER services companies like Lumen to break apart and realign to competencies or outcomes.

Silagadze brushed off this description and stated that the modifications made by other providers were far smaller and easier to make than is being claimed. We now have a third variation in the OER market, with the provision of wrap-around platform and a clear argument that these platforms not only will be free on Top Hat, but that they should be free as a matter of principle.

  • Free content, not dependent on specific platform
  • Free and modified content, available on a paid platform, content available for export
  • Free and lightly modified content, available on a free platform, content available for export

While this is a marketing position by one of the competitors in a new field, this move by Top Hat is a further sign of the OER movement breaking into different branches. From our perspective, the fractures in the OER community have been widening for the past several years, but to a degree this is a sign of success. Openly-licensed content usage is becoming more and more common in education, and even traditional publishers mostly accept the value of OER.

Faculty Engagement

Perhaps more significantly, at least in terms of understanding Top Hat as a company, is that the OER initiative doubles down on their bet on faculty engagement. A well-known issue with OER (and even with non-open content) is that few faculty end up taking advantage when given the ability to modify the course materials in any significant manner. In theory many people talk about open pedagogy in terms of faculty modification and collaboration on content, but in practice this rarely happens. Top Hat's view is that the barrier has been flat content and cumbersome platforms, as best described in an eLearning Inside interview.

“We think the promise of OER has fallen down,” said Nina Bilimoria Angelo, VP of product and customer marketing at Top Hat. The Toronto-based company has created a platform to house, customize, and share OER and other educational resources. It has been used by over 2.8 million students to date.

“The promise was there’s a community that continues to build on open materials,” Angelo said. “But when those materials are trapped behind static PDFs, and then people are making changes to it on their own without a mechanism to share it back, that’s where things fall flat. We really wanted to create a system where things can be improved in real time, not over a 3 or 4 year cycle like with traditional publishers.”

“Discoverability is a challenge with OER,” Angelo said. “Quality can be perceived as uneven which is probably why OER adoption has stalled at the 5-10% level for instructors. There’s a lot of skepticism amongst higher educators. We’re trying to make sure all the high quality material is available in the Marketplace. Once it’s adopted, it’s really customizable. But then those customizations – this is the magic – those customizations can be shared back with the author and the team so that they can improve upon what they’ve created.”

This is the best way to interpret Top Hat's OER move, in my opinion, and you can see more details in my January post about the Marketplace to better understand the customization and sharing capabilities of the platform.

According to an internal Top Hat survey of users, 89% of adopters make changes to digital textbooks that they adopt, with 22% reporting "lots of customization". If this internal data is representative, there may be some indicators that faculty can be more involved in modifying and sharing content. Top Hat is betting on faculty engaging with content, modifying it, sharing it, updating it. And they are betting that this model will drive faculty adoption decisions.

There are a lot of unknowns about faculty adoption and modification of OER content through the Top Hat Open Content Initiative, but it is clear that the company is positioning itself differently than other providers. The transformation of digital curricular materials continues.

  1. Disclosure: Lumen is a client of MindWires, and I recently gave a paid keynote at a Top Hat user's conference.

The post Top Hat’s OER Announcement: Doubling down on faculty engagement appeared first on e-Literate.

by Phil Hill at May 20, 2018 02:25 PM

May 16, 2018

Michael Feldstein

Textbook Authors Sue over Cengage Unlimited Royalties

Back in January, I wrote of Cengage's "all you can eat" Unlimited pricing announcement:

We don't know whether Cengage will be a winner from this strategy, but we do know who will be the losers: textbook authors. Cengage, of course, denies this. Cengage CTO George Moore, when asked about the contract renegotiations with the authors to make this fly, said only that "Cengage renegotiates contracts with authors all time." Michael Hansen claimed that Cengage's interests and their authors are aligned, and that their authors are all very concerned about the affordability of textbooks.


In February of 2015, Greg Mankiw—Cengage's blockbuster economics textbook author who has made literally millions of dollars from his relationship with Cengage—expressed perplexity at the The New York Times' call for less expensive textbooks:

To me, this reaction seems strange. After all, the Times is a for-profit company in the business of providing information. If it really thought that some type of information (that is, textbooks) was vastly overpriced, wouldn't the Times view this as a great business opportunity? Instead of merely editorializing, why not enter the market and offer a better product at a lower price? The Times knows how to hire writers, editors, printers, etc. There are no barriers to entry in the textbook market, and the Times starts with a pretty good brand name.

My guess is that the Times business managers would not view starting a new textbook publisher as an exceptionally profitable business opportunity, which if true only goes to undermine the premise of its editorial writers.

Given that Mankiw was name-checked in the Cengage Unlimited announcement press release, management must have worked something out with him to keep him happy. We are hearing whispers from the company's competitors that not all authors were given such an opportunity and that lawsuits may follow. We'll see whether that bears out. Regardless, though, this model does fundamentally change the relationship that the publisher has with its authors. With buffet-style pricing at a low rental price point, a model like Cengage Unlimited is likely to do to textbook authors what Spotify and other music subscription services did to musicians. There may still be a handful of superstar authors whose books are such outsized hits that they can still command royalties and large advances. But the vast majority of authors will see their income shrink. They either will get smaller royalty agreements or will be paid once on a fee-for-services basis so that the company can own the content outright. My guess is that there will be a lot more of the latter than the former. Keep in mind that copyright negotiations for a textbook or textbook-equivalent involve more than just the author(s). There may be literally hundreds of permissions to track for photographs, videos, animations, and so on. To the degree that "good enough" wins out over "better enough", publishers will be under strong pressure to own as much of their content outright as they can.

Today's Inside Higher Ed headline: Textbook Authors Sue Cengage Over Subscription Model.

To be clear, I don't know if, contractually, this lawsuit has merit or what is likely to happen with this particular suit. But the handwriting is on the wall. If textbook prices come down, then textbook royalties also have to come down.

Regardless, all of this is transitional. As students are asking, "Why should we pay all this money for content that is increasingly available online for free?", textbook publishers are asking themselves the same question. Rights management is an expensive nightmare for them. Their businesses would be much more manageable if they could use either OER, fee-for-service content that they own outright, or both. Their biggest challenge is that faculty are used to using a particular textbook and may have some attachment to the particular author. If the publishers replace that book with one that doesn't have all of those royalty entanglements, then faculty are more likely to look around at competitors' offerings since, hey, if they have to rework their class for a book anyway, they might as well look around. If it weren't for that problem, I suspect that publishers would be swapping out titles more quickly.

The post Textbook Authors Sue over Cengage Unlimited Royalties appeared first on e-Literate.

by Michael Feldstein at May 16, 2018 03:50 PM

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 13, 2018

Apereo Foundation

May 10, 2018

Michael Feldstein

Postscript on Rio Salado Coverage: Clarity about different outcome types

After my two posts two weeks ago calling into question whether Rio Salado College has demonstrated clear student outcomes that justify its usage as an exemplar institution, college officials have responded through the WCET blog and in an article from Paul Fain at Inside Higher Ed. I recommend reading the IHE article in particular to get an understanding of the challenging an nuanced question of what is "good enough" in terms of college completion, and for even more detail read Rio's written response. Unfortunately, the lengthy explanations on graduation rates from Rio end up obscuring a critical distinction between awarding degrees versus certificates of completion. The reason this matters is that Rio appears to be doing a better than average job supporting student transfers to four-year degree programs, a worse than average job of helping students complete two-year degrees, and an unknown job of providing students with non-degree stand-alone certificates.

Before dealing with this issue, I'd like to point out how useful this dialog has been and how open Rio has been in sharing internal metrics. One example that I wish other institutions used, and that can help us clarify how to understand completion data, is based on student goals.

Rio Student Intentions

Fully 76% of Rio students have no intention to get a degree or certificate, and of this group 33% (11,628) indicated earning transferable credit as the key reason to enroll. As Sally Johnstone said in the IHE article, "It’s a feeder school for Arizona State University". This transfer of credit mission can be good or bad - it depends on how well these students perform in getting an ASU degree. In the written response, but not in WCET or IHE articles, Rio shares an interesting but incomplete metric.

Additionally, as part of the work RSC does related to accountability, we track the success of our transfer students to the three public universities in Arizona (The 2010/11 – 2015/16 5 year trend shows a 77.10% increase in bachelor degrees awarded to students that had completed a minimum of 12 credit hours (up to 60 or more hours) at Rio Salado College).

Increase to what and over what? It is not clear if this is comparing to Arizona university students who do not transfer any credits from Rio, or those who transfer less than 12, or those who transfer from other colleges. Nevertheless, this is an indicator of the college helping students obtain four-year degrees through credit transfers.

Once you get beyond non-degree / non-certificate seeking students, the numbers are murkier, and this is the area that needs clarity. One out of four Rio students are there to get an award - how successful are they? Rio recommends we look at the Voluntary Framework for Accountability (VFA) measures, instead of IPEDS, with the following results.

• 2-year graduation rate is higher than peer institutions: Rio 13%; Peer Institutions 10%
• 6-year graduation rate for credential-seeking cohort is 36.2%
• The credential seeking cohort far outperformed sister institutions in completion: Rio 42%; Peer Institutions 16%

I do not know why Rio uses the term graduation rate, as VFA instead describes Percent Students Completed a Formal Award, but from the numbers used we can see where the data comes from. The first and third bullets come from the VFA Two-Year Progress measures (blue column under Completed).1

What is key is that the Completed metric includes those who obtained an associate's degree or official certificate. Unlike degrees, certificates of completion have no standards across schools, and their usage is very uneven. As an example of Rio's usage:

Notably, since 2010 Rio has defined and awarded more and more of these <1 year certificates, based on IPEDS data.

We can see is that the large majority of completions, which Rio labels under graduation rate, comes from the nonstandard certificates rather than degrees.

One of the strengths of VFA is that under the Six-Year Outcomes measures, you can separate out the various types of award. Below is the data for Rio - pay attention to the Credential-Seeking Cohort, as it removes the majority of non-degree / non-certificate seeking students at Rio only looking to transfer a small number of credits.2 Also note that VFA outcomes are mutually-exclusive and hierarchical in the order shown. If a student gets a certificate and a degree, they are listed under the degree outcome.

For the Credential-Seeking Cohort, 22% of Rio students get a certificate and do not transfer to a four-year school, 7% get a certificate and transfer, 3% get an associate's degree and do not transfer, and 4% get an associate's degree and transfer. A large majority of Rio Salado completions are for certificates, which is consistent with the IPEDS data.

How does Rio compare to other large community colleges? While we have not analyzed all 200+ colleges in VFA, spot checking with some peer schools indicates that Rio is well below others in awarding degrees but well above others in awarding certificates.

The resulting data provide the basis of my comment in IHE:

“This is not a bad situation, per se, as long as students are gaining value in the workplace for these official certificates,” he said via email. “But certificates are not useful in terms of comparing apples to apples, especially when one school uses them liberally, as does Rio, and most other schools do not.”

Hill also noted that Rio Salado’s VFA completion rate for associate degree programs is a “troublesome” 7 percent.

While I appreciate the valuable sharing of information from Rio Salado in this process, I'll stick with my original conclusion:

At best, this is a school with mixed results that should not simply be labeled a success without caveats or explanations.

Rio has shown that they can cut costs and still be a successful transfer school, but not that they can be a successful degree school. This matters a great deal in terms of how transferrable the lessons are. It’s fine to focus on transfers when you’re right next door to ASU. But what if you’re Adirondack Community College? There are places where degree completion matter more or less than at Rio. And what about those students going to Rio who *are* seeking degrees? Does this model promote some educational outcomes at the expense of others? And if so, shouldn’t students know about that before enrolling?

  1. The VFA definition of the cohorts: Main Cohort = fall entering, first time at reporting college; “all students”; Credential Seeking = earned 12 credits by end of year two.
  2. For degree or certificate-seeking cohorts, I prefer the Rio definition based on student self-reporting, but the VFA definitions get at the same idea.

The post Postscript on Rio Salado Coverage: Clarity about different outcome types appeared first on e-Literate.

by Phil Hill at May 10, 2018 02:16 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 22, 2018

Dr. Chuck

Release 0.5.0 of Tsugi coming soon

If you have been watching Tsugi-php and tsugi lately, you have seen the pace of commits slowing down.  This is good because ultimately Tsugi wants to be a library that just works.   But a few recent efforts like improving blob support and activity tracking took a lot of effort and a lot of commits. But that code is now solid and has been in production for a while at scale.
The Tsugi release approach is that you run master and in a periodic cron (for me it is hourly) do a “git pull” and run upgrade.php.   Master needs to always be production ready and all my production servers run master within an hour of a commit.  While many of you may not be this aggressive (and don’t need to be) – I do this so I know if something goes wrong almost instantly.   We are working on better unit tests and post-commit hook functionality tests to make this strategy even safer.
But with this as approach, the way releases work is more to do with freezing master at a very safe place so that we can try something in master.  That way if something goes awry in master – you just jump back to  a safe place.  Kind of like mountain climbing with a lead climber.  Always have a place to fall back to.
I will be making a change in master that I expect will be safe, but just to be sure, I want to make the 0.5.0 release / branch to come back to.
Some of you have noticed that I have frozen various versions of dependencies in composer.json:
I did this because I did not want to update a dependency and mix it with a change I was making as we went along the path.  This way I did not make my change and update a dependency in the same breath so I *know* if something broken is my fault or a dependency failure / regression.   Dependencies are software too – and can make make mistakes in minor releases.  I conside my own QA to be QAing both all of tsugi plus its dependencies.
So what I will do as soon as I make the 0.5.0 release is update composer.json to let the dependency versions upgrade.  I will do this in a series of steps to allow for some QA/production experience at each step.
I will try to make no changes in tsugi-php or tsugi during this time unless a bug appears or a dependency upgrade breaks something.
What you will see is a series of updates that update a *lot* of files – all in the vendor folder.   It is OK.

by Charles Severance at April 22, 2018 01:14 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.
  2. Various UI improvements have been made, in particular, improving the size of modal popups in the Lessons tool, and the ability to use Bootstrap in HTML pages.
  3. Sign-up events now show their correct times in Office 365.
  4. When adding a discussion topic to a Lessons page, the description of that page from the Item Properties is automatically displayed.

If you have any questions, please contact


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

March 20, 2018

Adam Marshall

Improvements in WebLearn v11-ox9 released on 23 Jan 2018

A new version of WebLearn (version 11-ox9) was released on Tuesday 23 January 2018. There have been a number of improvements especially in the area of anonymous essay submissions.

Here is a breakdown of the enhancements.

Anonymous Submissions / Assignments

  • A warning is now issued if a file has been uploaded into the Assignment tool but the user has neglected to click ‘Submit’
  • The Turnitin Originality Report no longer loses anonymity once the due date has passed
  • Submission sites now have their own section in the Sites Drawer

Bulk Creation of Internal Subgroups

This release sees big improvements in the area of bulk creation of sub-groups (this is in Site Info > Manage Subgroups > Bulk Creation). It is possible to define multiple sets of groups and users in a file and have them created all at once. This facility should be particularly useful for Anonymous Submissions.

Visit Site Info and opt to Manage Subgroups.


On the next screen you are given the opportunity to upload a CSV file which can be generated by a spreadsheet application such as Excel. The contents of the CSV file can also be pasted into an on-screen text area.

Contact Us Tool

  • The link to the WebLearn Guidance site has been corrected
  • If a user tries to visit a site to which they don’t have access, the correct contact details are now shown, thus making it easy to ask to be added as a site member


  • In the Lessons tool, on a public site, hyperlinks inserted via the ‘Add Content’ option now work correctly for non-logged in users
  • There should no longer be any emails with a return address of
  • The title of the main panel of the Overview page has been changed from (the meaningless) Site Information Display to the more sensible Welcome!

by Adam Marshall at March 20, 2018 12:16 PM