2017-2018 Annual Report

2017-2018 Annual Report Introduction

The Apereo Foundation, formed in 2013, is five years old. That anniversary is an appropriate place to take stock, analyze what we’ve done well, what we’ve done less well, and how we might improve to better serve our mission – “to assist and facilitate educational organizations which “collaborate to foster, develop, and sustain open technologies and innovation to support learning, teaching, and research”. Such stocktaking has, of necessity, both an internal and external focus – analyzing changes in the salient features of the higher education landscape to better orient ourselves to realize our mission. The Apereo Board has conducted an open strategic planning exercise and policy review to help accomplish these ends during the course of 2017-2018.

Last year’s Apereo Foundation Annual Report noted the conversation opened by EDUCAUSE around the defining features of a “Next Generation Digital Learning Environment” (NGDLE). The broad Apereo community has deepened its engagement with this conversation, including:

  • Malcolm Brown of the Educause Learning Initiative keynoting Open Apereo 2017 in Philadelphia
  • Articles published in EDUCAUSE Review relating the significance of open source software in moving towards an NGDLE, and reporting practical steps being made
  • A successful panel of speakers on the topic from Notre Dame, Harvard, Marist College, Penn State and Duke at the Educause Learning Initiative Conference in New Orleans

The contribution of Apereo community members to these conversations reflects a growing practice of institutional movement - away from the LMS as monolith, and towards more flexibly composed learning environments. The practice of the Apereo Community is a strong demonstrator of the power of open source software to support innovation to meet the needs of learners and institutions.

Many Apereo software communities touch the ground covered by the NGDLE. Apereo now stands at nineteen projects and communities, including those currently in our incubation process. In 2017-2018 we were joined by EQUELLA, Notifications Backbone, and OnTask. These three recently incubating software communities provide an interesting series of perspectives on how far Apereo has travelled:

EQUELLA is a digital repository that provides a single platform to house teaching/learning, research, media, and library content that was acquired by Pearson several years ago. Rather than effectively shuttering EQUELLA as part of a rationalization, Pearson transferred the software to Apereo stewardship as open source software. This recognition of Apereo was well founded - EQUELLA completed incubation in May 2018 and has made two significant releases over the course of the year.

Notifications Backbone recently entered Apereo Incubation from the University of Edinburgh. It aims to consolidate and enable coherent management of student notifications and messaging.  The University of Edinburgh is a long standing Apereo and former Jasig member which supports a number of open initiatives. This is the first time the institution has begun what would formerly have been an internal software project with the intention of making it open source form the outset.

OnTask aims to improve the academic experience of students through the delivery of timely, personalised and actionable student feedback throughout their participation in a course. Initially 4 funded by the Australian Government Department of Education and Training, OnTask has the active participation of institutional and individual participants in SoLAR – the Society for Learning Analytics Research. The entry of OnTask into the Apereo incubation process is the result of longstanding dialogue between the overlapping Apereo and SoLAR communities.

Three projects arriving at Apereo from three very different directions – a strong indication of progress and an emerging Apereo profile.

During the course of 2017-2018 we have sought to improve Foundation and community communications. We rely to a very large extent on contributions from our communities to make this happen and take this opportunity to thank those involved in the Apereo newsletter, or who have provided content for the newsletter and website over the course of the year. Particularly thanks to Lucy Appert, of NYU, who edits the newsletter, and to all those institutions that have submitted short success stories or “vignettes” for the website.

In some respects, open source software in education faces a number of challenges. The very success of open source has bred a category of “fauxpen source” offerings. These appear to be open, but have proprietary tweaks, often in hosted offerings, which make them rather less open than they may first appear. Similarly, the “cloud first” mantra – which rapidly slides into “cloud only” – can easily leave an institution with a lack of control over its own destiny. Against this backdrop, Apereo membership churn might be anticipated. Apereo gained thirteen members last year and lost six. The fact that this was approximately financially neutral indicates a changing membership profile. We are seeing more membership from small commercial entities operating around open source software, and more from individual sections of institutions. In order to thrive we must grow in the two principle areas of activity through which we aggregate resource – partnership and membership.

Apereo activity with our partners in France, ESUP-Portail, continues to grow in breadth and depth. In addition to uPortal and CAS deployments, ESUP-Portail is actively participating in learning analytics activity in France, manage an instance of the Open Academic Environment for French Higher Education, and are involved in several significant pilots of the Karuta eportfolio solution. The increased scale of our collaboration is driving more active and regular liaison and communication.

In 2017, Apereo formed a new partnership with the LAMP consortium of twenty-five small colleges. LAMP institutions share an instance of Sakai and collaborate to host other tools and services. Apereo and LAMP are establishing ways to further promote shared instances of open source software, particularly for smaller institutions, and how we might collaborate more closely around teaching and learning issues.

Membership is the final theme of the draft strategic plan elaborated by the Board. We need to carefully continue to maintain balance as we grow – we don’t exist to remove resource from higher education, but to help retain it – but we do need to grow membership in order to sustain activity on a wider scale. Ultimately, everything Apereo does – recognition programmes, event underwriting, intellectual property management – rests on membership revenue. If you’re in an institution that uses Apereo software, or if you’re involved in an Apereo software community and your employer isn’t a member, please give some thought to how you might help change that.

Ian Dolphin – 29th May 2018

2017-2018 Annual Report PDF