Archive for August 2016

Abstract: Building the Next Generation Digital Learning Environment using Tsugi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I also added this information to a Stack Overflow question.

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

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

Sakai 11.1 maintenance is released!

(This is from an email sent by Neal Caidin)

Dear Community,

I’m pleased to announce on behalf of the worldwide community of participants that Sakai 11.1 is released and available for downloading at

http://source.sakaiproject.org/release/11.1/

Sakai 11.1 has 146 improvements [2a, 2b, 2c] in place including
43 fixes for responsive design (Morpheus)
36 fixes in quizzes (Samigo)
28 fixes in gradebook (aka GradebookNG)
13 fixes in Lessons.

Other areas improved include:
Assignments
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No new security issues fixed in 11.1 .