Getting Out; Getting Together; Getting Things Done.

Getting Out; Getting Together; Getting Things Done.

By: Patrick Masson, Interim General Manager of the Apereo Foundation

January 2022                  

Like others over the past two years, Apereo has faced the new realities brought on by the pandemic, one in particular, too few — maybe even no — opportunities to meet face-to-face with peers and partners. While dedicated community members continued to successfully work online to support Apereo and our projects, there is real value in meeting personally with colleagues around shared interests at dedicated, topic-specific events. Unique opportunities emerge when immersed in the culture and creativity of community. Dedicating time away from day-to-day activities to focus on a specific project or initiative affords deeper engagement and sustained collaboration. Personal relationships promote professional partnerships. Most of us already knew this, but the isolation of the pandemic highlighted the value and benefits of getting out and getting together to get things done as a community.

With this in mind, I was excited to learn Apereo's international partner, the Academic eXchange for Information Environments and Strategies (AXIES), would host their annual conference in person in Sendai, Japan. The event provided an excellent occasion to introduce myself, learn more about AXIES and the broader educational technology community in Japan, and even rekindle our relationships and the potential of our partnerships.

I was also looking forward to meeting long-time Apereo board director and AXIES representative Shoji Kajita. Shoji has a long history with open initiatives and communities across Japan’s higher education sector and has played critical roles in the adoption of open source software, including Sakai at his own institution, Kyoto University. Through his years of experience, he has fostered an impressive network of individuals and institutions leading the development and implementation of open source software, open educational resources, and open science (...and not just in Japan). Shoji kindly organized meetings with his colleagues, Tsuneo Yamada, Professor & Chair, Department of Informatics, and Assistant to the President, at The Open University of Japan, Yamaji Kazutsuna, Professor, Digital Content and Media Sciences Research Division, Japan’s National Institute of Informatics, and John Augeri, Researcher & Program Director, Learning Spaces at Île-de-France Digital University, Paris, to discuss, respectively, OER, Open Access/Research, and Open Education. In addition, Shoji also set up a meeting with Educause President and CEO John O'Brien, adding another excellent opportunity for Apereo to rekindle a relationship.

Considering the above, I suspect I would have attended AXIES '22 no matter what; however, I was thrilled to discover Open Education (OER, Open Science, Data, Research and Access, and Open Courses, etc.) was a key theme of the conference. 

My biggest takeaways from the AXIES conference and presentations were the commitment from Japan's higher education sector and governments to open initiatives--and how so many institutions, not just across Japan but in my experience, share the same issues around awareness, adoption, development, management, etc. While the "official" theme may have been Digital Transformation, clearly, the tools and process recommended for realizing DX goals were through open initiatives and with open resources. How to identify and implement these tools and techniques was a common theme among presenters and within discussions. The AXIES community's commitment to leverage open resources was highlighted upon entering my first conference session when I- and everyone else attending- was given a university(?)/government(?) produced booklet loosely translated as "Understanding Copyright and Education." 

Other sessions included: 

  • "What is OER: Current situation in Japan,"  
  • "Actual implementation of Article 35 of the Revised Copyright Act at universities," 
  • "[Open] online classes and the future of universities,"
  • "Issues and Future of Educational Content Sharing: OER and Public Transmission Compensation System for Teaching Purposes," to name a few.

I was fortunate enough to be a presenter myself and delivered my talk, "Global Open Source and Open Standards to advance teaching and learning."

With so many institutions aligned and working together to advance open initiatives and resources, The AXIES community provides tremendous opportunities (best practices, use cases, policy and governance, awareness and advocacy, community engagement, etc., etc., etc.) for Apereo, our projects, and our membership. Cultivating and extending our partnership with AXIES and their community is a top recommendation for 2023.

But AXIES wasn't the only consortium I was fortunate enough to connect with. Ironically, I traveled all the way to Japan to discover several opportunities with one of North America's premier EdTech organizations, EDUCAUSE. Coincidently, President and CEO John O'Brien was attending AXIES, delivering his keynote, "Leading What's Next." While Apereo, and Apereo projects like Sakai, have traditionally participated in various EDUCAUSE activities, e.g., the annual Conference and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI), it became clear there are several other events relevant to our community and opportunities for deeper engagement that would benefit the Foundation as well as our projects and members.

Yes, the food was amazing, the people were brilliant, the projects were fascinating, the discussions were motivating, and the event was inspiring. But for me, for Apereo, for openness, and for our work, community (collaboration and co-creation) is essential. I hope you too were able to maintain community through the pandemic and are now finding more opportunities to once again engage at any level that aligns with your comfort and commitments.

Like so many of us, I suspect your priorities over the past couple of years have focused on the pandemic. If you’ve missed a few newsletters, skipped the conference calls, passed on project meet-ups, skipped OpenApereo, or dropped off a mailing list or two–if you’re ready–I invite you to reach out now to update us on how you’re doing and what you’ve been up to. We have exciting plans for the Apereo community, our projects, and you in 2023. Please take a minute to contact Jenn Cummings (jenn.cummings(a) or me (patrick.masson(a) directly to ensure we have your current contact information so that our community can, once again, get out, get together, and get things done.

Photos from AXIES '22 Conference

Header Photo: Sendai Castle Bridge, Sendai, Japan. This bridge, located in the rear of the castle grounds, leads to a Shinto shrine.

Image 1: AXIES '22 Conference in Sendai, Japan
Left to right: Takafumi Aoki, Executive Vice President for Strategic Planning & Provost, Tohoku University; Patrick Masson, Interim General Manager, Apereo Foundation; John O’Brien, President & CEO, EDUCASUE; Shoji Kajita, Professor, IT Planning Office, Institute for Information Management and Communication, Kyoto University, and; Tsuneo Yamada, Professor & Assistant to the President, The Open University of Japan.

Image 2: The booklet entitled, “Really Understanding Copyright and Classes” distributed during the AXIES ‘22 Conference, providing attendees with guidelines for the development and distribution of Open Educational Resources.

Image 3: Dr. Shoji Kajita presenting “Thinking about the information education environment in the BYOD era” during AXIES ‘22, Sendai, Japan.