Apereo Foundation Fast interview with Apereo Board Chair, Anne-Marie Scott
Apereo Foundation Fast, March 2022: Anne-Marie Scott, Chair of the Apereo Board
Anne-Marie Scott has been the Chair of the Apereo Foundation since 2019 and joined the board in 2018.
Anne-Marie is Deputy Provost at Athabasca University, Canada’s largest open and online university, where she leads a number of transformational change projects. As a key member of the academic leadership team, she has the responsibility of ensuring operational excellence and high-quality delivery of academic operations, including learner experience, service and support. She would describe herself as a learning technologist, with a background in enterprise IT, and the sensibility of a humanities scholar, which she knows is an unusual combination! In addition to her work at Athabasca and for Apereo she writes, consults, and is often sought after as an expert in digital education and strategy.
Prior to becoming Deputy Provost at Athabasca University, Anne-Marie was Deputy Director of the Learning, Teaching and Web Services Directorate at the University of Edinburgh. She was at the University of Edinburgh from 2002 to 2019 and was responsible for the selection and development of Apereo's uPortal project as the University enterprise portal platform in 2004. She is an expert in enterprise systems – in addition to implementing uPortal, she led a multi-year project to replace the University Identity Management system, moving operations to a real-time SOA based architecture. The solution delivered was a blend of open source solutions (Grouper, OpenLDAP) and bespoke development.
Starting in 2011 she focused on University of Edinburgh’s learning technology provision, developing strategy and leading large institutional change projects that enhance the student learning experience. She was responsible for the provision of all the centrally provided VLE, eAssessment, ePortfolio and lecture recording, and media services in the institution, as well as the adoption of WordPress as an enterprise blogging platform, and the use of Jupyter Notebooks to support computational learning. She has a keen interest in data and learning analytics, and has led development of policy for the ethical use of these technologies in both of her institutions. Whilst at Edinburgh she supported the inclusion of OnTask into the Apereo Incubation process.
Since 2019 she has also been an advisor to the Open Edtech Collaborative (OpenETC) a project based in British Columbia which provides open source software technologies as a shared platform for the post-secondary sector, based on the principles of platform cooperativism.
Anne-Marie holds an MA in English and Scottish Literature and a PG Dip in e-Learning, both from Edinburgh. One day she might do a PhD. She’s been telling herself that for a few years now.
AFF: Chairwoman Anne-Marie Scott, thank you for joining us on Apereo Foundation Fast!
A-M: Thank you for inviting me to contribute, it’s a pleasure!
AFF: First things first, what is the Apereo Board and what is the role of board members in the Apereo Foundation?
A-M: The Apereo Board is the overarching governing body of the Apereo Foundation. The Foundation is the umbrella legal entity under which all of our software projects and communities reside and so board members have a day to day responsibility to ensure the Foundation is in good operational shape, by which I mean overseeing administrative activities to ensure that we’re able to provide the services and support that our various software communities need. Beyond that we have a big role to play in setting strategy for growth of our community and advocating for the role of open source software in education. This is why it’s so important that our board is drawn from our membership. As Apereo is a truly global software foundation I’m also very privileged to work with a really diverse board both in terms of skills and experience, and also in gender and geographic spread. That breadth of perspective that board members bring is really important.
AFF: Could you tell us about one Apereo initiative that has occurred during your tenure as Chair of the board that you are especially proud of?
A-M: Ha! I think my tenure as Chair of the Board has been interesting as it has mostly coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic and for all of us in all aspects of our lives it really hasn’t been business as usual. Our capacity as a volunteer board to take on additional initiatives has been really limited during this period, so in some ways I think I’m most proud that we’ve managed to keep ourselves going in the face of the personal and professional challenges we’ve all had. Probably the biggest thing that we have achieved is the transition from our founding Executive Director, Ian Dolphin, to our new Interim General Manager, Patrick Masson. I don’t think any of us were looking for that level of change during the pandemic, and Ian’s shoes are big ones to fill, but we’re delighted to have Patrick on board and already seeing immense benefits from the experience he brings. We’ve also welcomed the AXIES group into our Apereo network, cementing a long-standing relationship with a number of Japanese institutions. As I’ve said already, I view Apereo’s geographic diversity as one of our main strengths, and I worry about the extent to which western, northern hemisphere ideas about what learning and technology should be dominate, and so this is particularly important to me.
AFF: Chairwoman, you have been at the helm during the entirety of the pandemic. How has Apereo had to adapt to better serve our membership during these unprecedented times?
A-M: That’s a really interesting question! I think actually Apereo has had to do what it can to meet our members where they are during this period. In the first year of the pandemic many of our members were at the forefront of their institutions pivot to emergency remote teaching and the day job became somewhat all-consuming. After 2 years I have the sense that anyone working in higher education is pretty exhausted. With that in mind, I think we have all had to adjust our expectations of what people are able to commit to some of our projects. In 2020 we pivoted Open Apereo to be a fully online conference and we stayed online for 2021 as well. I think that was important for ensuring that our community was still able to come together, to network, to share, and hopefully to find a little inspiration and joy again. Our opportunities to support our community via advocacy work have been a little curtailed during this time, but I get the sense as we emerge from the pandemic, with some increasingly alarming bills for commercial educational technologies, the time is right to be ramping up our efforts. I can’t help but reflect on Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s brilliant keynote from Apereo 2020 where she asks us to question what universities are for, and imagine the possibilities that openness, community, and commons could offer us. That seems even more vital and important now.
AFF: What are a few of Apereo Foundation’s current initiatives or areas of focus that you want folks to know about?
A-M: We’ve taken the opportunity both with the pandemic and the change in leadership to do some administrative housekeeping, so some of our current initiatives and focus are probably a bit boring to our membership! I am personally excited about having refreshed our accounting services and I think we should be able to provide better services to our member projects in the near future. We’re also now starting to work on a tidy up and refresh of our website, and we’ve got a couple of really exciting partnerships in the pipeline. Members might have seen the recent posting on the Open list about the Open Source Technology Management courses offered by Brandeis University which we can get a discount on. I think opportunities like these are really important in terms of supporting capacity building.
AFF: What are ways that individuals and organizations can support or become involved in Apereo? Are there any areas where Apereo especially needs volunteers or involvement?
A-M: Obviously anyone not already in Apereo should instantly sign up for membership! Beyond that though, there are lots of opportunities for people to get involved, formally and informally, big and small! Follow @Apereo on Twitter, tag us in interesting things in open education you are doing, and retweet interesting things you see us post - that’s a really easy way for anyone to support us. We’re also always looking for interesting stories for our newsletter or blog posts for the website. Whilst our focus is on Apereo projects and members, we’re always interested in hearing more about the wider work of open source in education and in networking with like-minded people and organisations. Advocacy for open source is an area where shared efforts go a long way. In terms of areas where we especially need volunteers or involvement I can’t help but flag that Open Apereo 2022 is coming up, so please do answer the call for proposals, and also tell all your friends about it. Also Board nominations will be opening soon!
AFF: You are an avid blogger and speak frequently to the Value of Open Source, could you give us a few words on not only the Value of Open Source but the Value of Apereo within the Open Source world?
A-M: For me, the value of open source is about owning your own mission, developing talent and capability, and having the freedom and flexibility to innovate. I’ve really struggled with the hollowing out of technology departments in higher education because it seems completely antithetical to the educational mission. I’ve been really inspired over the last few years by the adoption of open source processes and practices within the digital government sphere, and in particular the ways in which developing openly isn’t just producing better software for citizen services, it’s changing public sector culture and reshaping working relationships. I hope as has already happened in France, we see more of this percolate out into the wider public sector.
What makes Apereo special for me in this space is that we are a meeting point where like-minded people can find their community, and in building community, building networks, and providing services and supports to projects, we contribute something really meaningful to the sustainability and credibility of open source as an option. Our geographic diversity and our mix of both commercial and educational members really does make us a power-house of expertise in open source in education.
AFF: Chairwoman Anne-Marie Scott, thank you for your time. We deeply appreciate you being with us here on Apereo Foundation Fast.
A-M: Thank you for having me! It’s been an absolute pleasure and I hope one or two of our members might feel inspired to be interviewed for this series too - I would love to hear more from the voices within our community.
If you would like to nominate someone (including yourself) as an interviewee for Apereo Foundation Fast, please contact michelle.hall[at]apereo[dot]org