Author Archives: Charles Severance

Implementing a Standards Compliant Educational App Store with Tsugi (Educause)

Interoperability standards have matured enough to enable the creation of a standards based Application Store for Education that can be used in all the major LMS systems, MOOC platforms, and even Google Classroom.  An extensible application store is an important first step towards a Next Generation Digital Learning Ecosystem (NGDLE).

Keywords: NGDLE, Standards, Application Store, Interoperability

When you combine the IMS Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI), Deep Linking (Content Item), and Common Cartridge standards and use them together in a coordinated fashion, you can build and Educational App Store that has smooth integration into the major LMS systems and MOOC platforms using IMS standards. Tsugi tools also can  integrate into Google Classroom.  Tsugi (www.tsugi.org) is a software framework that reduces the effort required to build IMS standards-compliant applications and integrate them into a learning ecosystem.  A number of open source Tsugi Tools are hosted and free to use at www.tsugicloud.org. This presentation will highlight how IMS standards can be used to deploy an educational app store and talk about how an App Store lays a foundation towards a Next Generation Digital Learning Ecosystem (NGDLE).

Participants will see a real, tangible element of the NGDLE.  Tsugi is the first standards-based Application Store for education. While not everyone will walk out and start using tsugicloud.org, the presentation will help us better understand what NGDLE will look like.

Participants will be given a usability exercise to perform on the www.tsugicloud.org site and we will gather feedback and report on the feedback several times during the presentation.

A hope of Tsugi is to simplify the building of educational tools to the point where faculty, students, and instructional designers can be part of building our educational technology infrastructure.

Chuck lead the development of the initial IMS LTI specification and is the lead developer of the Tsugi and TsugiCloud projects.  He also has a Tattoo that commemorates the major LMS systems that support LTI.

Chuck is a professor at the University of Michigan School of Information and uses a Tsugi App store to support his on campus classes in Canvas and support 100K students in his 10 Coursera courses and two specializations.

Submitted to: Educause 2018

Sakai Community Update 2018

This presentation will review the progress on Sakai in 2017-2018, covering the Sakai 11 and 12 releases and looking ahead towards the Sakai 13 release.  We will review new features in Sakai 12, report from SakaiCamp 2018, the Sakai Virtual Conference, and FARM Projects.  We will update attendees on accessibility, QA efforts, documentation efforts, standards compliance, and marketing efforts. We will talk about the future arc of Sakai and how we intend to move Sakai forward to be part of a Next Generation Learning Ecosystem. We will cover these and other aspects of the Sakai product and community in a fun and upbeat talk show format.

Submitted to: Open Apereo 2018

Abstract: Using a Tsugi App Store and Building Tsugi Tools (Workshop)

The Tsugi project is providing technology to enable a wide range of educational technology use cases. Tsugi was developed to simplify the development of educational tools and to allow those tools to be deployed in an “App Store” pattern using standards like IMS Learning Tools Interoperability (1.1 and 2.0), Common Cartridge, and Deep Linking (Content Item).   Tsugi tools can also be installed in Google Classroom courses.   There are a number of open source Tsugi tools that are part of the Apereo project and these are hosted at no charge at www.tsugicloud.org.   This workshop will walk through a Tsugi installation and configuration and walk through use cases with using Tsugi as both an application development environment, a Learning Object Repository, and an Application Store.  We will also do some UI/UX walkthroughs to improve the TsugiCloud user experience.  Knowing PHP and SQL would be helpful for the workshop but is not essential.

Submitted to: Open Apereo 2018

Abstract: Implementing a Standards Compliant Educational App Store with Tsugi

When you combine the IMS Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI), Deep Linking (Content Item), and Common Cartridge standards and use them together in a coordinated fashion, you can build and Educational App Store that has smooth integration into the major LMS systems and MOOC platforms using IMS standards. Tsugi tools also can  integrate into Google Classroom.  Tsugi (www.tsugi.org) is a software framework that reduces the effort required to build IMS standards-compliant applications and integrate them into a learning ecosystem.  A number of open source Tsugi Tools are hosted and free to use at www.tsugicloud.org. This presentation will highlight how IMS standards can be used to deploy an educational app store and talk about how an App Store lays a foundation towards a Next Generation Digital Learning Ecosystem (NGDLE).

Submitted to: Open Apereo 2018

Abstract: Implementing a Standards Compliant Educational App Store with Tsugi

When you combine the IMS LTI, Deep Linking, and Common Cartridge standards and use them together in a coordinated fashion, you can build and Educational App Store that has smooth integration into the major LMS systems using only IMS standards. Tsugi (www.tsugi.org) is a software framework that reduces the effort required to build IMS standards-compliant applications and integrate them into a learning ecosystem. This presentation will highlight how IMS standards can be used to deploy an educational app store like www.tsugicloud.org and talk about how an App Store lays a foundation towards a Next Generation Digital Learning Ecosystem (NGDLE).

A Happy Tsugi New Year – A look back and a look ahead to 2018

I figured I should reflect on Tsugi as we move into the new year. It has been over six years since I started the code base that would become Tsugi in 2013.

In 2017, we made a lot of progress so Tsugi can be used by by a much broader audience. Some important Tsugi achievements include:

– A place to host open source Tsugi tools at scale for free – www.tsugicloud.org – this required new Amazon features and required improving the “App Store” experience for tools-only servers. There is an app store with metadata and screenshots like any app store.

– Adding support for Google Classroom in addition to LTI for LMS integration. I heard that Google Classroom already owns >60% of the K12 market share. I think that over time Classroom will erode market share in K12 market and in time will begin to make inroads into higher education starting with Community Colleges / FE. So strategically, I want Tsugi to have an early presence in that new emerging market.

– Cleaned up the existing tools in the “tsugitools” repo – like the peer grader with an eye to making the tools more usable by folks other than me :)

– Started to lay the legal groundwork to establish the first Tsugi Commercial affiliate. This is a lower priority activity – once the free/open Tsugi / TsugiCloud is solid – I will progress a commercial offering. If demand emerges for a commercial Tsugi offering, it will be quite easy to replicate the TsugiCloud infrastructure for a commercial offering.

Looking forward to 2018, I have a few goals:

– Begin to document and market tsugicloud.org to build a beta customer base. My first customers will likely be Sakai schools but I will work to get exposure to K12 alpha testers to get a small base of K12 customers. Let me know if you are interested in being an early customer or if you know someone who might want to use TsugiCloud.

– Recruit new open source applications for TsugiTools and host them for free on TsugiCloud

– Focus on cleaning up the developer documentation on tsugi.org to make it easier to develop new applications.

– I will be running an “Tsugi Developer” class on-campus at UMich during Winter semester. This will help improve my documentation and work out the kinks in the developer experience.

– It will be a high priority to build 2-3 new high-quality tools: (1) A threaded discussion tool with grading, (2) A wiki-like tool, perhaps based on HAX from ELMSN, (3) A tool to include H5P content. This fits with the 2018 focus on building tools on the Tsugi infrastructure.

– I am trying to think of something to trigger Tsugi tool development – perhaps a hack-athon or a contest – something to build interest in developing tools.

So it should be an interesting 2018. There is a lot of work to do but a lot of great work to build on.

App Store Progress on www.tsugicloud.org

I have done a bunch of updates to Tsugi’s support for stand alone App Stores (without any kind of lesson content). This is all in production at www.tsugicloud.org

I have expanded the contract in register.php for the tools to describe themselves and improved the pattern in .htaccess / tsugi.php to better support the App Store. You can see this all in action at:

https://www.tsugicloud.org/tsugi/store/details/peer-grade

Play with “Test” and “Tool URLs”. A much smoother flow and richer experience.

You can see the new patterns for developers to take advantage of this in a relatively simple tool like:

https://github.com/tsugitools/map

Look at .htaccess / tsugi.php / register.php and the store folder which holds screen shots. Some notes:

– The new and expanded register.php is what drives the pretty store view under /tsugi/store

– The new tsugi.php makes it so every tool has a Canvas configuration URL and can dump its own configuration in JSON (more to come here):

https://www.tsugicloud.org/mod/map/register.json
https://www.tsugicloud.org/mod/map/canvas-config.xml

– There are new options in tsugi/config.php to include a privacy url and service level agreement url:

$CFG->privacy_url = 'https://www.tsugicloud.org/services/policies/privacy';
$CFG->sla_url = 'https://www.tsugicloud.org/services/policies/service-level-agreement';

These are important when connecting to Google Classroom so you should have them for your sites. Don’t point to mine – make your own and be honest and thorough.

And while I am on the topic – you might want to take a minute and play with Google Classroom. It is easiest to use a non-enterprise Google account. Some enterprises (like umich.edu) do not let their users use Google Classroom. But my @gmail.com account works fine.

Log in to classroom.google.com and make a course. Then go to

https://www.tsugicloud.org/tsugi/settings/

And connect to Google Classroom. All of a sudden little green squares show up to let you push tools into Google. Grades flow and everything. Google Classroom flow is pretty nice – but like any proprietary integration – to make it work on the Tool Provider side requires special tooling.

So in summary, if you are a Tsugi tool developer, you might want to up your game in register.php, tsugi.php (adding .htaccess if you don’t already have it) and adding some screen shots in a store folder. The App Store falls back nicely with a simpler view until you upgrade your tool to feed the necessary metadata to expanded store.

Hope you like it and comments welcome.

Integrating Koseu / Tsugi into Google Classroom

TL;DR – The Demo

Tsugi and Google Classroom

For the past four years, I have been building software to implement my vision for the new technologies that will enable the Next Generation Digital Learning Environment/Ecosystem.

  • Tsugi – is software infrastructure, APIs, and code libraries that allow interactive learning tools to be built, hosted and integrated into Learning Management Systems like Sakai, Canvas, Blackboard, Moodle, Desire2Learn, edX, or Coursera. Without requiring the programmer to read and understand the complex documentation that describes the low level details of these integrations.

  • Koseu is a LMS/Course platform that is aimed at supporting course content on the web. Koseu in a sense is a way for every teacher to build and publish a “MOOC of my Own” while at the same time making that learning content easily integrated into LMS systems. My Python for Everybody web site (www.py4e.com) is a good example of a well developed Koseu-based web site.

Up to this point, Tsugi has focused on the standards like such as IMS Learning Tools Interoperability, IMS Common Cartridge, and IMS Content Item that are used to integrate content and tools into traditional LMS systems.

But increasingly, Google Classroom is being used in K12 and beyond as the “LMS” of choice since so many organizations already use Google Suite for their single sign on, document editing, forms, etc. It is a simple matter to just start using Google Classroom – and Google Classroom is very well connected to the rest of the Google Suite.

So we have added initial support for Google Classroom integration to Tsugi/Koseu. The Google Classroom API patterns are very different than IMS LTI and Content Item Message. Google Classroom uses an OAuth 2.0 and single sign-on (SSO) pattern instead. This pattern requires more initial coordination, but has some nice features that allow the end-user to be involved in their own privacy decisions.

With this support, a Tsugi tool can send grades to the Learning system regardless of where the tool was launched using LTI or with Google Classroom using the exact same lines of code and exact same code libraries.

If we are truly going to make a Next Generation Digital Learning Ecosystem, systems like Tsugi and Koseu need to look beyond the traditional LMS market and to emerging platforms like Google Classroom.

Net Neutrality as Applied to Stop Lights

Net Neutrality as Applied to Stop Lights

I was asked for my comments on Net Neutrality by a reporter and so I wrote this.

In general, I think that it is difficult to predict exactly what bad things will happen and in what order. Once Net Neutrality is no longer an underlying value of the Internet, those who control critical core internet resources like fiber links and peering points will look for opportunities to hold traffic “hostage” to make more money.

I believe that in general, “small sites” may not really notice any change except for a general inflation in bandwidth prices as hosting providers like Amazon, Internet2 and DigitalOcean are held hostage. The wholesale cost of bandwidth could easily double in 2-3 years once “Net Discrimination” is officially legal. Large sources of bandwidth like Netflix, Hulu, etc are going to see “death by a thousand cuts” as every little router owner all around the world is going to want their cut. The cost for bandwidth is likely to go up by a factor of 2-3.

It is as if you are driving through a city and every stoplight has a toll booth where you need to stop and take out your credit card to pass. Assume a bunch of different companies you never heard of each “owned” one or two stoplights in downtown Mountain View. When they “bought” the stoplights there was a rule that you could not charge for a green light but instead you got a small fixed amount of money to run your stop lights to move traffic as efficiently as possible. Now with “Stoplight Discrimination” legalized, they can hold car manufacturers “hostage” for green lights. Tesla can pay them so their cars can send a signal to the stoplight so it immediately turns green whenever a Tesla is moving toward the stoplight.

The problem is that sooner or later all the major car manufacturers will have to pay each of the little stoplight companies the “stoplight toll” and then all traffic will be again be treated equally and the companies will be getting very rich.

And the worse part of it is that there is little incentive to improve the roads or generally improve stoplight technology – because the frustration of the drivers and their complaints to car manufacturers leads to more revenue for the stoplight owners. And when things get really bad the stoplight companies can tell car companies they can purchase the “silver level” to once again get differential treatment for their cars. And then everyone buys the “silver” level so they introduce “gold level” traffic discrimination – and so on. Soon, “platinum”, “ruby”, “sapphire”, and “diamond” levels emerge – and then “double diamond”. The worse that traffic gets snarled up because of the byzantine pay-for-play rules – the more money these stoplight companies make.

The revenue potential for doing absolutely nothing more than what you were already doing is immense. No wonder these companies love Net Discrimination.

And our costs of all these services will go up because the “stoplight tax” will ultimately just be passed to the consumers.

An Accidental Internet Historian

This is a story that I tell people over and over when I meet them – so I figured I would make a blog post so I could have it written down somewhere.

I am an accidental Internet historian. It all started in 1995-1999 I hosted a Cable television program with my friend Rich Wiggins that was a talk show about the Internet that ended up with three names over time as the cable TV companies bought one another over that period. Here is a YouTube of those (3) shows:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLlRFEj9H3Oj5Dlcu6P92S5dpmb3ihr7QW

This led to me having lots of cool early Internet video and for a number of years I wrote a column called Computing Conversations in IEEE Computer Magazine that wrote a short print article with an associated video interview. Here is a Youtube Channel of that work:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL4660FB7F523B1770

You can see my old material and new interviews since 2012 interwoven. I also attach a couple of articles to give you a sample. We even made an NPR-style audio interview for each of the columns:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jysBmy5Bec

Then in 2012, I re-did all this material in the form of a Coursera class titled Internet History, Technology, and Security – that is how Niel and I crossed paths. Here is the course and a Youtube channel of the lectures and media:

https://www.coursera.org/learn/insidetheinternet

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLlRFEj9H3Oj6-srSAgLb-ZGVNGlo3v14X

I even turned this all into a textbook on the basics of the Internet that I wrote for a Khan Academy high school course course on TCP/IP. I finished the book but never built the Khan Academy course.

http://www.net-intro.com/

The latest activity was a live Teach Out – a one week open learning learning activity that I did with Doug Van Houweling called “Internet and You”

https://www.coursera.org/learn/teach-out-internet-and-you

This is a story that will keep going as long as I find new folks to interview and add to this collection – I hope folks enjoy this material.