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Employers Aren’t Just Whining – the “Skills Gap” Is Real

OLDaily - 26 Agosto, 2014 - 20:38

James Bessen, Harvard Business Review Blogs, Aug 26, 2014

"The idea of a 'skills gap' as identified in this and other surveys has been widely criticized," writes James Bessen, citing criticism from Peter Cappelli, Paul Krugman and the New York Times. "A worldwide scheme by thousands of business managers to manipulate public opinion seems far-fetched.," he says (naively). But the evidence for a skills gap can be found in wages. " We see it in the high pay that software developers in Silicon Valley receive for their specialized skills. And we see it throughout the workforce. Research shows that since the 1980s, the wages of the top 10% of workers has risen sharply relative to the median wage."

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Categorías: General

Readers absorb less on Kindles than on paper, study finds

OLDaily - 26 Agosto, 2014 - 20:38

Alison Flood, The Guardian, Aug 26, 2014

So the premise here is that context has an impact on memory, and that eBooks read on the Kindle lack the appropriate context for remembering. "In this study, we found that paper readers did report higher on measures having to do with empathy and transportation and immersion, and narrative coherence, than iPad readers," said Mangen. But, you know, it's one study, with one set of readers. I've been reading online for the last 30 years. I expect my sense of context may well be different.

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Categorías: General

Crowd-Sourced Peer Review: Substitute or supplement for the current outdated system?

OLDaily - 26 Agosto, 2014 - 20:38

Peter Suber, London School of Economics, Aug 26, 2014

Many authors, writes Peter Suber, prefer to have their work reviewed in private. But this may be about to change. He writes, "The problem with classical peer review today is that there is so much research being produced that there are not enough experts with enough time to peer-review it all. So there are huge publication lags because of delays in finding qualified, willing referees."

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Categorías: General

Arizona State Adds Safety Mobile App, Allows for Virtual Escort

Campus Technology - 26 Agosto, 2014 - 20:18
The community at Arizona State University will be able to use a new mobile app that allows them to communicate with the campus police department.

Community Source Is Dead

e-Literate - 26 Agosto, 2014 - 19:21

As Phil noted in yesterday’s post, Kuali is moving to a for-profit model, and it looks like it is motivated more by sustainability pressures than by some grand affirmative vision for the organization. There has been a long-term debate in higher education about the value of “community source,” which is a particular governance and funding model for open source projects. This debate is arguably one of the reasons why Indiana University left the Sakai Foundation (as I will get into later in this post). At the moment, Kuali is easily the most high-profile and well-funded project that still identifies itself as Community Source. The fact that this project, led by the single most vocal proponent for the Community Source model, is moving to a different model strongly suggests that Community Source has failed.

It’s worth taking some time to talk about why it has failed, because the story has implications for a wide range of open-licensed educational projects. For example, it is very relevant to my recent post on business models for Open Educational Resources (OER).

What Is Community Source?

The term “Community Source” has a specific meaning and history within higher education. It was first (and possibly only) applied to a series of open source software projects funded by the Mellon Foundation, including Sakai, Kuali, Fedora, and DSpace (the latter two of which have merged). As originally conceived, Community Source was an approach that was intended to solve a perceived resource allocation problem in open source. As then-Mellon Foundation Associate Program Officer Chris Mackie put it,

For all that the OSS movement has produced some runaway successes, including projects like Perl, Linux, and Mozilla Firefox, there appear to be certain types of challenges that are difficult for OSS to tackle. Most notably, voluntaristic OSS projects struggle to launch products whose primary customers are institutions rather than individuals: financial or HR systems rather than Web servers or browsers; or uniform, manageable desktop environments rather than programming languages or operating systems. This limitation may trace to any of several factors: the number of programmers having the special expertise required to deliver an enterprise information system may be too small to sustain a community; the software may be inherently too unglamorous or uninteresting to attract volunteers; the benefits of the software may be too diffuse to encourage beneficiaries to collaborate to produce it; the software may be too complex for its development to be coordinated on a purely volunteer basis; the software may require the active, committed participation of specific firms or institutions having strong disincentives to participate in OSS; and so on. Any of these factors might be enough to prevent the successful formation of an OSS project, and there are many useful types of enterprise software—including much of the enterprise software needed by higher education institutions—to which several of them apply. In short, however well a standard OSS approach may work for many projects, there is little reason to believe that the same model can work for every conceivable software project.

This is not very different from the argument I made recently about OER:

In the early days of open source, projects were typically supported through individual volunteers or small collections of volunteers, which limited the kinds and size of open source software projects that could be created. This is also largely the state of OER today. Much of it is built by volunteers. Sometimes it is grant funded, but there typically is not grant money to maintain and update it. Under these circumstances, if the project is of the type that can be adequately well maintained through committed volunteer efforts, then it can survive and potentially thrive. If not, then it will languish and potentially die.

The Mellon Foundation’s answer to this problem was Community Source, again as described by Chris Mackie:

Under this new model, several institutions contract together to build software for a common need, with the intent of releasing that software as open source. The institutions form a virtual development organization consisting of employees seconded from each of the partners. This entity is governed cooperatively by the partners and managed as if it were an enterprise software development organization, with project and team leads, architects, developers, and usability specialists, and all the trappings of organizational life, including reporting relationships and formal incentive structures. During and after the initial construction phase, the consortial partners open the project and invite in anyone who cares to contribute; over time the project evolves into a more ordinary OSS project, albeit one in which institutions rather than individual volunteers usually continue to play a major role.

A good friend of mine who has been involved in Mellon-funded projects since the early days describes Community Source more succinctly as a consortium with a license. Consortial development is a longstanding and well understood method of getting things done in higher education. If I say to you, “Kuali is a consortium of universities trying to build an ERP system together,” you will probably have some fairly well-developed notions of what the pros and cons of that approach might be. The primary innovation of Community Source is that it adds an open source license to the product that the consortium develops, thus enabling another (outer) circle of schools to adopt and contribute to the project. But make no mistake: Community Source functions primarily like a traditional institutional consortium. This can be best encapsulated by what Community Source proponents refer to as the Golden Rule: “If you bring the gold then you make the rules.”[1]

Proponents of Community Source suggested even from the early days that Community Source is different from open source. Technically, that’s not true, since Community Source projects produce open source software. But it is fair to say that Community Source borrows the innovation of the open source license while maintaining traditional consortial governance and enterprise software management techniques. Indiana University CIO and Community Source proponent Brad Wheeler sometimes refers to Community Source as “the pub between the Cathedral and the Bazaar (a reference to Eric Raymond’s seminal essay on open source development).” More recently, Brad and University of Michigan’s Dean of Libraries James Hilton codified what they consider to be the contrasts between open source and Community Source in their essay “The Marketecture of Community,” and which Brad elaborates on in his piece “Speeding Up On Curves.” They represent different models of procuring software in a two-by-two matrix, where the dimensions are “authority” and “influence”:

Note that both of these dimensions are about the degree of control that the purchaser has in deciding what goes into the software. It is fundamentally a procurement perspective. However, procuring software and developing software are very different processes.

A Case Study in Failure and Success

The Sakai community and the projects under its umbrella provide an interesting historical example to see how Community Source has worked and where it has broken down. In its early days, Indiana University and the University of Michigan where primary contributors to Sakai and very much promoted the idea of Community Source. I remember a former colleague returning from a Sakai conference in the summer of 2005 commenting, “That was the strangest open source conference I have ever been to. I have never seen an open source project use the number of dollars they have raised as their primary measure of success.” The model was very heavily consortial in those days, and the development of the project reflected that model. Different schools built different modules, which were then integrated into a portal. As Conway’s Law predicts, this organizational decision led to a number of technical decisions. Modules developed by different schools were of differing quality and often integrated with each other poorly. The portal framework created serious usability problems like breaking the “back” button on the browser. Some of the architectural consequences of this approach took many years to remediate. Nevertheless, Sakai did achieve a small but significant minority of U.S. higher education market share, particularly at its peak a few years ago. Here’s a graph showing the growth of non-Blackboard LMSs in the US as of 2010, courtesy of data from the Campus Computing Project:

Meanwhile, around 2009, Cambridge University built the first prototype of what was then called “Sakai 3.” It was intended to be a ground-up rewrite of a next-generation system. Cambridge began developing it themselves as an experiment out of their Centre for Applied Research in Educational Technologies, but it was quickly seized upon by NYU and several other schools in the Sakai community as interesting and “the future.” A consortial model was spun up around it, and then spun up some more. Under pressure from Indiana University and University of Michigan, the project group created multiple layers of governance, the highest of which eventually required a $500K institutional commitment in order to participate. Numbers of feature requirements and deadlines proliferated, while project velocity slowed. The project hit technical hurdles, principally around scalability, that it was unable to resolve, particularly given ambitious deadlines for new functionality. In mid-2012, Indiana University and University of Michigan “paused investment” in the project. Shortly thereafter, they left the project altogether, taking with them monies that they had previously committed to invest under a Memorandum of Understanding. The project quickly collapsed after that, with several other major investors leaving. (Reread Phil’s post from yesterday with this in mind and you’ll see the implications for measuring Kuali’s financial health.)

Interestingly, the project didn’t die. Greatly diminished in resources but freed from governance and management constraints of the consortial approach, the remaining team not only finally re-architected the platform to solve the scalability problems but also have managed seven major releases since that implosion in 2012. The project, now called Apereo OAE, has returned to its roots as an academic (including learning) collaboration platform and is not trying to be a direct LMS replacement. It has even begun to pick up significant numbers of new adoptees—a subject that I will return to in a future post.

It’s hard to look at the trajectory of this project and not conclude that the Community Source model was a fairly direct and significant cause of its troubles. Part of the problem was the complex negotiations that come along with any consortium. But a bigger part, in my opinion, was the set of largely obsolete enterprise software management attitudes and techniques that come along as a not-so-hidden part of the Community Source philosophy. In practice, Community Source is essentially project management approach focused on maximizing the control and influence of the IT managers whose budgets are paying for the projects. But those people are often not the right people to make decisions about software development, and the waterfall processes that they often demand in order to exert that influence and control (particularly in a consortial setting) are antithetical to current best practices in software engineering. In my opinion, Community Source is dead primarily because the Gantt Chart is dead.

Not One Problem but Two

Community Source was originally developed to address one problem, which was the challenge of marshalling development resources for complex (and sometimes boring) software development projects that benefit higher education. It is important to understand that, in the 20 years since the Mellon Foundation began promoting the approach, a lot has changed in the world of software development. To begin with, there are many more open source frameworks and better tools for developing good software more quickly. As a result, the number of people needed for software products (including voluntaristic open source projects) has shrunk dramatically—in some cases by as much as an order of magnitude. Instructure is a great example of a software platform that reached first release with probably less than a tenth of the money that Sakai took to reach its first release. But also, we can reconsider that “voluntaristic” requirement in a variety of ways. I have seen a lot of skepticism about the notion of Kuali moving to a commercial model. Kent Brooks’ recent post is a good example. The funny thing about it, though, is that he waxes poetic about Moodle, which has a particularly rich network of for-profit companies upon which it depends for development, including Martin Dougiamas’ company at the center. In fact, in his graphic of his ideal world of all open source, almost every project listed has one or more commercial companies behind it without which it would either not exist or would be struggling to improve:

BigBlueButton is developed entirely by a commercial entity. The Apache web server gets roughly 80% of its contributions from commercial entities, many of which (like IBM) get direct financial benefit from the project. And Google Apps aren’t even open source. They’re just free. Some of these projects have strong methods for incorporating voluntaristic user contributions and taking community input on requirements, while others have weak ones. But across that spectrum of practices, community models, and sustainability models, they continue consistent value. This is not to say that shifting Kuali’s sustainability model to a commercial entity is inevitably a fine idea that will succeed in enabling the software to thrive while preserving the community’s values. It’s simply to say that moving to a commercially-driven sustainability model isn’t inherently bad or evil. The value (or lack thereof) will all depend on how the shift is done and what the Kuali-adopting schools see as their primary goals.

But there is also a second problem we must consider—one that we’ve learned to worry about in the last couple of decades of progress in the craft of software engineering (or possibly a lot earlier, if you want to go back as far as the publication of The Mythical Man Month). What is the best way to plan and execute software development projects in light of the high degree of uncertainty inherent in developing any software with non-trivial complexity and a non-trivial set of potential users? If Community Source failed primarily because consortia are hard to coordinate, then moving to corporate management should solve that problem. But if it failed primarily because it reproduces failed IT management practices, then moving to a more centralized decision-making model could exacerbate the problem. Shifting the main stakeholders in the project from consortium partners to company investors and board members does not require a change in this mindset. No matter who the CEO of the new entity is, I personally don’t see Kuali succeeding unless it can throw off its legacy of Community Source IT consortium mentality and the obsolete, 1990′s-era IT management practices that undergird it.

  1. No, I did not make that up. See, for example,

The post Community Source Is Dead appeared first on e-Literate.

Cloud Research Consortium Receives $10 Million Grant

Campus Technology - 26 Agosto, 2014 - 17:36
The National Science Foundation has awarded a $10 million grant to a national consortium for cloud computing research and development.

Moodle Mobile for Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone is out!

Moodle News - 26 Agosto, 2014 - 17:00
If you’re using a Surface or Windows phone and wanted to use the Moodle Mobile apps like an Android or iOS user, you’re now in luck. The apps are now released in the Window’s App...

OpenSource.Support Added as the Newest Official Moodle Partner

Moodle News - 26 Agosto, 2014 - 15:30
New Zealand-based OpenSource.Support, a new open source software company focusing on Mahara and Moodle has been added as the newest Moodle Partner by The company offers long-term support...

Moodle Turns 12, happy birthday!

Moodle News - 26 Agosto, 2014 - 14:24
This past week Moodle celebrated its 12th birthday with a little cake at Moodle HQ. 12 years ago in August 2001 Moodle 1.0 was released to the public. Moodle’s history as posted to

The Association for Learning Technology publishes report on the effective use of learning technology in education

Open Education Europa RSS - 26 Agosto, 2014 - 10:57

This report by Diana Laurillard and Mareen Deepwell summarises the findings of the Association for Learning Technology's (ALT) survey on the effective use of learning technology in education. The report showed that barriers to innovation in education technology are common and need to be overcome.

Interest Area:  Schools Higher Education Training & Work Learning & Society

The Association for Learning Technology publishes report on the effective use of learning technology in education

Open Education Europa RSS - 26 Agosto, 2014 - 10:57

This report by Diana Laurillard and Mareen Deepwell summarises the findings of the Association for Learning Technology's (ALT) survey on the effective use of learning technology in education. The report showed that barriers to innovation in education technology are common and need to be overcome.

Interest Area:  Schools Higher Education Training & Work Learning & Society

Developing intellectual and practical skills in a digital age

Tony Bates - 26 Agosto, 2014 - 02:19


The story so far

Chapter 5 of my open textbook, ‘Teaching in a Digital Age’ is about the design of teaching and learning, which I am currently writing and publishing as I go.

I started Chapter 5 by suggesting that instructors should think about design through the lens of constructing a comprehensive learning environment in which teaching and learning will take place. I have started to work through the various components of a learning environment, focusing particularly on how the digital age affects the way we need to look at some of these components.

I started by looking at how the characteristics of our learners are changing, and followed that by examining how our perspectives on content are being influenced by the digital age. In this post, I look at how both intellectual and practical skills can be developed to meet the needs of a digital age. The following posts will do the same for learner support, resources and assessment respectively.

This will then lead to a discussion of different models for designing teaching and learning. These models aim to provide a structure for and integration of these various components of a learning environment.

Scenario: Developing historical thinking

© Wenxue City: China During the Early Days of the Reform

Ralph Goodyear is a professor of history in a public Tier 1 research university in the central United States. He has a class of 120 undergraduate students taking HIST 305, ‘Historiography’.

For the first three weeks of the course, Goodyear had recorded a series of short 15 minute video lectures that covered the following topics/content:

  • the various sources used by historians (e.g. earlier writings, empirical records including registries of birth, marriage and death, eye witness accounts, artifacts such as paintings, photographs, and physical evidence such as ruins.)
  • the themes around which historical analysis tend to be written,
  • some of the techniques used by historians, such as narrative, analysis and interpretation
  • three different positions or theories about history (objectivist, marxist, post modernist).

Students downloaded the videos according to a schedule suggested by Goodyear. Students attended two one hour classes a week, where specific topics covered in the videos were discussed. Students also had an online discussion forum in the course space on the university’s learning management system, where Goodyear had posted similar topics for discussion. Students were expected to make at least one substantive contribution to each online topic for which they received a grade that went towards their final grade.

Students also had to read a major textbook on historiography over this three week period.

In the fourth week, he divided the class into twelve groups of six, and asked each group to research the history of any city outside the United States over the last 50 years or so. They could use whatever sources they could find, including online sources such as newspaper reports, images, research publications, and so on, as well as the university’s own library collection. In writing their report, they had to do the following:

  • pick a particular theme that covered the 50 years and write a narrative based around the theme
  • identify the sources they finally used in their report, and discuss why they selected some sources and dismissed others
  • compare their approach to the three positions covered in the lectures
  • post their report in the form of an online e-portfolio in the course space on the university’s learning management system

They had five weeks to do this.

The last three weeks of the course were devoted to presentations by each of the groups, with comments, discussion and questions, both in class and online (the in class presentations were recorded and made available online). At the end of the course, students assigned grades to each of the other groups’ work. Goodyear took these student gradings into consideration, but reserved the right to adjust the grades, with an explanation of why he did the adjustment. Goodyear also gave each student an individual grade, based on both their group’s grade, and their personal contribution to the online and class discussions.

Goodyear commented that he was surprised and delighted at the quality of the students’ work. He said: ‘What I liked was that the students weren’t learning about history; they were doing it.’

Based on an actual case, but with some embellishments.

Skills in a digital age

In Chapter 1, Section 1.4, I listed some of the skills that graduates need in a digital age, and argued that this requires a greater focus on developing such skills, at all levels of education, but particularly at a post-secondary level, where the focus is often on specialised content. Although skills such as critical thinking, problem solving and creative thinking have always been valued in higher education, the identification and development of such skills is often implicit and almost accidental, as if students will somehow pick up these skills from observing faculty themselves demonstrating such skills or through some form of osmosis resulting from the study of content. I also pointed out in the same section, though, that there is substantial research on skills development but the knowledge deriving from such research is at best applied haphazardly, if at all, to the development of intellectual skills.

Furthermore the skills required in a digital age are broader and more wide ranging than the abstract academic skills traditionally developed in higher education. For instance, they need to be grounded just as much in digital communications media as in traditional writing or lecturing, and include the development of digital competence and expertise within a subject domain, as well as skills such as independent learning and knowledge management. These are not so much new skills as a different emphasis, focus or direction.

It is somewhat artificial to separate content from skills, because content is the fuel that drives the development of intellectual skills. At the same time, in more traditionally vocational training, we see the reverse trend in a digital age, with much more focus on developing high level conceptual thinking as well as manual skills development. My aim here is not to downplay the importance of content, but to ensure that skills development receives as much focus and attention from instructors, and that we approach intellectual skills development in the same rigorous and explicit way as apprentices are trained in manual skills.

Setting goals for skills development

Thus a critical step is to be explicit about what skills a particular course or program is trying to develop, and to define these goals in such a way that they can be implemented and assessed. In other words it is not enough to say that a course aims to develop critical thinking, but to state clearly what this would look like in the context of the particular course or content area, in ways that are clear to students. In particular the ‘skills’ goals should be capable of assessment and students should be aware of the criteria or rubrics that will be used for assessment.

Thinking activities

A skill is not binary, in the sense that you either have it or you don’t. There is a tendency to talk about skills and competencies in terms of novice, intermediate, expert, and master, but in reality skills require constant practice and application and there is, at least with regard to intellectual skills, no final destination. So it is critically important when designing a course or program to design activities that require students to develop, practice and apply thinking skills on a continuous basis, preferably in a way that starts with small steps and leads eventually to larger ones. There are many ways in which this can be done, such as written assignments, project work, and focused discussion, but these thinking activities need to be thought about, planned and implemented on a consistent basis by the instructor.

Practical activities

It is a given in vocational programs that students need lots of practical activities to develop their manual skills. This though is equally true for intellectual skills. Students need to be able to demonstrate where they are along the road to mastery, get feedback on it, and retry as a result. This means doing work that enables them to practice specific skills.

In the scenario above, students had to cover and understand the essential content in the first three weeks, do research in a group, develop an agreed project report, in the form of an e-portfolio, share it with other students and the instructor for comments, feedback and assessment, and present their report orally and online. Ideally, they will have the opportunity to carry over many of these skills into other courses where the skills can be further refined and developed. Thus, with skills development, a longer term horizon than a single course will be necessary, so integrated program as well as course planning is important.

Discussion as a tool for developing intellectual skills

Discussion is a very important tool for developing thinking skills. However, not any kind of discussion. It was argued in Chapter 2 that academic knowledge requires a different kind of thinking to everyday thinking. It usually requires students to see the world differently, in terms of underlying principles, abstractions and ideas. Thus discussion needs to be carefully managed by the instructor, so that it focuses on the development of skills in thinking that are integral to the area of study. This requires the instructor to plan, structure and support discussion within the class, keeping the discussions in focus, and providing opportunities to demonstrate how experts in the field approach topics under discussion, and comparing students’ efforts.

Figure 5.3: Online threaded discussion forums provide students with opportunities for developing intellectual skills, but the instructor needs to design and manage such forums carefully for this to happen

In conclusion

There are many opportunities in even the most academic courses to develop intellectual and practical skills that will carry over into work and life activities in a digital age, without corrupting the values or standards of academia. Even in vocational courses, students need opportunities to practice intellectual or conceptual skills such as problem-solving, communication skills, and collaborative learning. However, this won’t happen merely through the delivery of content. Instructors need to:

  • think carefully about exactly what skills their students need,
  • how this fits with the nature of the subject matter,
  • the kind of activities that will allow students to develop and improve their intellectual skills, and
  • how to give feedback and to assess those skills, within the time and resources available.

This is a very brief discussion of how and why skills development should be an integral part of any learning environment. We will be discussing skills and skill development in more depth in later chapters.

Over to you

Your views, comments and criticisms are always welcome. In particular:

  • how does the history scenario work for you? Does it demonstrate adequately the points I’m making about skills development?
  • are the skills being developed by students in the history scenario relevant to a digital age?
  • is this post likely to change the way you think about teaching your subject, or do you already cover skills development adequately? If you feel you do cover skills development well, does your approach differ from mine?

Love to hear from you.

Next up

Learner support in a digital age


Three Actors that Contribute to Student Success in Online Courses: The Institution, Instructor and Student

online learning insights - 26 Agosto, 2014 - 01:10
This post identifies and discusses three actors critical to students’ success in online courses: 1) the institution, 2) the instructor and, 3) the student. What contributes to student success in a course delivered online? To consider the question from a different perspective one can pose … Continue reading →

Acer Debuts New Chromebox CXI Series

Campus Technology - 26 Agosto, 2014 - 00:04
Acer has unveiled its latest line of devices running the Google Chrome operating system. The Acer Chromebox CXI series are compact devices that the company touts as "ideal for education."

Kuali For-Profit: Change is an indicator of bigger issues

e-Literate - 25 Agosto, 2014 - 22:28

On Friday the Kuali Foundation announced the creation of a new for-profit entity to be led by the former CTO of Instructure, Joel Dehlin. Jeff Young at the Chronicle described the change:

Ten years ago, a group of universities started a collaborative software project touted as an alternative to commercial software companies, which were criticized as too costly. On Friday the project’s leaders made a surprising announcement: that it would essentially become a commercial entity. [snip]

The Kuali Foundation will continue to exist as a non-profit, but it will be an investor in a new commercial entity to back the Kuali software development. Leaders insisted that they would maintain the values of the project despite creating the kind of organization that they once criticized. For one thing, the source software will remain free and open, but the company will sell services, like software hosting. On Friday the group issued an FAQ with details about the change.

As Carl Straumsheim put it at Inside Higher Ed:

The Kuali Foundation, after a decade of fighting commercial software vendors as a community source initiative, will launch a commercial company to better fight… commercial software vendors.

Despite the positioning that this change is about innovating into the next decade, there is much more to this change than might be apparent on the surface. The creation of a for-profit entity to “lead the development and ongoing support” and to enable “an additional path for investment to accelerate existing and create new Kuali products“ fundamentally moves Kuali away from the community source model. Customers will no longer have voting rights for Kuali projects but will instead be able to “sit on customer councils and will give feedback about design and priority”. Given such a transformative change to the underlying model, there are some big questions to address.

Financial Needs

Kuali, being a non-profit foundation, has its financial records available online, and the tax reporting form 990s are easily obtained through sites such as GuideStar. Furthermore, instructional media + magic (im+m) has a public eLibrary where they have shared Kuali documentation over the years.[1] There does not appear to be a smoking gun found in the financials to directly explain the need for such a significant change, but there are hints of issues that provide some insight. In a recent analysis of Kuali’s financials from these public sources, im+m noted how Kuali has reserves to survive between 8 – 34 months with no additional income, depending on the percentage of uncollectible accounts receivables. In an article in the Chronicle this past spring, Kuali leaders described their apparent financial strength.

The foundation is in the best financial shape it has ever been, its officials say. Membership dues for small colleges start at a few thousand dollars; some big institutions contribute up to seven figures for specific software projects.

“We are about a $30-million net-asset organization,” says Ms. Foutty, the executive director. “There is not a concern that we are going to lack cash flow or net assets to do what we want to do.”

But what comprises these net assets? It turns out that the vast majority is comprised of accounts receivable, and more specifically, committed in-kind contribution of project resources from member institutions on the various projects. By looking at the financial report from last year (ended June 30, 2013 – see p. 3), we can see that Kuali had net assets of $26.4 million of which $21.3 million were “contributions receivable”. I would assume that current assets have approximately the same ratios. What this means is that a foundation such as Kuali is more dependent on member institutions keeping the faith and honoring contribution commitments than they are on pure dues and hard cash. Kuali cannot afford for too many institutions to to pull out of the consortium and write-off their commitments, and this aspect is based on whether Kuali will deliver the products that the institutions need.


According to the Kuali web site, the addition of a for-profit entity was based on two community strategy meetings that were held June 25-26 and July 30-31 of this year. Brad Wheeler, chair of the Kuali Foundation and CIO at Indiana University, wrote his summary of the meetings on Aug 1, 2014, including these two prophetic notes:

  • We need to accelerate completion of our full suite of Kuali software applications, and to do so we need access to substantially more capital than we have secured to date to meet this need of colleges and universities.
  • Kuali should consider any applicable insights from a new breed of “professional open source” firms (ex. RedHat, MySQL, Instructure) that are succeeding in blending commercial, open source, and foundation models. This should include consideration of possibly creating a commercial arm of the Kuali community.

There were also direct notes about the need for cloud services and better project coordination and decision-making.

The changes announced on Friday come less than two months after the first community strategy meeting, so I have trouble seeing the meetings as the cause and the Friday changes as the effect. There is reason to believe that the changes have been in the works prior to June of this year.

Change as an Indicator

When Kuali makes this radical of a change (moving away from community source model) within this short of a timeframe (less than two month), I think the best way to view the change is as an indicator that there are bigger issues under the surface. I wrote in a post on Unizin about a key question about the community source model:

Community source has proven its ability to develop viable solutions for known product categories and generally based on existing solutions – consider Sakai as an LMS (heavily based on U Michigan’s CHEF implementation and to a lesser degree on Indiana University’s OnCourse), Kuali Financial System (based directly on IU’s financial system), and Kuali Coeus (based on MIT’s research administration system). When you get rid of a pre-existing solution, the results are less promising. Kuali Student, based on a known product category but designed from the ground up, is currently on track to take almost 8 years from concept to full functionality. Looking further, are there any examples where a new product in an ill-defined product category has successfully been developed in a community source model?

Kent Brooks, CIO of Casper College, wrote a post this morning and called out a critical aspect of why this challenge is so important.

My overall observation is that the 10 year old Kuali project seems to have hit a bit of a lull in new adoptions. Partly is because institutions such as mine provide the next ‘wave of growth’ potential and most are unwilling to listen to the Kuali talk when there is not a Kuali Walk…aka a complete suite of tools with which one can operate the entire institution. It is a deal breaker for the 4000ish small to mid sized institutions in the US alone.

In other words, the vision of Kuali requires the availability of Kuali Student in particular, but also for HR / Payroll. Both of these project are based on future promises. I strongly suspect that the lack of completion of a complete suite of tools that Kent mentions is the real driving issue here for the changes.

Kuali must have new investment in order to complete its suite of applications, and the for-profit entity is the vehicle that the Foundation needs to raise the capital. One model that certainly informs this approach is ANGEL Learning, a for-profit entity which was founded and partially owned by the non-profit Indiana University (IU). ANGEL was able to raise additional investment beyond IU, and when ANGEL was sold for $100 million in 2009, IU made approximately $23 million in proceeds from the sale.

Required Change

Although there is a lot still to learn, my view is that the creation of a for-profit entity is not just a choice for acceleration into the next decade but is a change that the Kuali Foundation feels is required. Kuali can no longer bet that the community source model as currently implemented can successfully complete new products not based on pre-existing university applications, and they cannot rely on the current model to attract sufficient investment to finish the job.

Brad Wheeler was quoted at Inside Higher Education summarizing the changes.

“What we’re really doing is gathering the good things a .com can do: stronger means of making decisions, looking broadly at the needs of higher education and maybe sharpening product offerings a bit more,” Wheeler said. “This is going to be a very values-based organization with patient capital, not venture capital.”

The foundation will fund the launch, Wheeler said. For future funding, the company won’t pursue venture capital or private equity, but money from “values-based investors” such as university foundations. That means Kuali won’t need to be run like a traditional ed-tech startup, he said, as the company won’t be “beholden to Wall Street.”

In a post from this afternoon, Chris Coppola from rSmart (a co-founder of Kuali) provided his summary:

The Kuali mission is unwavering, to drive down the cost of administration for colleges and universities to keep more money focused on the core teaching and research mission. Our (the Kuali community) mission hasn’t changed, but the ability to execute on it has improved dramatically. The former structure made it too difficult for colleges and universities to engage and benefit from Kuali’s work. This new model will simplify how institutions can engage. The former structure breeds a lot of duplicative (and even competitive) work. The new structure will be more efficient.

More to Come

There is a lot of news to unpack here, and Michael and I will report and provide analysis as we learn more. For now, there are some big questions to consider:

  1. If you read the rest of Kent Brooks’ blog, you’ll see that he is now delaying the decision for his school to join the Kuali community. How many other schools will rethink their membership in Kuali based on the new model? The Kuali FAQ acknowledges that they will lose members but also predicts they will gain new membership. Will this prediction prove to be accurate?
  2. More importantly, are there already current member institutions providing significant resources that are threatening to pull out of Kuali?
  3. Given the central need for new, significant investment, will Kuali and the new for-profit entity succeed in bringing in this investment?
  4. Will the new entity directly address the project challenges and complete the full suite of applications that is needed by the Kuali community?
  5. What effect will Kuali’s changes have on other community source initiatives such as Sakai / Apereo and Unizin?
  1. Disclosure: Jim Farmer from im+m has been a guest blogger at e-Literate for many years.

The post Kuali For-Profit: Change is an indicator of bigger issues appeared first on e-Literate.

Facebook Still Lures Students and E-Textbooks Don't Make Them Uniformly Happy

Campus Technology - 25 Agosto, 2014 - 22:24
Anybody who says Facebook has totally lost the college crowd is misinformed. College students spend an average of 7.6 hours on that social networking site every week, compared to just under five hours on YouTube and three hours each on Twitter and Instagram. These statistics come out of a survey sponsored by textbook price comparison Web site CampusBooks and run by marketing research firm Campbell Rinker.

Kuali Foundation goes commercial

Tony Bates - 25 Agosto, 2014 - 21:48

“No, you idiot, Kuali, not Koalas” ‘But isn’t kuali a Malaysian way of cooking?”

Straumsheim, C. (2014) Kuali Foundation: If you can’t beat them….., Inside Higher Education, August 25

While there are several providers of open source learning management systems for education, Kuali is the only provider of free, open source administrative software specifically built for higher education. In a blog post on August 22, it announced that while its software will still continue to be developed, open source and freely available, it will be creating a commercial company to provide for profit commercial services, such as hosting and contracted software development.

What is Kuali?

Kuali started as a consortium of mainly U.S. research universities which paid to join the Kuali Foundation, with the aim of developing free administrative software software systems designed specifically to meet the needs of higher education/post-secondary institutions.

What does Kuali do?

So far it has developed the following software systems:

How is it doing?

So far nearly 60 HE institutions are using Kuali products. However,  each product is at a different stage of development/usefulness. The financial system is the most advanced and most stabilized.

Why does it matter?

Although the days when Peoplesoft nearly bankrupted several major HE institutions are now long gone, commercial administrative systems such as Oracle and SAS are extremely expensive, designed primarily for a business rather than an educational environment, and as a consequence are often financially risky when it comes to adaptation and implementation within a higher education context. The development of administrative systems for higher education by higher education is a worthy goal, if it can be accomplished.

The ‘if’ though is still in some doubt. The financial system seems to be a success, the Student system is described as a ‘monster’ development project, and the HR system lacks enough investment. So Kuali as a whole is still very much a work in progress.

What are the changes? How is Kuali 2.0 different from the Kuali Foundation?

Kuali is now essentially a for-profit company, rather than a community consortium, although its governance is actually more complex than that. Universities and colleges paid to join the Foundation and contributed investment towards product development. The Foundation will continue to exist but members will not have votes or shares in the new company, although members can continue to contribute to projects that they want done. Other sources of revenue will come from charging for software as a service for cloud-based services.


I’m not in anyway involved with Kuali, so it is difficult to give an informed comment. I thought it was a good idea when it started, but making a consortium approach to sustainable software development and services work is a major challenge. It requires dedication, goodwill, and continuity from a large number of institutions. In these circumstances, any benefits for the participating organizations need to direct and substantive.

Changing it to a commercial organization is a major disruption to this model. In particular, even if the same people are involved in the investment in product development, governance and operation, it radically changes the culture of the organization. I’m not a governance expert, but I don’t understand why full members who invest substantially in product development don’t have shares or voting rights in the board.

I do hope it succeeds in its goal of providing reliable, sustainable open source solutions for administrative software for HE institutions. I wouldn’t bet my own money on it now, though.

For more on Kuali, see:

A student information system monopoly?

Open source software for research administration

Open source software for administrative systems


Cornell Xray Imaging Lab Uses Kickstarter To Provide Low Cost Advanced 3D Imaging

Campus Technology - 25 Agosto, 2014 - 21:28
The director of Cornell University’s 3D computed tomography imaging facility hopes to raise funding to provide low-cost imaging to nonprofits and enhance its digital library of 3D assets open to anyone interested.

Going the extra mile

Learning with 'e's - 25 Agosto, 2014 - 21:04

This is number 26 in my series on learning theories. I'm working through the alphabet of psychologists and theorists, providing a brief overview of each theory, and how it can be applied in education. Previous posts in this series are all linked below. The previous post highlighted issues around the theory of Communities of Practice, from the work of Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger. In this post, I'm revisiting a well known and heavily used motivational theory - Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs. As usual, this is a simplified interpretation of the theory, so if you wish to learn more, please read the associated literature.

The theory

Just about everyone working in education and training has heard of Abraham Maslow and his hierarchy of needs. The theory has a basic element of all teacher education for several decades. We know there are various criticisms of the theory, and several flaws, but they are beyond the scope of this particular blog post. Maslow was interested in how people are motivated, and why they reach to achieve the pinnacle of human experience which he called self actualization. He argued that for people to be motivated, they need to satisfy a series of needs, and that some needs have to be satisfied before other needs are considered. Most versions of Maslow's Hierarchy are represented as pyramids.

How it can be applied in education

Many teachers know that learning spaces should be designed to optimise learning. If the classroom is cold or noisy, or the students are uncomfortable, or if they feel unsafe, they will be distracted and will concentrate less on their learning. The same applies to other needs identified in Maslow's model, including the need to be liked by others, and that they feel they belong in the group.

Perhaps the most important of the needs Maslow identified however, is the need for esteem. This is where people gain a sense of achievement and prestige by their own endeavours. Teachers should therefore ensure that all good work is recognised and rewarded, and useful feedback is given, so that learners are motivated to do more, or better next time. All students need a sense of accomplishment, and to know how they are progressing. It is the role of the educator to ensure that they receive timely and appropriate feedback so that students continue to be motivated to learn.

The women in the picture above were taking part in a charity event called Race for Life - a run organised by cancer charities. They didn't have to run several miles and put their bodies through a certain amount of stress, but they decided to do so because they had a very special reason. They were motivated to take part because they knew a family member or friend who has suffered from cancer. This kind of motivation is more than simply belonging or esteem needs fulfillment. It is more likely that they were performing an altruistic act because they identified with someone who has suffered, and they wished to do their part to try to change the situation for future sufferers. To my mind, this represents a form of self actualization. The runners gave of their time and energy because they cared about something strongly enough.

How can we make this happen in education? Teachers are in a position where they can inspire their students to the point where they will also want to 'go the extra mile'. Students who do extra work because they are interested in their topic, or who spend more time than is average on their projects are examples. How teachers encourage and support this kind of self actualization relies a lot on their creativity, their ability to inspire, and how well they practice the fine art of education.

Maslow, A. H. (1954) Motivation and Personality. New York: Harper and Row.

Previous posts in this series:

1.  Anderson ACT-R Cognitive Architecture
2.  Argyris Double Loop Learning
3.  Bandura Social Learning Theory
4.  Bruner Scaffolding Theory
5.  Craik and Lockhart Levels of Processing
6.  Csíkszentmihályi Flow Theory
7.  Dewey Experiential Learning
8.  Engeström Activity Theory
9.  Ebbinghaus Learning and Forgetting Curves
10. Festinger Social Comparison Theory
11. Festinger Cognitive Dissonance Theory
12. Gardner Multiple Intelligences Theory
13. Gibson Affordances Theory
14. Gregory Visual Perception Hypothesis
15. Hase and Kenyon Heutagogy
16. Hull Drive Reduction Theory
17. Inhelder and Piaget Formal Operations Stage
18. Jung Archetypes and Synchronicity
19. Jahoda Ideal Mental Health
20. Koffka Gestalt theory
21. Köhler Insight learning
22. Kolb Experiential Learning Cycle
23. Knowles Andragogy
24. Lave Situated Learning
25. Lave and Wenger Communities of Practice

Photo by Steve Wheeler

Going the extra mile by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.Posted by Steve Wheeler from Learning with e's

OpenCon 2014

iterating toward openness - 25 Agosto, 2014 - 20:36

#OpenEd14 is getting close! For a wide range of reasons, this year’s 11th annual Open Education Conference looks like it will be the best ever. One thing contributing to the awesomeness of this year’s conference is other events organized around the same time in the same area.

One of these events is OpenCon 2014: The Student and Early Career Researcher Conference on Open Access, Open Education and Open Data, organized by SPARC and the Right to Research Coalition As the name implies, this event is really focused on engaging students and early career individuals and helping them become effective advocates in the openness movement. The meeting will run from November 15-17 in Washington, D.C., and the program includes three days of talks, workshops, and in-the-field advocacy experience (leveraging its location in Washington, DC). Of course, a delegation of participants from OpenCon will also attend OpenEd.

Applications are still open until midnight tonight Pacific time – over 1600 applicants from more than 120 countries have already applied. If you fall into the student / early career category, you should definitely apply.