2016-2017 Apereo Annual Report

Apereo Foundation Annual Report 2016-2017

Introduction from the Executive Director

How do we characterize the *fifth* year of the Apereo Foundation? Our mission is unchanged: to help you, as educational organizations, deliver your mission by innovating and sustaining open source software and the communities around them.

This fifth year we have had three new projects enter incubation. The first two: ELMS:LN, and Tsugi, bring us differing approaches to the creation of a next generation digital learning environment. Tsugi builds directly from the standards work undertaken by Dr. Charles Severance. ELMS:LN, forwards the vision of a distributed learning object network, as exists because of the Drupal community at Penn State University. The third project: Angular.js portal, aims to radically enhance the uPortal user experience; it is being developed from an initiative at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a longstanding Jasig and Apereo member.

While our software incubation process continues to mature, another complementary effort began with the goal of supporting and enhancing the use of shared resources to augment and grow existing Apereo projects. Cleverly named "FARM", for Funding and Resource Management, FARM provides a toolkit to make your idea visible, solicit feedback, mobilise stakeholders and find the right processes to coordinate contributions of human effort and finances. Incubation and FARM, like all of our activities, largely depend upon the time, effort and expertise of volunteers. To those who volunteer in this way- you have my profound thanks. Apereo would not be what it is without you.

Apereo and the Bigger Picture

In 2015, the Educause Learning Initiative performed a valuable service, by opening an extended conversation around the nature of the Next Generation Digital Learning Environment. The central problem statement behind the NGDLE[1] – that the learning management system is inflexible and rather better equipped to administer rather than enable learning – is not new. What is new is the amount of traction the concepts underpinning the NGDLE have gained in the sector, and the conversation this has engendered. The central concepts, that education requires a confederation of interoperable systems and services to meet diverse needs, that the experience provided to learners should be personalized, that systems should be underpinned by analytics, and that accessibility should be designed for at the outset, not bolted on as an afterthought, find a series of functional echoes across the Apereo software landscape. If an institution wants to begin to consider and deploy a next generation environment, we have tools – both specialist and generic - that can help.

Beyond the functional echoes, however, Apereo-sponsored software has two major contributions to make to the NGDLE agenda. On a practical level, open source software makes a great demonstrator of open standards. Want real conformance? With open source software you can both undertake conformance tests and see the code.. Secondly, because Apereo software is driven by the needs of institutions working through our software communities, it is not driven to add feature after feature to a core application or environment. We can more easily gain flexibility by de-coupling functionality, rather than simply aggregating it. Our learning analytics stack – parts of which have been adopted at a national scale in the UK – is distributed as a distinct set of components, rather than being bundled with Sakai, and work just as well with Moodle. Sakai no longer bundles an ePortfolio solution – but Karuta offers a next generation portfolio solution that can be integrated with Sakai. All of which is to take one of the primary lessons of the last fifteen years and write it large: open source software helps keep the market honest. And Apereo software remains 100% open.


This is, of course, not to suggest that Apereo has all the answers, or even all the questions. As the organisation matures, Apereo continues to explore, and carefully construct, a series of interlocking partnerships with organizations operating in parallel areas of interest. Throughout the last twelve months we have continued to work closely with our longstanding partner, the ESUP-Portail consortium in France. In addition to continued engagement and support for uPortal, CAS and the Open Academic Environment, pilots have begun in France around the Apereo learning analytics stack – most notably at Université de Lorraine.

Apereo has also extended partnership activity, establishing memoranda of understanding with both the Data Interoperability Standards Consortium (DISC) and Postsecondary Education Standards Council (PESC). We have also further explored a relationship with the Society for Learning Analytics Research (SoLAR). DISC is the steward of the xAPI specification, one of two key specifications (along with IMSGlobal Caliper) in learning analytics space. Recent DISC efforts around the creation of xAPI profiles should improve ease of use and time to implementation of solutions utilizing the specification. That is of particular relevance to work of the Apereo Learning Analytics Initiative, and our incubating analytics platform components. PESC is the specifications and standards body behind the Apereo EdExchange incubating project supporting secure transcript exchange. Our joint focus is on the project completing incubation this year, and enriching information exchange. Apereo continues to develop a relationship with SoLAR around the learning analytics hackathon at the annual SoLAR conference, and is exploring the potential relationships between maturing research-focussed applications and the Apereo incubation process. In all these developing relationships, our focus is on small-step practical engagements that provide mutual benefit.

Review and Renewal

It is entirely appropriate for an organization approaching a fifth anniversary to review progress and renew aspects of its activity. There several key priorities. The Apereo Licensing Group has recently been reformed, and is driving towards greater inclusivity and engagement with all Apereo software communities. This is a critical element in our management of intellectual property, particularly in conditions where some projects entering incubation use GPL licensing (ELMS:LN and POET both operate within broader communities where the GPL is the norm).

Our principle means of communication, the Apereo newsletter and website have developed tremendously over the last year, in terms of regularity and expanded content. Work is underway to develop and integrate them further to showcase and communicate content more effectively. The objective is to encourage easier contribution, to better reflect the breadth and depth of activity across our global community, and more effective and targeted distribution.

As Apereo continues to evolve and grow, we must make sure that this is reflected in materials that explain the full range of benefits Apereo membership brings. You can help in two ways. The first is to offer to help draft, produce and localize communications. The second is to act – in large or small ways – as an advocate for openness in for what Apereo does. With your help, we can ensure the second five years of Apereo are as successful as the first.

Ian Dolphin
25th May 2017

[1] https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/eli3035.pdf

2016-2017 Apereo Foundation Annual Report PDF