Chrome 80’s change to cookie policy will break lots of LTI tools – but not Tsugi tools

This is the latest news from IMS about the changes to Chrome that will likely cause a lot of LTI providers to break.

The good news is that Tsugi tools do not use cookies *at all* to maintain their session.  This design choice makes it more difficult to develop Tsugi apps but has several advantages:
  • Tsugi apps can function within multiple iframes simultaneously on the same page
  • Tsugi apps can be logged on different accounts across multiple tabs
  • Tsugi apps should be unaffected as Chrome and the rest of the browser market tightens down the use of cookies
This works for both PHP and Python / Python Tsugi tools.
It was not easy – I when PHP 7.0 came out – they broke the feature so I filed and got fixed some arcane PHP bugs. In the Django world there was a cookiless session module that was 1.x only so I helped get that upgraded and am contributing improvements to the product so that the cookieless code in Django is actually superior to the PHP code for cookiless sessions.
The mistake that 99% of the LTI developers make is that they assume LTI a Single-Sign-On – which is absolutely not true – leading to some really poorly designed cookie-based LTI integrations  that Chrome is about to punish.
This is why using a framework for LTI applications is so important.

Abstract: Tsugi Update: Progress towards the NGDLE (Abstract)

This session will review the progress to date in the Tsugi and Koseu projects as well as lay out plans going forward. Tsugi was the first scalable production tool to be certified as LTI Advantage. Tsugi was used as a LTI Advantage test harness by all of the major LMS vendors. With LTI Advantage support complete, the Tsugi PHP code base has become quite stable. Significant effort has been put into structuring Tsugi to run at scale in a multi-tenant environment. Tsugi also has made significant advances in improving how student data is handled over time and serves in many ways as a best practice the other LTI tools should emulate. The ability to write Tsugi tools in Python and Django has advanced to the point where production tools in Django have been deployed and run in production. There will be much to talk about for the roadmap for Tsugi and Koseu for the next few years.

Abstract – Submitted to Open Apereo 2020

New Approaches to Protecting the Privacy of Student Learning Data in the Cloud (Abstract)

Moving core IT Services to the cloud has been a trend for the past decade. Moving a Learning Management Systems from self-hosting to the cloud has many benefits. Hardware acquisition and replacement lifecycle is simpler. Local technical staff can be replaced by vended solutions, moving responsibility for software reliability and upgrades away from campus IT, greatly reducing the burden on the CIO and IT organization. Most schools see this move as a pure positive, but we do need to look closely at the long term privacy, curation, ownership, and retention of student data. Universities are around for hundreds of years, in the educational technology field, many vendors come and go in less than a decade. Sometimes a vendor that originally was retained to provide a service announces that their business will begin to mine student data for their benefit. Regulations like FERPA and GDPR provide a legal framework to govern how data must not be released to third parties but does not cover what those vendors do with the data within their organizations. This presentation will explore a few current issues and concerns about a “pure outsource” approach to hosting and software that holds student data and propose an alternative approach where cloud compute resources are uses, and vended software solutions are possible but the University retains all present and future ownership of the data. In this new model we can separate the source of the software support and upgrades from the ownership of the data and keep all short-term and long-term data decisions under control of the University and not the vendor.

How will the presentation engender interactivity: The presentation will be done in as few slides as possible. We will present the issues, encourage discussion about the issues and then present possible solutions for discussion. By keeping the slide ware to the absolute minimum, discussion will be maximized.

Why should an attendee come to the the session:  I would say that protecting student privacy is a benefit to all students, but in particular, universities should be particularly interested in protecting the student data of at-risk populations such as refugees or other populations that governments might want to track. As an example, it feels quite wrong that a Syrian refugee going to school in Europe is forced to hand all of their private learning data (not just PII) to a US-owned corporation as a condition of attending school.

Any further comments to reviewers: I am guessing that very few in higher education have really thought through the consequences 10 or 20 years from now of letting vendors retain all of our student’s learning data. I think it is a conversation that should start to happen.

Abstract – Submitted to Educause ELI 2020


LTI 2.0 Removed from Sakai-20 master and nightly

LTI 2.0 has been removed from Sakai in anticipation of Sakai-20 (

It is up in master on github and the Sakai-20 nightly server.

It took most of one day (Last Thursday at LAMP Camp) and the rest was testing and making sure.

I removed over 20% of the LTI code in Sakai (>7000 lines removed).

I updated all the QA test plans and wrote some test plans, and wrote some “how to documentation”.

With help from Andrea I went through all the QA tests to make sure they were up-to-date and to my surprise everything worked in my testing. I did find and fix two small bugs that had crept into the remaining LTI 1.x code – so that was nice. These fixes are already in master this morning as well.

While it has worked great in my testing, I want everyone to be vigilant and test LTI in Sakai as much as you can. We will definitely do a solid QA of LTI as part of Sakai-20 but if something feels weird let me know.

For the Tsugi folks using Java tsugi-util library from the Tsugi distribution, I will wait a few weeks and then port these changes to tsugi-util master:

It is mostly deletions. The only real change is that the ContentItem class in tsugi-util went from the org.sakaiproject.lti2 package to the org.sakaiproject.basicltii package. It never belonged in the lti2 package – but I built it while I was building lti2 so I put it there.


It is kind of bittersweet in that it took me three years of almost 100% of my Sakai effort to develop the LTI 2.0 spec and build the Sakai implementation and less than six hours to remove it. But it is always good to remove complex and unused code from production software.

One of these mornings with a good cup of coffee and a little time, I will write a blog post about the lessons we can learn from the failure of the LTI 2.0 spec – but for now we are moving on to focus on LTI Advantage – as it should be.

Sakai 19.2 Released

(This message came from Wilma Hodges – the Sakai Community Coordinator)

I’m pleased to announce that Sakai 19.2 is released and available for downloading [1]!

Sakai 19.2 has 125 improvements [2] including

  • 23 fixes in Tests & Quizzes (Samigo)

  • 22 fixes in Gradebook

  • 17 fixes in Assignments

  • 16 fixes in Lessons

  • 12 fixes in Forums

  • 5 fixes in Rubrics

Other areas improved include:

  • A11y

  • Basic LTI

  • Calendar

  • Chat Room

  • Content Review

  • Dropbox

  • I18n

  • Messages

  • Preferences

  • Quartz Scheduler

  • Resources

  • Roster

  • Section Info

  • Sign Up

  • Site Info

  • Syllabus

  • Wiki

  • Worksite Setup

There were 3 security issues fixed in 19.2 (details will be sent to the Sakai Security Announcements list).

Please also note the upgrade information page [3] for important notes related to performing the upgrade. 2 Quartz jobs need to be run to complete the conversion steps for Sakai 12, including a new one for the Job Scheduler in 12.1.

[1] Download information-

[2] 19.2 Fixes by Tool –

[3] Upgrade information – 

Building Tsugi Learning Tools – The Experience

The Tsugi project ( is providing a software environment 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, Common Cartridge, Deep Linking (Content Item), and LTI Advantage. This will be two presentations in one. One thread of the presentation will cover how Tsugi uses the latest standards to implement a LMS agnostic Next Generation Digital Learning Environment (or is that Experience). All the while during the presentation, those in the audience who want to experience building a tool, will put up a server, and create a simple Python-based learning tool and integrate it into the Sakai nightly server. The attendees can be as active as they like.

Abstract for the 2019 LAMP camp

What is all the Fuss About Python?

The Python programming language has been around for over 20 years but these days it feels like it is an overnight sensation.   Python has moved from being a fringe language for beginners, biologists, and natural language analysis to being the go-to language in nearly every domain of computing.  Whlie there is a lot of inertia in the choice of a programming language for a project, the adoption pattern of Python is quite different than “that cool new language that came out a few years ago”.  While most new programming languages are exciting for early adopters, by the time they are a few years old, many early adopters have moved on to the next big thing and the languages never find their way into the mainstream.  Python seems different – Python seems to have a solid and continuously growing market share – and in particular Python seems to invade and take over application areas previously dominated by well-established technologies.  We will look at some of the inherent aspects of Python that make it “sticky” – once you go Python you rarely go back or go anywhere else.  This presentation will also look at the world’s largest programming course (in Python) and how the course fits into the Python movement and how the course benefits from Apereo Open Source Software, Open Educational Resources, and the Open Course Enrollment (a.k.a the MOOC movement).

Abstract for Apereo 2019

New PMC Members for Sakai (2019)

We are pleased to announce that three new members are joining the Sakai Project Management Committee (PMC).

Matthew Hall – University of Virginia

Matthew is the Technical Lead for the University of Virginia’s learning management system team. He manages software development and system administration for UVACollab, UVA’s implementation of Sakai. His focus is on the tools, services, and integrations that make up UVA’s central online collaboration and learning environment. Matthew has been working with Sakai since 2011. He holds an MS in Computer Science, a BS in Computer Engineering, and a BS in Mathematics from the University of Virginia.

Miguel Pellicer – EDF – Entornos de Formación

Miguel is the CTO at EDF and an LMS market entrepreneur with a strong commitment in Open Source education technologies.  An active member of the Sakai Community and the Spanish Team since 2008, security and internationalization lead. Miguel has led more than thirty Sakai deployments all over the world, including elite universities in Spain, Netherlands, UK, Colombia, Mexico, Chile, and the USA.

Joshua Wilson – Longsight Inc

Joshua is Longsight’s Chief Operating Officer.  He leads client relations, business operations, project management, and strategic planning. In addition, Josh chairs the Sakai Community’s Marketing Team. He has been a leader in academic technology for more than a decade, serving most recently as Associate CIO for Academic Technology at Brandeis University, where he directed the strategic and client-centered renewal of the University’s academic technology environment, including its open source LMS.  Josh has served for a decade on the management team for the nationwide MISO Survey, which measures the effectiveness of IT and libraries at more than 150 higher education institutions.

About the Sakai PMC

PMC membership is reflective of significant contributions to the community and a dedication to the shared goals of the Sakai community.

In terms of what PMC membership “means”, the PMC members are already active members in the various groups in the Sakai/Apereo community (QA, Core Team, Marketing, FARM, Accessibility, Teaching and Learning, etc.). Most of the decisions about Sakai are made in those groups without any need for the PMC to take a vote or render an opinion because we believe that those closest to the actual work should make decisions regarding the work whenever possible.

The PMC gets involved when there is a significant or broader issue or a decision needs to be made regarding Sakai’s direction or resource expenditure by Apereo on behalf of Sakai. The PMC does all of its work in full view of the community on a public list except for votes on new PMC members.  Everyone in the Sakai community is welcome to join, monitor, and participate in the PMC mailing list.

Please join me in thanking these new PMC members for their past, present, and future contributions to Sakai and welcoming them to the Sakai PMC.


P.S. Thanks to Matt Jones (PMC Treasurer) for running the PMC nomination and election process.

Why do People Like Sakai, given the Market Share?

A Sakai user saw this report where Sakai was highly ranked against its market competitors and wondered “How could this be with Sakai at a 5% market share?”

Here is my answer.

There is a pretty simple explanation as to why Sakai polls well in some situations and yet there are a lot of folks that say “lets go Canvas”.

It depends on who you ask.

I knew a school that did a year-long evaluation of Sakai, Canvas, Blackboard and Desire2Learn. The faculty and students ranked them in exactly that order. The IT organization that was already convinced they wanted Canvas, removed the Sakai data, published the report, and then chose Canvas based on the report that showed Canvas#1 – it was clearly the “overwhelming favorite” of the faculty and students.

In general, IT staff prefer Canvas because it means less responsibility for them. Canvas rarely listens to its end-users and throws good parties – there is a certain stability and simplicity in not being able to influence the direction of your commercial vendor. Just accept it and move on. Faculty and IT staff at Sakai schools can dream up ideas and some of those ideas make it into the core product, often surprisingly rapidly. That is both a joy and a responsibility.

I would like to see a survey of a lot of schools (Sakai and others) where we ask the faculty and students how well they like their current LMS. I think that if you exclusively listened to the end-user’s voices, Sakai schools would “like their current LMS” more often than commercial LMS schools. (see the NYU data on this)  I expect this would even be true for end-users who had no idea of our wonderful community or our 100% commitment to open source.

If you, on the other hand, polled the IT folks at schools across the board and asked them, “Does your current LMS make your job easy or hard?”, Canvas would win as the LMS that makes IT folks jobs easiest – by far. I would say that Sakai schools that completely outsource hosting to LongSight, EDF or OpenCollab would also get pretty high marks. The more a school is involved in the Sakai community, the more they are working to make Sakai better, the more some of the IT staff might want to switch to Canvas to “take a load off of themselves”. Sakai schools that are self hosted and have senior (expensive) in-house Sakai developers are great for a few activist IT organizations – but too much to handle for IT organizations that can barely handle Wifi, the SIS, printers and desktop support on their campus.

So you get this strange anomaly that does not correlate to market share. If you ask the end users at Sakai schools – they love Sakai. If you ask Canvas users at Canvas schools, they like Canvas and it kind of goes down from there.  And the graphs you cite reflect that.

And it is why Sakai continues to be so focused on meeting the end-user requirements above our “corporate” profitability and market share. Our end-user satisfaction is high, our community is strong, our profitability is zero, and our market share is low. Separately, our impact on overall market innovation is *extremely high* through Sakai-led innovations like LTI and Common Cartridge. Our contribution and impact and end-user satisfaction unfortunately does not correlate to rapidly growing market share because after we meet end-user needs year after year with a best-of-breed 100% open source product, we don’t have any money to hire sales people to visit every university on the planet and buy free lunches for the IT staff.


P.S. We do have a pretty cool SakaiCar with ears – – like which other LMS has a race car?

P.P.S. Instructure spent $135M last year on marketing and sales.  They took this money from the pockets of higher education and used it to convince more schools to give them more money.  (link)

Tsugi Achieves LTI Advantage Certification

Tsugi ( is one of the first learning tools to achieve a brand-new certification for an interoperability standard called LTI Advantage, continuing the longtime leadership of open source learning projects in the Apereo Foundation ( in standards and interoperability.   Tsugi is an application library that allows rapid development of standards-compliant learning applications.

Tsugi certification coupled with the recent Sakai certification completes an open source end-to-end solution for both the Platform and Tool versions of the LTI Advantage specification.  Open Source implementations allow proprietary vendors to examine source code and have an endpoint for regular interoperability testing.

Apereo projects like Tsugi and Sakai benefit the entire marketplace whether or not a school adopts the software that is produced as part of Apereo.   – Charles Severance, Founder Sakai and Tsugi Projects

The Tsugi project provides a free test server that allows LMS vendors like Sakai, Blackboard, Canvas and Desire2Learn to do regular LTI Advantage interoperability testing with a scalable production LTI Advantage compliant educational application store.

In addition to using LTI Advantage for integration into enterprise LMS systems, Tsugi tools also can be integrated into Google Classroom.

For more information or to see how to use Tsugi to develop standards compliant learning tools see