Higher Education Resilience, Software Incubation and Acceleration

Higher Education Resilience, Software Incubation and Acceleration

Higher education resilience has become a topic of widespread concern and conversation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. One initiative, led by Michael Feldstein, suggests the formation of a "Resilience Network" to more effectively share approaches and resources between institutions. Discoverability is a critical issue here, and there are opportunities to learn from approaches the liberary and OER communities have taken in this respect. Indeed, if the overall approach is going to be effective, we're going to not just require joined up thinking, but more joined up practice within and between our institutions.

Around 60 attendees participated in Michael's session at Open Apereo 2020 introducing the Resilience Network concept and exploring potential approaches. If you're not familiar with the initiative, watch this video for a thumbnail conversation starter: https://bit.ly/resilienceoa20

It's clear that moving these ideas forward will take considerable effort, not least of which will be effort to build effective partnerships. A series of breakout workshops around Michael's session at Open Apereo 2020 explored potential contributions Apereo communities might make to a networked response. I want to pick up the suggestions one such group produced in the first instance. Expect more from other groups in subsequent posts.

Workshop participants felt it was important to ground contributions to a broader initiative in current practice. Leveraging and extending existing work makes more sense - and should produce more rapid results - than Yet Another Initiative, particularly in the context of a sector wracked by pandemic response fatigue and uncertainty. The conversation turned to the Apereo incubation process. Apereo incubation has helped some sixteen software initiatives on the path to sustainability. It's a process modelled on the Apache incubation process, with some higher education specific tweaks, supported by a group of community volunteer mentors. You can read more about it at http://bit.ly/ApereoIncubation Apereo incubation is profoundly about ensuring choice for higher ed, and ensuring an open source licensed ecosystem capable of being adapted to changed circumstances. It's also about retaining the institutional capacity to make those adaptations in response to change.

A process is not static, and we've continued to iterate our incubation process, without moving the goalposts for incubating projects, as we've gathered experience and expertise. The Open Apereo Resilience Network Workshop conversation posed some interesting challenges that the Foundation and its partners will be working to address in coming months. Key questions posed by a participant are worth repeating: "How do we get more open source options for higher education out there, faster?". "How can we engage faculty and students in the software development process to ensure a better fit?" "What can we learn from existing software accelerators outside, and inside higher ed?" "What are people in institutions creating right now in response to the crisis that might be shared?" There are some natural connections to be made as we move to address these questions. The Open Source Project Office (OSPO) initiative aims to establish a series of OSPOs across higher education as one-stop interfaces between higher ed institutions and open source communities. Existing groups representing educational and learning technologists can be approached for input and help establishing connections across the sector. There are ways to get involved. If you're interested in the broader discussion, if you have experience to contribute as an Apereo incubation mentor, or if you're working on a software solution in higher education you feel has potential as open source software - get in touch. ed[at]apereo[dot]org