Planet Sakai

March 05, 2015

Michael Feldstein

Blueprint for a Post-LMS, Part 2

In the first post of this series, I identified four design goals for a learning platform that would be well suited for discussion-based courses:

  1. Kill the grade book in order to get faculty away from concocting arcane and artificial grading schemes and more focused on direct measures of student progress.
  2. Use scale appropriately in order to gain pedagogical and cost/access benefits while still preserving the value of the local cohort guided by an expert faculty member, as well as to propagate exemplary course designs and pedagogical practices more quickly.
  3. Assess authentically through authentic conversations in order to give credit for the higher order competencies that students display in authentic problem-solving conversations.
  4. Leverage the socially constructed nature of expertise (and therefore competence) in order to develop new assessment measures based on the students’ abilities to join, facilitate, and get the full benefits from trust networks.

I also argued that platform design and learning design are intertwined. One implication of this is that there is no platform that will magically make education dramatically better if it works against the grain of the teaching practices in which it is embedded. The two need to co-evolve.

This last bit is an exceedingly tough nut to crack. If we were to design a great platform for conversation-based courses but it got adopted for typical lecture/test courses, the odds are that faculty would judge the platform to be “bad.” And indeed it would be, for them, because it wouldn’t have been designed to meet their particular teaching needs. At the same time, one of our goals is to use the platform to propagate exemplary pedagogical practices. We have a chicken and egg problem. On top of that, our goals suggest assessment solutions that differ radically from traditional ones, but we only have a vague idea so far of what they will be or how they will work. We don’t know what it will take to get them to the point where faculty and students generally agree that they are “fair,” and that they measure something meaningful. This is not a problem we can afford to take lightly. And finally, while one of our goals is to get teachers to share exemplary designs and practices, we will have to overcome significant cultural inhibitions to make this happen. Sometimes systems do improve sharing behavior simply by making sharing trivially easy—we see that with social platforms like Twitter and Facebook, for example—but it is not at all clear that just making it easy to share will improve the kind of sharing we want to encourage among faculty. We need to experiment in order to find out what it takes to help faculty become comfortable or even enthusiastic about sharing their course designs. Any one of these challenges could kill the platform if we fail to take them seriously.

When faced with a hard problem, it’s a good idea to find a simpler one you can solve that will get you partway to your goal. That’s what the use case I’m about to describe is designed to do. The first iteration of any truly new system should be designed as an experiment that can test hypotheses and assumptions. And the first rule of experimental design is to control the variables.

Of the three challenges I just articulated, the easiest one to get around is the assessment trust issue. The right use case should be an open, not-for-credit, not-for-certification course. There will be assessments, but the assessments don’t count. We would therefore be creating a situation somewhat like a beta test of a game. Participants would understand that the points system is still being worked out, and part of the fun of participation is seeing how it works and offering suggestions for improvement. The way to solve the problem of potential mismatches between platform and content is to test the initial release of the platform with content that was designed for it. As for the third problem, we need to pick a domain that is far enough away from the content and designs that faculty feel are “theirs” that the inhibitions regarding sharing are lower.

All of these design elements point toward piloting the platform with a faculty professional development cMOOC. Faculty can experience the platform as students in a low-stakes environment. And I find that even faculty who are resistant to talking about pedagogy in their traditional classes tend to be more open-minded when technology enters the picture because it’s not an area where they feel they are expected to be experts. But it can’t be a traditional cMOOC (if that isn’t an oxymoron). We want to model the distributed flip, where there are facilitators of local cohorts in addition to the large group participation. This suggests a kind of a “reading group” or “study group” structure. The body of material for the MOOC is essentially a library of content. Each campus-based group chooses to go through the content in their own way. They may cover all of it or skip some of it. They may add their own content. Each group will have its own space to organize its activities, but this space will be open to other groups. There will be discussions open to everyone, but groups and individual members can participate in those or not, as they choose. Presumably each group would have at least a nominal leader who would take the lead on organizing the content and activities for the local cohort. This would typically be somebody like the head of a Center for Educational Technology, but it could also be an interested faculty member, or the group could organize its activities by consensus.

To make the use case more concrete, let’s assume that the curriculum will revolve around the forthcoming e-Literate TV series on personalized learning. This is something that I would ideally like to do in the real world, but it also has the right characteristics for the current thought experiment. The heart of the series is five case studies of schools trying different personalized learning approaches:

  • Middlebury College, an elite New England liberal arts school in rural Vermont
  • Essex County College, a community college in Newark, NJ
  • Empire State College, a SUNY school that focuses on non-traditional students and has a heavy distance learning program
  • Arizona State University, a large public university with a largely top-down approach to implementing personalized learning
  • A large public university with a largely bottom-up approach to implementing personalized learning

These thirty-minute case studies, plus the wrapper content that Phil and I are putting together (including a recorded session at the last ELI conference), covers a number of cross-cutting issues. Here are a few:

  • What does “personalized” really mean? When (and how) does technology personalize, and when does it depersonalize?
  • How does the idea of “personalized” change based on the needs of different kinds of students in different kinds of institutions?
  • How do personalized learning technologies, implemented thoughtfully in these different contexts, change the roles of the teacher, the TA, and the students?
  • What kinds of pedagogy seem to work best with self-paced products that are labeled as providing personalized learning?
  • What’s hard about using these technologies effectively, and what are the risks?

That’s the content and the context. Since we’re going for something like a PBL design, the central problem that each cohort would need to tackle is, “What, if anything, should we be doing with personalized learning tools and pedagogical approaches in our school?” This question can be tackled in a lot of different ways, depending on the local culture. If it is taken seriously, there are likely to be internal discussions about politics, budgets, implementation issues, and so on. Cohorts might also be very interested to have conversations with other cohorts from peer schools to see what they are thinking and what their experiences have been. Not only that, they may also be interested in how their peers are organizing their campus conversations about personalized learning. This is the equivalent of sharing course designs in this model. And of course, there will hopefully also be very productive conversations across all cohorts, pooling expertise, experience, and insight. This sort of community “sharding” is consistent with the cMOOC design thinking that has come before. We’re simply putting some energy into both learning design and platform design to make that approach work with a facilitation structure that is closer to a traditional classroom setting. We’re grafting a cMOOC-like course design onto a distributed flip facilitation structure in the hopes of coming up with something that still feels like a traditional class in some ways but brings in the benefits of a global conversation (among teachers as well as students).

The primary goal of such a “course” wouldn’t be to certify knowledge or even to impart knowledge but rather to help participants build their intra- and inter-campus expertise networks on personalized learning, so that educators could learn from each other more and re-invent the wheel less. But doing so would entail raising the baseline level of knowledge of the participants (like a course) and could support the design goals. The e-Literate TV series provides us with a concrete example to work with, but any cross-cutting issue or change that academia is grappling with would work as a use case for attacking our design goals in an environment that is relatively lower-risk than for-credit classes. The learning platform necessary to make such a course work would need to both support the multi-layered conversations and provide analytics tools to help identify both the best posts and the community experts.

In the next two posts, I will lay out the basic design of the system I have in mind. Then, in the final post of the series, I will discuss ways of extending the model to make it more directly suitable for traditional for-credit class usage.

The post Blueprint for a Post-LMS, Part 2 appeared first on e-Literate.

by Michael Feldstein at March 05, 2015 07:25 PM

March 04, 2015

Michael Feldstein

Blueprint for a Post-LMS, Part 1

Reading Phil’s multiple reviews of Competency-Based Education (CBE) “LMSs”, one of the implications that jumps out at me is that we see a much more rapid and coherent progression of learning platform designs if you start with a particular pedagogical approach in mind. CBE is loosely tied to family of pedagogical methods, perhaps the most important of which at the moment is mastery learning. In contrast, questions about why general LMSs aren’t “better” beg the question, “Better for what?” Since conversations of LMS design are usually divorced from conversations of learning design, we end up pretending that the foundational design assumptions in an LMS are pedagogically neutral when they are actually assumptions based on traditional lecture/test pedagogy. I don’t know what a “better” LMS looks like, but I am starting to get a sense of what an LMS that is better for CBE looks like. In some ways, the relationship between platform and pedagogy is similar to the relationship former Apple luminary Alan Kay claimed between software and hardware: “People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware.” It’s hard to separate serious digital learning design from digital learning platform design (or, for that matter, from physical classroom design). The advances in CBE platforms are a case in point.

But CBE doesn’t work well for all content and all subjects. In a series of posts starting with this one, I’m going to conduct a thought experiment of designing a learning platform—I don’t really see it as an LMS, although I’m also not allergic to that term as some are—that would be useful for conversation-based courses or conversation-based elements of courses. Because I like thought experiments that lead to actual experiments, I’m going to propose a model that could realistically be built with named (and mostly open source) software and talk a bit about implementation details like use of interoperability standards. But all of the ideas here are separable from the suggested software implementations. The primary point of the series is to address the underlying design principles.

In this first post, I’m going to try to articulate the design goals for the thought experiment.

When you ask people what’s bad about today’s LMSs, you often get either a very high-level answer—“Everything!”—or a litany of low-level answers about how archiving is a pain, the blog app is bad, the grade book is hard to use, and so on. I’m going to try to articulate some general goals for improvement that are in between those two levels. They will be general design principles. Some of them apply to any learning platform, while others apply specifically to the goal of developing a learning platform geared toward conversation-based classes.

Here are four:

1. Kill the Grade Book

One of the biggest problems with mainstream models of teaching and education is their artificiality. Students complete assignments to get grades. Often, they don’t care about the assignment, and the assignments aren’t often designed to be something that entice students to care about them. To the contrary, they are often designed to test specific knowledge or competency goals, most of which would never be practically tested in isolation in the real world. In the real world, our lives or livelihoods don’t depend solely on knowing how to solve a quadratic equation or how to support an argument with evidence. We use these pieces to accomplish more complex real-world goals that are (usually) meaningful to us. That’s the first layer of artificiality. The second layer is what happens in the grade book. Teachers make up all kinds of complex weighting systems, dropping the lowest, assigning a percentage weight to different classes of assignments, grading on curves, and so on. Faculty often spend a lot of energy first creating and refining these schemes and then using them to assign grades. And they are all made up, artificial, and often flawed. (For example, many faculty who are not in mathematically heavy disciplines make the mistake at one time or another of mixing points with percentage grades, and then spend many hours experimenting with complex fudge factors because they don’t have an intuition of how those two grading schemes interact with each other.)

Some of this artificiality is fundamentally baked into the foundational structures of schooling and accreditation, but some of it is contingent. For example, while CBE approaches don’t, in and of themselves, do anything to get rid of the artificiality of the schooling tasks themselves (and may, in fact, exacerbate them, depending on the course design), they can reduce or eliminate a traditional grade book, particularly in mastery learning courses. With CBE in general, you have a series of binary gates: Either you did demonstrate competency or you didn’t. You can set different thresholds, and sometimes you can assess different degrees of competency. But at the end of the day, the fundamental grading unit in a CBE course is the competency, not the quiz or assignment. This simplifies grading tremendously. Rather than forcing teachers to answer questions like, “How many points should each in class quiz be, and what percentage of the total grade should the count for,” teachers instead have to answer questions like, “How much should students’ ability to describe a minor seventh chord count toward their music theory course grade?” The latter question is both a lot more straightforward and more focused on teachers’ intuitions about what it means for a student to learn what a class has to teach.

Master Scale

Details of LoudCloud’s CBE Platform

Nobody likes a grade book, so let’s see how close we can get to eliminating the need for one. In general, we want a grading system that enables teachers to make adjustments to their course evaluation system based on questions that are closely related to their expertise—i.e., what students need to know and whether they seem to know it—rather than on their skills in constructing complex weighting schemes. The mechanism by which we do so will be different for discussion-based course components than for many typical implementations of CBE, particularly machine-graded CBE, but I believe that a combination of good course design and good software design can actually help reduce both layers of grading artificiality that I mentioned above.

2. Use scale appropriately

Most of the time the word “scale” used in an educational context attaches to a monolithic, top-down model like MOOCs. It takes a simplistic view of Baumol’s Cost Disease (which is probably the wrong model of the problem to begin with) and boils down to asking, “How can we reduce the per-student costs by cramming more students into the same class?” I’m more interested in a different question: What new models can we develop that harness both the economic and the pedagogical benefits of large-scale classes without sacrificing the value of teacher-facilitated cohorts? Models like Mike Caulfield’s and Amy Collier’s distributed flip, or FemTechNet’s Distributed Open Collaborative Courses (DOCCs). There are almost certainly some gains to be made using these designs in increasing access by lowering cost. They might (or might not) be more incremental than the centralized scale-out model, but they should hopefully not come with the same trade-offs in educational quality. In fact, they will hopefully improve educational quality by harnessing global resources (including a global community of peers for both students and teachers) while still preserving the local support. And I think there’s actually a potential for some pretty significant scaling without quality loss when the model I have in mind is used in combination with a CBE mastery learning approach in a broader, problem-based learning course design. More on that later.

Another kind of scaling that interests me is scaling (or propagating) changes in pedagogical models. We know a lot about what works well in the classroom that never gets anywhere because we have few tools for educating faculty about these proven techniques and helping them to adopt them. I’m interested in creating an environment in which teachers share learning design customizations by default, and teachers who create content can see what other teachers are doing with it—and especially what students in other classes are doing with it—by default. Right now, there is a lot of value to the individual teacher of being able to close the classroom door and work unobserved by others. I would like to both lower barriers to sharing and increase the incentives to do so. The right platform can help with that, although it’s very tricky. Learning Object Repositories, for example, have largely failed to be game changers in this regard, except within a handful of programs or schools that have made major efforts to drive adoption. One problem with repositories is that they demand work on the part of the faculty while providing little in the way of rewards for sharing. If we are going to overcome the cultural inhibitions around sharing, then we have to make the barrier as low as possible and the reward as high as possible.

3. Assess authentically through authentic conversations

Circling back to the design goal of killing the grade book, what we want to be able to do is directly assess the student’s quality of participation, rather than mediate it through a complicated assignment grading and weighting scheme. Unfortunately, the minute you tell students they are getting a “class participation” grade, you immediately do massive damage to the likelihood of getting authentic conversation and completely destroy the chances that you can use the conversation as authentic assessment. People perform to the metrics. That’s especially true when the conversations are driven by prompts written by the teacher or textbook publisher. Students will have fundamentally different types of conversations if their conversations are not isolated graded assignments but rather integral steps on their way to accomplish some larger task. Problem-Based Learning (PBL) is a good example. If you have a course design in which students have to do some sort of project or respond to some sort of case study, and that project is hard and rich enough that students have to work with each other to pool their knowledge, expertise, and available time, you will begin to see students act as authentic experts in discussions centered around solving the course problem set before them.

A good example of this is ASU’s Habitable Worlds, which I have blogged about in the past and which will be featured in an episode of the aforementioned e-Literate TV series. Habitable Worlds is roughly in the pedagogical family of CBE and mastery learning. It’s also a PBL course. Students are given a randomly generated star field and are given a semester-long project to determine the likelihood that intelligent life exists in that star field. There are a number of self-paced adaptive lessons built on the Smart Sparrow platform. Students learn competencies through those lessons, but they are competencies that are necessary to complete the larger project, rather than simply a set of hoops that students need to jump through. In other words, the competency lessons are resources for the students. They also happen to be assessments, but that’s not the only reason, and hopefully not the main reason, students have to care about them anymore. The class discussions can be positioned in the same way, given the right learning design. Here’s a student featured in our e-Literate TV episode talking about that experience:

Click here to view the embedded video.

The way the course is set up, students use the discussion board for authentic science-related problem solving. In doing so, they are exhibiting competencies necessary to be a good scientist (or a good problem solver, or a supportive member of a problem-solving team). They have to know when to search for information that already exists on the discussion board, how to ask for help when they are stuck, how to facilitate a problem-solving conversation, and so on. And these are, in fact, more valuable competencies for employers, society, and the students themselves than knowing the necessary ingredients for a planet to be habitable (for example). Yet we generally ignore these skills in our grading and pretend that the knowledge quizzes tell us what we need to know, because those are easier to assess. I would like for us to refuse to settle for that anymore.

This is a great example of how learning design and learning platform design can go hand-in-hand. If the platform and learning design work together to enable students to have their discussions within a very large (possibly global) group of learners who are solving similar problems, then there are richer opportunities to evaluate students’ respective abilities to demonstrate both expertise and problem-solving skills across a wide range of social interactions. Assuming a distributed flip model (where faculty are teaching their own classes on their own campuses with their own students but also using MOOC-like content and discussions that multiple other classes are also using), if you can develop analytics that help the local teachers directly and efficiently evaluate students’ demonstrated skills in these conversations, then you can feed the output of the analytics, tweaked by faculty based on which criteria for evaluating students’ participation they think are most important, into a simplified grading system. I’ll have a fair bit to say about what this could look like in practice in a later post in this series.

4. Leverage the socially constructed nature of expertise (and therefore competence)

Why do colleges exist? Once upon a time, if you went to a local blacksmith that you hadn’t been to before, you could ask your neighbor about his experience as a customer or look at the products the blacksmith produced. If you wanted to hire somebody you didn’t know to work in your shop, you would do the same. You’d generally get a holistic evaluation with some specific examples. “Oh, he’s great. My horse has five hooves. He figured out how to make a special shoe for that fifth hoof and didn’t even charge me extra!” You might gather a few of these stories and then make your decision. One thing you would not do is make a list of the 193 competencies that a blacksmith should have and check to see whether he’s been tested against them.

For a variety of reasons, it’s not that simple to evaluate expertise anymore. Credentialing institutions have therefore become proxies for these sorts of community trust network. “I don’t know you, but you graduated from Harvard, and I believe Harvard is a good school.” There was some of that in the early days—“I don’t know you, but you apprenticed with Rolf, and I trust Rolf”—but the universities (and other guilds) took this proxy relationship to the next step by asking people to invest their trust in the institution rather than the particular teacher. The paradox is that, in order to justify their authority as reputation proxies, these institutions came under increasing pressure to produce objective sounding assessments of their students’ expertise. As we go further and further down this road, these assessments look less and less like the original trust network assessment that the credential is supposed to be a proxy for. This may be one reason why a variety of measures show employers don’t pay much attention to where prospective employees get their degrees and don’t have a high opinion of the degree to which college is preparing students for their careers. As somebody who has made hiring decisions in both big and small companies, I can tell you that I don’t remember even looking at the prospective employees’ college credentials. The first screening was based on what work they had done for whom. If the positions had been entry-level, I might have looked at their college backgrounds, but even there, I probably would have looked more at the recommendations, extra-curricular activities, and any portfolio projects. In other words, who will vouch for you, what you are passionate about, and what work you can show. At most, the college degree is a gateway requirement except in a few specific fields. You may have to have one in order to be considered for some jobs, but it doesn’t help you actually land those jobs. And there is little evidence I am aware of that increasingly fine-grained competency assessments improve the value of the credential. This isn’t to say that there is no assessment mechanism better than the old ways. Nor is it to say anything about the value of CBE for either pedagogical purposes (e.g., the way it is used the Habitable Worlds example above) or its value in increasing access to education (and educational credentials) through prior learning assessments and the ability to free the students from the tyranny of seat time requirements. It’s just to say that it’s not clear to me that the path toward exhaustive assessment of fine-grained competencies leads us anywhere useful in terms of the value of the credential itself or in fostering the deep learning that a college degree is supposed to certify. In fact, it may be harmful in those respects.

If we could muster the courage to loosen our grip on the current obsession with objective, knowledge-based certification, we might discover that the combination of digital social networks and various types of analytics hold out the promise that we can recreate something akin to the original community trust network at scale. Participants—students, in our case—could be evaluated on their expertise based on whether people with good reputations in their community (or network) think that they have demonstrated expertise. Just as they always have been. And the demonstration of that expertise will be on full display for direct evaluation because the conversation(s) in which the demonstration(s) occurred and got judged by our trusted community members are on permanent digital display.[1] The learning design creates situations in which students are motivated to build trust networks in the pursuit of solving a difficult, college-level problem. The platform helps us to externalize, discover, and analyze these local trust networks (even if we don’t know any of the participants).

* * *

Those are the four main design goals for the series. (Nothing too ambitious.) In my next post, I’ll lay out the use case that will drive the design.



  1. Hat tip to Patrick Masson, among others, for guiding me to this insight.

The post Blueprint for a Post-LMS, Part 1 appeared first on e-Literate.

by Michael Feldstein at March 04, 2015 05:27 PM

March 01, 2015

Michael Feldstein

Alternate Ledes for CUNY Study on Raising Graduation Rates

Last week MDRC released a study on the City University of New York’s (CUNY) Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) with near breathless terms.

Title page

  • ASAP was well implemented. The program provided students with a wide array of services over a three-year period, and effectively communicated requirements and other messages.
  • ASAP substantially improved students’ academic outcomes over three years, almost doubling graduation rates. ASAP increased enrollment in college and had especially large effects during the winter and summer intersessions. On average, program group students earned 48 credits in three years, 9 credits more than did control group students. By the end of the study period, 40 percent of the program group had received a degree, compared with 22 percent of the control group. At that point, 25 percent of the program group was enrolled in a four-year school, compared with 17 percent of the control group.
  • At the three-year point, the cost per degree was lower in ASAP than in the control condition. Because the program generated so many more graduates than the usual college services, the cost per degree was lower despite the substantial investment required to operate the program.

Accordingly the media followed suit with breathless coverage[1]. Consider this from Inside Higher Ed and their article titled “Living Up to the Hype”:

Now that firm results are in, across several different institutions, CUNY is confident it has cracked the formula for getting students to the finish line.

“It doesn’t matter that you have a particularly talented director or a president who pays attention. The model works,” said John Mogulescu, the senior university dean for academic affairs and the dean of the CUNY School of Professional Studies. “For us it’s a breakthrough program.”

MDRC and CUNY also claim that “cracking the code” means that other schools can benefit, as described earlier in the article:

“We’re hoping to extend that work with CUNY to other colleges around the country,” said Michael J. Weiss, a senior associate with MDRC who coauthored the study.

Unfortunately . . .

If you read the report itself, the data doesn’t back up the bold claims in the executive summary and in the media. A more accurate summary might be:

For the declining number of young, living-with-parents community college students planning to attend full-time, CUNY has explored how to increase student success while avoiding any changes in the classroom. The study found that a package of interventions requiring full-time enrollment, increasing per-student expenditures by 63%, and providing aggressive advising as well as priority access to courses can increase enrollment by 22%, inclusive of term-to-term retention. At the 3-year mark these combined changes translate into an 82% increase in graduation rates, but it is unknown if any changes to the interventions would affect the results, and it is unknown what results would occur at the 4-year mark. Furthermore, it is unclear whether this program can scale due to priority course access and effects on the growing non-traditional student population. If a state sets performance-funding based on 3-year graduation rates and nothing else, this program could even reduce costs.

Luckily, the report is very well documented, so nothing is hidden. What are the problems that would lead to this alternate description?

  • This study is only for one segment of the population, those willing to go full-time, first-time students, low income, and one or two developmental course requirements (not zero, not three+). This targeted less than one-fourth of the CUNY 2-year student population where 73% live at home with parents and 77% are younger than 22. For the rest, including the growing working-adult population:

(p. 92): It is unclear, however, what the effects might be with a different target group, such as low-income parents. It is also unclear what outcomes an ASAP-type program that did not require full-time enrollment would yield.

  • The study required full-time enrollment (12 credits attempted per term) and only evaluated 3-year graduation rates, which is almost explains the results by itself. Do the math (24 credits / year over 3 years minus 3 – 6 as developmental courses don’t count for degree credit) and you see that going “full-time” and getting 66 credits is likely the only way to graduate with a 60-credit associate’s degree in 3 years. As the report itself states:

(p. 85): It is likely that ASAP’s full-time enrollment requirement, coupled with multiple supports to facilitate that enrollment, were central to the program’s success.

  • The study created a special class of students with priority enrollment. One of the biggest challenges of public colleges is for students to even have access to the courses they need. The ASAP students were given priority enrollment as the report itself states:

(p. 34): In addition, students were able to register for classes early in every semester they participated in the program. This feature allowed ASAP students to create convenient schedules and have a better chance of enrolling in all the classes they need. Early registration may be especially beneficial for students who need to enroll in classes that are often oversubscribed, such as popular general education requirements or developmental courses, and for students in their final semesters as they complete the last courses they need to graduate.

  • The study made no attempt to understand the many variables at play. There were a plethora of interventions – full-time enrollment requirement, priority enrollment, special seminars, reduced load on advisers, etc. Yet we have no idea which components lead to which effects. From the report

(p. 85): What drove the large effects found in the study and which of ASAP’s components were most important in improving students’ academic outcomes? MDRC’s evaluation was not designed to definitively answer that question. Ultimately, each component in ASAP had the potential to affect students’ experiences in college, and MDRC’s evaluation estimates the effect of ASAP’s full package of services on students’ academic outcomes.

  • The study made no changes at all to actual teaching and learning practices. It almost seems this was the point to find out how we can everything except teaching and learning to get students to enroll full-time. From the report

(p. 34): ASAP did not make changes to pedagogy, curricula, or anything else that happened inside of the classroom.

What Do We Have Left?

In the end this was a study on pulling out all of the non-teaching stops to see if we can get students to enroll full-time. Target only students willing to go full-time, then constantly advise them to enroll full-time and stick with it, and remove as many financial barriers (fund gap between cost and financial aid, free textbooks, gas cards, etc) as is feasible. With all of this effort, the real result of the study is that they increased the number of credits attempted and credits earned by 22%.

We already know that full-time enrollment is the biggest variable for graduation rates in community colleges, especially if measured over 4 years or less. Look at the recent National Student Clearinghouse report at a national level (tables 11-13):

  • Community college 4-year completion rate for exclusively part-time students: 2.32%
  • Community college 4-year completion rate for mixed enrollment students (some terms FT, some PT): 14.25%
  • Community college 4-year completion rate for exclusively full-time students: 27.55%

And that data is for 4 years – 3 years would have been more dramatic simply due to the fact that it’s almost impossible to get 60 credits if you don’t take at least 12 credits per term over 3 years.

What About Cost Analysis?

The study showed that CUNY spent approximately 63% more per student for the program compared to the control group. The bigger claim, however, is that cost per graduate is actually lower (163% of the cost with 182% of the graduates). But what about the students who don’t graduate or transfer? What about the students who graduate in 4 years instead of 3? Colleges spend money on all their students, and most community college students (60%) can only go part-time and will never be able to graduate in 3 years.

Even if you factor in performance-based funding, using a 3-year graduation basis is misleading. No state is considering funding only for 3-year successful graduation. If that were so, I have a much easier solution – refuse to admit any students seeking less than 12 credits per term. That will produce dramatic cost savings and dramatic increases in graduation rates . . . as long as you’re willing to completely ignore the traditional community college mission that includes:

serv[ing] all segments of society through an open-access admissions policy that offers equal and fair treatment to all students

Can It Scale?

Despite the claims that “the model works” and that CUNY has cracked the formula, does the report actually support this claim? Specifically, can this program scale?

First of all, the report only makes its claims for a small percentage of students that are predominantly young and live at home with their parents – we don’t know if it applies beyond the target group as the report itself calls out.

But within this target group, I think there are big problems with scaling. One of which is the priority enrollment in all courses, including oversubscribed courses and those available at convenient times. The control group was at a disadvantage as were all non-target students (including the growing working adult population and students going back to school). This priority enrollment approach is based on scarcity, and the very nature of scaling the program will reduce the benefits of the intervention.

I have Premier Silver status at United airlines thanks to a few international trips. If this status gave me realistic priority access to first-class upgrades, then I would be more likely to fly United on a routine basis. As it is, however, I often show up at the gate and see myself #30 or higher in line for first-class upgrades when the cabin only has 5-10 first class grades available. The priority status has lost most of its benefits as United has scaled such that more than a quarter of all passengers on many routes also have priority status.

CUNY plans to scale from 456 students in the ASAP study all the way up to 13,000 students in the next two years. Assuming even distribution over two years, this changes the group size from 1% of the entering freshman population to 19%. Won’t that make a dramatic difference in how easy it will be for ASAP students to get into the classes and convenient class times they seek? And doesn’t this program conflict with the goals of offering “equal and fair treatment to all students”?

Alternate Ledes for Media Coverage of Study

I realize my description above is too lengthy for media ledes, so here are some others that might be useful:

  • CUNY and MDRC prove that enrollment correlates with graduation time.
  • Requiring full-time enrollment and giving special access to courses leads to more full-time enrollment.
  • What would it cost to double an artificial metric without asking faculty to change any classroom activities? 63% more per student.

Don’t Get Me Wrong

I’m all for spending money and trying new approaches to help students succeed, including raising graduation rates. I’m also for increasing the focus on out-of-classroom support services to help students. I’m also glad that CUNY is investing in a program to benefit its own students.

However, the executive summary of this report and the resultant media coverage are misleading. We have not cracked the formula, CUNY is not ready to scale this program or export to other colleges, and taking the executive summary claims at face value is risky at best. The community would be better served if CUNY:

  • Made some effort to separate variables and effect on enrollment and graduation rates;
  • Extended the study to also look at more realistic 4-year graduate rates in addition to 3-year rates;
  • Included an analysis of diminishing benefits from priority course access; and
  • Performed a cost analysis based on the actual or planned funding models for community colleges.
  1. And this article comes from a reporter for whom I have tremendous respect.

The post Alternate Ledes for CUNY Study on Raising Graduation Rates appeared first on e-Literate.

by Phil Hill at March 01, 2015 08:23 PM

February 25, 2015

Adam Marshall

You Tube Channel For Sakai (WebLearn) Showcase Webinars

longsightOver the last year or so, one of the Sakai commercial partners, Longsight, have been running regular Webinars about different aspects of Sakai (the software which under-pins WebLearn).

All of these sessions have been recorded and uploaded to You Tube in the Sakai CLE Channel, you may find these videos informative.

by Adam Marshall at February 25, 2015 05:08 PM

February 20, 2015

Adam Marshall

WebLearn upgraded to Version 2.10-ox2.1 on 19 February 2015

WebLearn was upgraded on 19th February 2015 to version 2.10-ox2.1. If you want more details then please contact the WebLearn Team. For more detailed information and other minor changes, please looked at the detailed release notes.

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

The following list also includes some issues that were fixed on 10th January as part of the 2.10-ox1.4 release.

Improvement / New Features

  • Surveys can now be transferred to a new owner (User Voice request)
  • Lessons Tool: new Forum Topics can now be created (User Voice request)
  • Direct Tool link (Short URL) to a Lessons tool page is now present (User Voice request)
  • Google Analytics support has now been added – we intend to use this to report on how WebLearn is being used
  • The ‘Contact Us’ tool email now includes the URL that the user was trying to visit – this is important when the user has been given an incorrect URL or is not a member of the site at the end of the URL
  • Softly Deleted Sites are now retained for 400 days – the Recycle Bin for deleted sites is available in My Workspace > Worksite Setup
  • Deleted files in Resources are now retained for 400 days – the Recycle Bin for Resources is available via a link at the top of the Resources Tool

Bug Fixes

  • The “Lock Tool” icon has now been removed and tools which have previously been hidden via the “Light Bulb” icon can now be unhidden.
  • New lines are no longer being auto-inserted in the description of a Resource
  • Assignment Tool: Turnitin reports will now not erroneously show the blue (0%) icon for resubmissions
  • Poor formatting of Forum posts is now fixed
  • Direct Tool (Short) URLs will now work correctly for all tools
  • Problems with accessing files using Internet Explorer 8 should now be resolved
  • The ‘Contact Us’ tool should now work for sites where a maintainer has apostrophe in their name
  • Foreign characters are now correctly saved by the WYSIWYG HTML editor

by Adam Marshall at February 20, 2015 04:42 PM

February 15, 2015

Dr. Chuck

The most clever spam comment I have ever seen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 13, 2015

Adam Marshall

A recipie to display a Google Calendar in WebLearn

It is quite easy to surface a Google Calendar within WebLearn – you may want to do this if you find that the default WebLearn calendar doesn’t quite do what you want. The Conference of Colleges use this approach, they have decided to use the “Agenda View” rather than the more traditional view.

confoHere is what you could do – this will create a link in the LHS “page menu” which is a web page displaying your calendar.

1/ Create a Google calendar – you may like to create a new Google account which you share amongst your colleagues so that if you’re off, somebody else can update the calendar.

2/ Add one or two events but don’t add everything just in case you decide the abandon this approach.

3/ Click on “Share this calendar” in the drop down list next to the calendar name (LHS of the page), select “Make this calendar public”.


4/ Back in WebLearn, in the Resources tool (in a folder if you like) create a new HTML page which will be called “calendar.html”.

5/ Click on “Source” (top left) then by following the instructions on this page: grab the embed code for your Google calendar (click on “Calendar settings” alongside the calendar then copy the HTML code in the “embed this calendar” row. (By default, the size is 800 x 600 – you can change these dimensions if you like.)



6/ Paste this code into the WebLearn HTML page that you’re editing then save and give the page a name.

7/ Alongside the file in Resources select “Make Web Content Link” from the “Actions Menu” – call this link “Schedule” (or Calendar) and save. There will now be a link in the LHS “page menu”, you can use Site Info > Page Order to move the link’s position in the list.

8/ You can now edit the calendar.html  page to add some explanatory text and if everything is good, return to your Google calendar and add all your events.

If you want to use the agenda view then have a read of this page:

by Adam Marshall at February 13, 2015 12:27 PM

February 12, 2015


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

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

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

January 28, 2015

Sakai Project

Apereo Renews Collaboration with ESUP-Portail Consortium in France

Apereo Renews Collaboration with ESUP-Portail Consortium in France

The Apereo Foundation, a leading provider of open source software for higher education, has renewed its collaboration with the ESUP-Portail Consortium of universities in France.

January 28, 2015 05:18 PM

New Apereo Board Officers

New Apereo Foundation Board of Directors Officers were elected at the Board annual general meeting in January. 

Chair - Jim Helwig - University of Wisconsin-Madison
Vice Chair - Lucy Appert - Columbia University
Secretary - Doug Johnson -  University of Florida
Treasurer - Charlie Leonhardt - Georgetown University

January 28, 2015 05:11 PM

January 26, 2015

Sakai Project

Still time to register for Apereo Europe 2015/ESUP Days in Paris

There's still time to register for Apereo Europe 2015/ESUP Days at Université Paris Descartes on 

January 26, 2015 04:54 PM

January 22, 2015

Apereo OAE

Apereo OAE Accessibility Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 15, 2015

Apereo OAE

Apereo OAE Ibis is now available!

The Apereo Open Academic Environment (OAE) project team is excited to announce the tenth major release of the Apereo Open Academic Environment; OAE Ibis or OAE 10.

OAE Ibis brings the ability for institutions to completely customise the content and look of their tenant landing page. OAE Ibis also implements a detailed user tracking framework and brings the long-awaited full-text indexing and searching feature. Next to that, OAE Ibis also ships a range of other search improvements and a large number of accessibility improvements.


Customisable tenant landing pages

OAE Ibis makes it possible for institutions to completely customise their tenant landing page, allowing them to appropriately contextualise their tenancy, present themselves and explain the main purpose of the tenancy.

Tenant administrators are able to add any number of text, video and image blocks to the landing page, set their styling and determine their width on different devices, allowing for a fully responsive landing page to be configured. All configured text can also be fully internationalised.

We are already looking forward to seeing what the institutions will come up! We'll definitely publish a list of the best ones in an upcoming blog post.

User tracking

OAE Ibis introduces a detailed user tracking framework to provide a complete overview of how OAE is being used. Using an integration with a 3rd party service called Mixpanel, OAE can now keep track of almost all usage-related information: how many users have signed in, how many content items have been created and what is their distribution in visibility, how many comments were added, how many public groups are there and how does this evolve over time, etc.

This provides a solid basis for making product decisions based on real usage data and opens the door to performing A-B testing on new features. In a future release, we will also be providing this information to tenant administrators to give them a complete overview of how and how actively their tenancy is being used.

Full-text indexing

Following numerous rounds of performance testing, OAE Ibis brings the long-awaited arrival of full-text indexing and searching. The full content of all uploaded PDF, Office and text files will now be indexed and included in searches, making it a lot easier to find the content you're looking for or discover interesting new content.

Accessibility improvements

As the first step in the process of trying to obtain a WCAG 2.0 accessibility certification for OAE, a full external accessibility review of the OAE software has been undertaken by WebAIM. They delivered a review document containing a list of recommended accessibility improvements, which is something we'll be publishing and discussing in an upcoming blog post.

OAE Ibis includes accessibility improvements for the most critical issues that were identified in the review, with more accessibility improvements planned for upcoming releases.

Search improvements

Next to providing full-text searching, OAE Ibis also introduces a number of additional search improvements.

When searching for people, there will now be a slight bias towards people from your own institution. This should make it easier to find the people you're looking for, and is the first step towards making further improvements in this area.

Searches in content and discussion libraries will now also include the text of the comments and discussions posts, making it easier to find the content item or discussion you're looking for.

Try it out

OAE Ibis can be tried out on the project's QA server at It is worth noting that this server is actively used for testing and will be wiped and redeployed every night.

The source code has been tagged with version number 10.0.0 and can be downloaded from the following repositories:


Documentation on how to install the system can be found at

Instruction on how to upgrade an OAE installation from version 9 to version 10 can be found at

The repository containing all deployment scripts can be found at

Get in touch

The project website can be found at The project blog will be updated with the latest project news from time to time, and can be found at

The mailing list used for Apereo OAE is You can subscribe to the mailing list at

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

by Nicolaas Matthijs at January 15, 2015 02:47 PM

January 03, 2015

Dr. Chuck

Moving Virtual Box Images from Mac Internal Hard Drive to External Drive

There seem to be a lot of posts that show how to move a VirtualBox or Boot2Docker image to a new hard drive the hard way using the command line. I just came across an easy way to move a virtual box image to an external hard drive to free up space on my main hard drive. As I start playing more with docker I cannot affort to fill my main hard drive up with docker / virtualbox images. Here is the trick.

virtualbox-prefsGo to Virtual Box Preferences and change the Default Machine Folder to be on your external drive.

Then control-click on the image that is stored on your main disk and clone it. Since the default is now your external drive it will clone it to your external drive.

Then boot your cloned VM to make sure it is OK and then delete your original VM from the VirtualBox UI. Then just to be doubly sure it still works.

As an added bonus, if you make new VM’s (i.e. perhaps you downloaded and installed boot2docker) they will be placed on the external drive as that is now the location where all new VMs get created.

Of course it means that you need to plug in your external drive whenever you do anything with boot2docker of VirtualBox. But you have a bunch o disk freed up on your main hard drive.

by Charles Severance at January 03, 2015 05:31 PM

December 23, 2014

Steve Swinsburg

The spirit of giving

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

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

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

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

2014-12-20 12.09.54

by steveswinsburg at December 23, 2014 12:12 AM

December 21, 2014

Aaron Zeckoski

Apereo Learning Analytics @ Open Apereo 2014

I and other members of the Apereo Learning Analytics Initiative (LAI) will be presenting at the Open Apereo 2014 conference in Miami the first week of June.

You can see the schedule of Learning Analytics presentations on our Open Apereo 2014 conference Learning Analytics sessions wiki page. If you are not sure what Learning Analytics is, we have some information for you here (and a nifty diagram to help it make sense).

If you are interested in working towards a community sourced learning analytics infrastructure, incubating software, sharing requirements, cross validating analytics pilots, while working in a wider community of interest then please contact the Apereo LAI coordinator or join the mailing list
We hope to see you in Miami at Open Apereo 2014!

by Aaron Zeckoski ( at December 21, 2014 12:08 PM

Apereo Learning Analytics Processor begins

The Apereo Learning Analytics Initiative is beginning work on our first open source analytics pipeline processor this week. Learn more about Learning Analytics Processor project on our wiki.
Our goal is to build an Open source Java based Learning Analytics Processor (LAP) which initially automates the Marist OAAI Student Early Alerts and Risk Assessment model. We also hope to establish a framework for automation and execution of learning analytics models (which is possible for others to extend with additional model pipelines). Finally we plan to establish input and output specifications for data used for learning analytics model processing.
The Learning Analytics Processor (LAP) is meant to flexible enough to be extended to support many possible models and pipelines for analytics processing. The first one will be Early Alert but we want to support future additions and even multiple versions of the Early Alert model.

by Aaron Zeckoski ( at December 21, 2014 12:08 PM

December 16, 2014

Dr. Chuck

Idea: Split Secrets for OAuth

We are talking about ways to establish shared secrets where both the Tool Consumer and Tool Provider contribute key material to an overall shared key used to sign and validate OAuth messages. Often these “secrets” are treated as strings of varying length. Common practice is to choose random numbers wih something like the uniq() PHP function or Java’s UUID() and then hex encode the random bits for strings of varying length.

Using the current approach, (a) we cannot assume the serialization of this data and (b) the secrets can be of effectively any length (short or long). By not specifing an encoding that allows us to transmit bit-level randomness, we implicitly shorten key lengths by using a non-predictable encoding so we have to fall back to strings and likely strings with a very limited character set.

We have not yet seen situations where secrets include non-Latin1 characters. As we move to moving secrets across web services – serialization becomes inclreasingly important and if we get too tricky with character sets we might find ourselves with some interoperability problems.

My proposal is to define the binary bit-length of the two halves of the “split secret” and insist that these are serialized using a known serialization so both sides can de-serialize these pieces to cryptographically strong secrets with a well understood bit length.

So each of the sides contributes 512 cryptographically random bits to the shared secret. When each side communicates the secret – they are serialized and transferred using 128-character hex encoded using only lower case letters for a-f. An example of a half-secret is as follows:


To form the OAuth consumer secret the two hex halves are just concatenated as hex strings. Since the OAuth signing simply appends the key to the message and computes a digest, we can make use of all 1024 bits of randomness by using a 256 character hex-encoded key. While this means that the pad has a known character set (0-9) and (a-f) – it makes up for that by being 4 times longer. Also we avoid any encoding problems if we allow non-latin1 characters in the OAuth shared secret.

By speicfing the bit length and encoding – both sides can build database models that store secrets in fixed length fields.

By insuring there are 1024-bits of cryptographically strong randomness – other uses like sending data between the sides with two-way encryption approaches like Blowfish or AES can create shorter bit length keys from the known 1024-bits of randomness.

I am just putting this up because I like openness in the design of any security scheme in case I made any mistakes or incorrect assumptions.

This design is not at all final – comments are very welcome.

by Charles Severance at December 16, 2014 11:03 PM

December 12, 2014


Submitting final grades to UDSIS

As the semester comes to an end, it’s time to submit your final grades to UDSIS. In addition to the regular process described on the Registrar’s Web site, Sakai users can use a Web form titled Grade Submission from Sakai to UDSIS A couple of caveats regarding the use of the Web form: 1. Must […] more >

by Mathieu Plourde at December 12, 2014 02:35 PM

November 24, 2014

Steve Swinsburg

Movember 2014

It’s the tail end of Movember, just a few days to go and my team has almost raised raised over a thousand bucks for the Movember Foundation!

What is Movember you ask? It’s about raising awareness for men’s health issues like depression, testicular cancer and prostate cancer. In Australia, the life expectancy of men is 5 years less than for women, 50% of men struggle with mental health issues at some point, and 50% of men will be diagnosed with cancer by age 85.


1 in 2.

Either you or me.

Fuck that.

I’ve been doing Movember for the past 6 years to try to tackle this issue and have raised a few grand in doing so. This year I setup a team with my work mates and we’ve collectively raised over $1000 already, with more donations promised this week. Our original goal was $1000, with your help we can make it $1500.

All donations are tax deductible  and you can donate here:

Here’s a pic of my latest Mo efforts for your viewing pleasure. You can see past Movember efforts on my Movember page.


by steveswinsburg at November 24, 2014 10:56 AM