I've long believed the open practices we follow in the Sakai community result in more, better, faster functionality, code, security, accessibility, standards-compliance, and innovation generally. But lately, evidence has been mounting to demonstrate the high value and wide acceptance of the open path more clearly than ever.
Today's announcement of a new partnership between rSmart and SunGard Higher Education (SGHE) to deliver and support Sakai is the latest manifestation of the huge body of valuable work being generated by those of us following the open path: commercial vendors, educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, government entities, and individuals. Valuable work that is having real, positive effects on education.
A key part of rSmart and SGHE's work together is to extend Sakai's integration with SGHE's Banner Student Information System (SIS) platform to follow the latest IMS Learning Information System (LIS) standard. On the face of it, this sounds like a typical outcome of two technology firms working together, but that integration rests on a far larger body of work, produced collaboratively in our open community.
The 2010 Annual Sakai Conference took place at the Hyatt Technology Center in Denver, Colorado, with pre-conference sessions: Monday, June 14, 2010, Main Conference Dates: Tuesday - Thursday, June 15-17, 2010, and Project Coordination Meetings: Sunday June 13 and Friday June 18.
I was deeply honored to be named a 2010 Sakai Fellow—mostly because fellowship bestows a coveted black "ninja" sakaiger (pictured)—but also because I read my fellowship as evidence that the Sakai community recognizes and values all forms of contribution to our collaborative work.
Three out of 2010's six Sakai fellows have made their substantial contributions primarily in areas of actual technology development: Oxford's Matthew Buckett, Cape Town's David Horwitz, and Michigan's Gonzalo Silverio. I can't stress enough the high value and significance of these three fellows' work.
The other three 2010 Sakai fellows—Indiana's David Goodrum, Michigan's Steve Lonn, and myself—have made our primary contributions in what might seem "softer" areas of Sakai: coordination, communication, thought-work, and research. The very tangible outcomes of David's leadership in the formulation of the Sakai Learning Capabilities and Steve's continued focus on the invaluable research of Sakai's Multi-Institutional Survey Initiative are far better evidence than any of my own contributions of the value of work outside the Sakai codebase.
Unlike others who suggest a strong difference between what might be called the "write" and "read" communities within Sakai, I see this year's Sakai fellowships as testimony to my view that such a dichotomy is not so useful. Instead I see read/write activities in open communities as a continuum that generates a virtuous circle of outcomes: new reading generating new writing and vice versa, until the distinction between reading and writing becomes robustly fuzzy.
All of us in the Sakai community are readers and writers at different times, of different texts, inspiring and supporting our whole collaborative endeavor.
Thank you Sakai!
Friday night we welcomed, for a third time, Nate Angell, and for the first time Randy Thornton of rSmart to talk about the Open Education movement and Open Source. Join us for an entertaining hour of open ranting, martinis and even a little movie talk.
And no. They didn’t convince me to see Avatar.
As significant new features emerge from research and development projects in Sakai they can be incorporated into an official Sakai release. In May 2009 the Sakai Foundation established the first Sakai Product Council to help structure the process of these new capabilities emerging in Sakai.
The Sakai Foundation is a member-based, non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation engaged in the collaborative design, development and distribution of open-source software for education, research and related scholarly activities. It encourages community-building between academic institutions, non-profits and commercial organizations and provides its members and others with an institutional framework within which Sakai projects can flourish. The Foundation also works to promote the wider adoption of community-source and open standards approaches to software solutions within higher education.
Josh Baron, Director of Academic Technology and eLearning at Marist College and now the new Sakai Foundation Board Chair, recently posted a great article in Campus Technology detailing Marist's nuanced evaluation of Sakai and its community source provenance: Community Source Evaluation Strategies: Is Sakai Right for Your Institution? The article is a must-read for anyone at an institution considering the adoption of a learning environment—open/community source or proprietary—as all of Josh's lessons pertain to both options.
I'm especially glad to see Josh include "Functionality Requirements" as only one of Marist's five important evaluation criteria categories, putting it alongside Support Requirements, Community Health, Reliability/Scalability, and Innovation Drivers. All too often I've see institutions focus primarily on functional requirements in their technology choices, often at the expense of wise, strategic decisions that Marist's other categories take into account. Every system will leave you with functional gaps...it's the other stuff that will matter most in the end.
Reading through Josh's piece, I was also struck by how the structures of commercial support for open/community source underlie each of Marist's evaluation categories, and how well Sakai's robust commercial ecosystem helps buttress Marist's case for choosing Sakai. I'll briefly cover each category below.
The Sakai community is in a special moment. We are celebrating our continued development of a full-featured, world-class, enterprise collaborative learning environment with the release of Sakai 2.6. At the same time, we are extending our early work on a next-generation Sakai 3 platform that will take us to new levels of sophistication in teaching, learning, collaboration, research, and technology.
Simultaneously, outside the community, big events have had profound effects on us. New paradigms of open education and new political winds provide different opportunities and challenges. Continued litigation and consolidation in the proprietary learning technology ecosystem and drastic budget cuts combine to force us to rethink basic assumptions and well-laid plans.
Many inside and outside Sakai are thinking about how best to meet their needs and plan for the future in this special time. How should we support education online? What learning environment should we adopt? How should we allocate resources between maintenance and innovation? How will we manage transitions from one system to another?
I came away from recent Sakai Boston conference thinking that there are two basic facts now more true than ever:
First, our current circumstances prove that technology decisions are best made following long-term strategic vision, not short-term expedience or purely functional and technical criteria.
And second, the best place to work out the answers to our hard questions is as a part of the Sakai community, that is, within Sakai's practice that follows a community, open source model.
I come to these conclusions based on the following points that I think any institution considering how to balance their resources and ambitions in this special time should carefully consider.
Interested in user experience and online pedagogy? Learn how you can benefit from and contribute to two new efforts to share best practices across open source projects: The Fluid Project's Open Source Design Pattern Library and OpenedPractices.org, a community of practice for teaching and learning with open/community-source tools.
With co-presenter, Allison Bloodworth.
The Rhode Island Network for Educational Technology (RINET), in association with the Sakai Foundation, is hosting the second annual Rhode Island Sakai Conference March 31 - April 1, 2009 at the Providence Biltmore Hotel in Providence, Rhode Island.