Apereo Community Reflections on FOSSY 2023

FOSSY was held in Portland OR USA
October 13, 2023
Words By: Patrick Masson, Laura Fernandez-Moran, Josh Wilson, Lucy Appert, Clint Lalonde and Michelle Hall

Photos by: Josh Wilson, Anne-Marie Scott and FOSSY Staff

The Apereo community joined the wider open source world at the inaugural FOSSY conference in 2023. We asked a few of the Apereo community members who attended FOSSY to share their reflections about the conference. 

Overwhelmingly, folks were glad to be in the same physical space as their Apereo colleagues after a long hiatus. Leveraging the wider OSS community present at FOSSY enabled several partnerships for the Foundation and spread the word that open source has a presence and power in education, which FOSSY attendees wholeheartedly supported and were excited to hear about.

We hope you enjoy reading these reflections and consider joining us at FOSSY next year and/or at one of the other conferences where Apereo has been invited to partner.

Patrick Masson discussing Apereo at FOSSY 2023

Introduction to FOSSY by Patrick Masson, Executive Director of Apereo Foundation

Creating and extending community are real challenges in the ever-evolving landscape of open source software, edtech, and higher education; there are also opportunities. Growing community through cooperation and collaboration is at the heart of Apereo's origin story. 

JASIG and The Sakai Foundation merged to extend the value of openness, achieve common goals, and leverage shared interests while capitalizing on diverse experiences and expertise. One of the most impactful outcomes of this alliance was the creation of Open Apereo. For years Open Apereo offered opportunities for discovery, professional development, networking, and a whole lot of fun. The conference provided a forum for our diverse people and projects, a studio for our emerging technologies and tool development, and a platform for varied constituents, all united in support of open source and education.

Unfortunately, participation and cross-community engagement lessened over time (and the pandemic didn't help). However, the enthusiasm around sharing, the value of coming together, and the desire for discovery remained strong. How can the Foundation re-ignite our community's excitement, foster cross-pollination, and encourage engagement (oh, and still have fun)? By participating with the broader open source, highered, and edtech communities.

The first such opportunity popped up in June when the Software Freedom Conservancy launched the Free and Open Source Software Yearly (FOSSY) conference in Portland, Oregon. For years, Portland was the home of OSCON--the Open Source Conference--but when the pandemic hit, O'Reily canceled OSCON and never brought it back. For many foundations, FOSSY 2023 provided an opportunity to once again gather around common interests and ideals. In addition to Apereo, other organizations in attendance included Creative Commons, Debian, Drupal, FreeBSD, Gnome, Linux Foundation, Open Infrastructure Foundation, Open Invention Network, Open Source Initiative, OpenStreetMap, Python Software Foundation, and UNICEF.

Higher education was also well represented and Apereo co-hosted the FOSS for Education track at the conference. A few of the attending institutions included Carnegie Mellon, Dickinson College, Drexel University, Northwestern University, Oregon State University, Rochester Institute of Technology, Saint Louis University, University of British Columbia, University of California San Diego, University of California Santa Cruz, University of Washington, University in Worcester, and Western New England University.

And, of course, FOSSY was supported by many of open source's largest corporate adopters and contributors: AWS, Google, IBM, Oracle, Percona, and Red Hat.

Apereo community members who attended FOSSY included, several Board Directors, a handful of the 2023 Dolphin Fellows, project members and leaders, and quite a few Apereo folks presented at FOSSY.

Special thanks to those Apereo community members who volunteered at the Apereo booth during the conference and shared their passion for Apereo with the FOSSY attendees. Their willingness to step in to help is but one example of the devotedness to community values demonstrated by our Apereo people. 


Reflections from Laura Fernandez-Moran, uPortal Steering Committee, Unicon and 2023 Apereo Dolphin Fellow

“It was nice being able to attend a conference face-to-face this year. I was able to see my Apereo colleagues, in some cases, for the first time ever while running the booth. We had a fabulous time reconnecting and I enjoyed being able to visit them after years of not having a conference platform to make that in-person connection.” 

“The FOSSY conference had a lot to offer with many sessions relating to open source community sustainability where I found great takeaways for our uPortal community. I'm excited by the direction that the Apereo Foundation is taking. Having a presence at other conferences is a great way to engage with potential adopters and build awareness of higher education open source opportunities. I'm also eager to participate in future conferences and promote our Incubation Working Group to help open source projects build their communities.” 


Caption: Laura Fernandez-Moran of uPortal and Unicon and Anne-Marie Scott, Apereo’s Board Chair, during the Apereo Dolphin Fellowships presentation ceremony at the FOSSY Friends and Fun event.


Anne Marie and Laura at FOSSY
Josh Wilson

Reflections from Josh Wilson, Vice-chair of the Apereo Board

“FOSSY was amazing, enriching in the best way, and I loved making new connections in the broader OSS world. Being in conversation with projects beyond the edges of Apereo's walled garden was incredible - so many partnership opportunities, so many like-minded insightful people who can (and do!) offer fascinating, relevant suggestions; and so much going on in the OSS world that wasn't apparent before, at least to me.” 

“Perhaps [the] best was meeting Apereo folks with whom I've talked on Big Blue Button so many times but never yet met in person! After I had just arrived, I stumbled into a strategy meeting hearing Patrick's and Anne-Marie's familiar voices - having never laid eyes on them. It hit me deeply at the time and since then. [It was ] powerful.”

Caption: Josh Wilson, Vice-Chair of the Apereo Board


Reflections from Lucy Appert, Director, Educational Technology of Arts & Science at NYU

“It was great to gather in person again after the pandemic hiatus and to reunite with friends from across our global Apereo community. After a few years of being heads down figuring out and supporting remote instruction, it was great to be able to think more broadly about open source technology and education and FOSSY was an ideal environment for that. I was excited by the many new possibilities for connection and growth in open source for educators and students and loved meeting colleagues from across the open source spectrum.”


Carlos Turro Ribalta,Shoji Kajita, Josh Wilson, Anne-Marie Scott and Cline Lalonde

Reflections from Clint Lalonde, Apereo Board Member and BCcampus

“One of my FOSSY highlights was meeting instructors Grant Braught, Heidi Ellis, Greg Hislop, and Karl Wurst, who are all involved with POSSE, Professors' Open Source Software Experience. These four instructors integrate open source software into their teaching and learning practice by connecting their students with open source projects and helping them become active contributors with those projects. For students, this type of experiential open pedagogy learning activity provides them with a very rich, rewarding, and authentic learning experience compared to traditional assignments, and I couldn’t help but draw parallels to the work they do to that of the Wiki Education program from Wikipedia.” 

“I came away from my meeting with this group of educators impressed with their commitment to HFOSS, Humanitarian Free and Open Source Software projects. HFOSS is software designed to benefit the human condition in areas such as health care, economic development, disaster management, ecology, education and more. Hislop and Ellis have conducted numerous studies on the use of HFOSS with students and have found that many students, especially women, find working on HFOSS project intrinsically motivating and may be a good way to attract traditionally under-represented communities into both the field of computing science and open source software development.” 

“For more on their work, you can visit their community of practice site called TOS - Teaching Open Source - where they bring together people and resources to help others incorporate OSS projects into their teaching & learning practice.”

“Another highlight was learning about PLOM, an open source project based out of the University of British Columbia that aims to help bridge the divide between physical and digital grading for math based courses. Currently in use at UBC, PLOM is software that provides a workflow that allows students to take quizzes and exams on paper, but allows instructors and teaching assistants to grade them digitally.” 

“Finally, as with most conferences, much of the value comes from hallway conversations and I had many of those meetings connecting with people involved with Apereo projects. I had a particularly rich set of conversations with people involved with Open Source Project Offices (OSPOs). While many OSPO’s focus on supporting the development and use of OSS to support research activities at institutions, I did connect with Stephen Jacobs from the Rochester Technical Institute who’s OSPO has a broader open scope that some of the others. Open@RIT does not identify as an OSPO as such, but prefers to use the term Open Work to help define the scope of their practice which includes Open Educational Resources (OER), Open Science, Open Scholarship, Open Access and Open Knowledge in addition to Open Source Software. I found this broad framing of what an institutional open office impressive and a great example of how institutions can begin to centralize support at their institution for the entire gamut of open activities happening in higher education.” 

Caption: Carlos Turro Ribalta, Shoji Kajita, Josh Wilson, Anne-Marie Scott and Clint Lalonde

Thank you to our community members who contributed their reflections to this piece. We at the Foundation look forward to learning more about what our community learned at the next event. 

Benito and Anne-Marie

Benito Gonzalez of uPortal and Unicon and Apereo’s Board Chair, Anne-Marie Scott during the Apereo Dophin Fellowship Awards at the FOSSY Friends and Fun event.

Katrin Ihler

Community members who could not attend were missed, such as Apereo Dolphin Fellow Katrin Ihler of the Opencast project and  ELAN e.V.

uPortal folks at Friends and Fun event.

Fun times with uPortal folks at the FOSS, Friends and Fun event.

Jim Helwig, Benito Gonzales and Laura Moran