Report from the First Apereo Conference (2013)

Report from the First Apereo Conference (2013)

Note: This was partially completed in by draft folder for three years – oops.

I really enjoyed attending the first Open Apereo 2013 conference in San Diego June 2-7, 2013.

There was palpable sense of joy at the conference. I think for many of us, who had a vision of a Foundation like Apereo to be created to create a “big-tent” organization to support a wide-range of open source activities in higher education. The idea was that the more diverse our community would become – the more solid and sustainable it will be. In particular we wanted to create an environment where new projects could be quickly formed and by virtual of being part of Apereo, those projects could form the nucleus of the leadership from people and organizations already part of Apereo and attending Apereo meetings.

We need to stop and thank those who gave so much to make this a reality. This was three years where a number of people learned far more about non-profit laws than you could imagine. Building something good takes time – but a lot of people are very relieved to have it finished so we can look to the future.

People who stick out for me include: Patty Gertz, Ian Dolphin, Josh Baron, Jens Haeusser, Robert Sherratt, John Lewis, Set Theriault, and both of the board of directors of Sakai and JASIG as well as the transition committee made up of members from both boards. It was a long and winding road – and the only way to move forward was to be patient.

Sakai in a Apereo-Foundation World

The Sakai-related efforts that are now part of Apereo are now so much better to make forward progress. In the Sakai Project and Foundation – these ideas were often too intertwined to make forward progress. We spent too much time trying to come up with one set of priorities that distracted from evolving our efforts. Here are my observations:

  • The Apereo Open Academic Environment has renamed itself to emphasize that the OAE is very much an independent project exploring next generation approaches to teaching, learning, and collaboration. The OAE team has rewritten much of the core software since the end of 2012 and is moving quickly to a version 1.0 sometime this summer running in production for Marist, Georgia Tech, and Cambridge. Getting a 1.0 project into production is a wonderful milestone and will likely re-kindle interest in the OAE project, growing their interest and resources. Some might say that OAE died and has been reborn – I actually disagree with this notion – OAE has been on a path all along and there were bumps on that path – as the bumps smoothed out the project is moving toward a release nicely.
  • Teaching and Learning SIG – Because this is now an independent entity within Apereo it is a natural place to look across the Sakai CLE and OAE as well as looking at emerging efforts (below). The T/L group also will continue the TWISA (Teaching with Sakai Innovation Awards) and look to expand the effort. This group serves as a natural gathering point for the faculty and student more interest in applying the ideas of openness to teaching and learning. I think that this group will make sure that the end-users of our software have a place at the conference. I also think that this group can nurture interest in areas like Open Education Resources (OER) and if there is an interest in developing practice or software error OER – Apereo might be a great place to incubate that work.
  • The WAD Portfolio Effort – Thanks to efforts like Janice Smith, Shoji Kajita, Alan Berg, and many others, there is continued interest in portfolio solutions in open source. The current effort is a pre-incubation group working together on a product they call WAD (I don’t know what it stands for). The idea for WAD is to build a portfolio system outside of the LMS and find ways to do a deep integration to pull out LMS data as needed. In many ways WAD feels like a throwback to the OSP 1.0 times where practicing pedagogists kept themselves very close to the emerging development efforts and gently steered the process. I am very excited to feel the energy in this group that being part of Apereo makes possible. It was exciting to see the re-engagement of some of the people who brought so much passion to OSP in the early days.
  • The Learning Analytics Effort – There has been a small group of highly interested folks within the Sakai community interested in learning analytics activities for quite some time now. This has resulted in tools like SiteStats in Sakai. But as we gain understanding about the real approach to LA it becomes increasingly clear that analytics work must be done outside of the LMS with (again) many deep integration points. Add to this the TinCan support in Sakai (and soon uPortal and OAE) it paves the way to take real steps in a separate software development project that is just about analyzing analytic data. This group is also pre-incubation but it looks like there is interest that is building on building shared open source software to analyze learning data from many sources.
  • Sakai CLE – I will talk more about this later in a separate section. June 2012 was really the time where the CLE started to re-emerge from being under the radar in the Sakai Foundation politics since about 2008. The 2.9 release (November 2012) and 2.9.2 release (May 2013) have greatly energized the community. Leading schools and commercial affiliates have enthusiastically jumped onto the bandwagon and many have converted or are converting to the 2.9 release. The 2.9 release has enough “good stuff” to make it attractive to move to the latest release. We as a community are reducing our installed version skew and that is very important for long-term sustainability. If we put out a version and no one installs – it is game over. Once the Board issues around the CLE/OAE were resolved we can focus all our limited resources on moving the Sakai CLE forward.

In addition to these efforts, there were many other ideas bouncing around the hallways, breaks, and pubs. What was nice was to say over and over – “Hey that could be a new Apereo working group!” – What was most exciting for me was these working groups would have had a tough time being part of Sakai with a foundation that was dedicated to one (or two) core products and far too much debate about what should get the “resources”. In Apereo with independent projects large and small and lassez faire approach by Apereo each project builds its own small subcommunity and finds its own resources. It is amazing how this Sakai+JASig community has so many ideas as what to do next – but when we were the “Sakai Foundation” the question of “Is that Sakai or not?” kept most of these nascent efforts from gaining forward inertia. With in Apereo – there is little to slow a small and dedicated group from moving an idea forward.

The Sakai CLE

I think that this kind of expanding scope in the area of higher education open source efforts will be the hal

[ed. Note: the original draft stopped here in mid-word]

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