Launch Of Moodle Users Association: 44 members sign up, mostly as individuals

The Moodle Users Association (MUA), a crowd-funding group for additional Moodle core development, announced today that it is open for members to join. Technically the site was internally announced on its web site last Friday, but the press release came out today. As of this writing (Thurs evening PST), 44 members have signed up: 37 at the individual level, 1 at the bronze level, 3 at the silver level, 2 not sharing details, and Moodle Pty as the trademark holder. This equates to $8,680 – $22,580 of annual dues, depending on what level the two anonymous members chose.

Update (1/25): As of Monday morning, the numbers are 51 members: 44 at the individual level, 1 bronze, 3 silver, 2 not sharing details, and Moodle Pty as trademark holder; leading to $8,960 – $22,860 of annual dues.

Moodle News was the first outlet to describe the new organization (originally called Moodle Association but changed to Moodle Users Association when the organization was formalized), and in early December they summarized the motivation:

As mentioned recently in an article on e-Literate, it’s possible that a majority of all funding to originates from Blackboard. While this may be ironic, knowing the history of Blackboard, it is appropriate since the LMS company has quietly become the largest Moodle Partner by number of clients through acquisitions and growth over the last few years. Continue reading

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Inside Higher Ed: One year after selling majority stake in company

One year ago I wrote a post critical of Inside Higher Ed for not doing a blanket disclosure about the sale of a majority stake to a private equity firm with other education holdings (most notably Ruffalo Noel Levitz).

Subsequent to the disclosure from the Huffington Post, IHE put up an ownership statement disclosing the ownership change and calling out that only editors are involved in editorial policies. The About Us page prominently links to this ownership statement.

In an interview with Education Dive, Scott Jaschik (an Inside Higher Ed founder and editor) noted his regret for not disclosing the sale up front while concluding:

“I guess I would just say to anyone who has questions, read us and read our coverage and call me if you think we’re doing anything that we shouldn’t,” [Jaschik] said.

In the past year I have done exactly that – watching carefully for editorial shifts, complaining publicly about one article, and privately emailing Jaschik on another issue.

My conclusion? Inside Higher Ed has shown no bias and no change in editorial policies based on the new ownership – they are living up to their word. IHE [Jaschik in particular] has also been quite good in discussing any questions or issues based on their coverage. IHE should be commended for their quality coverage of higher education news.


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It’s Called Data Analysis And Not Data Synthesis For A Reason

I’ve never been a big TEDtalks fan, but recently I’ve been exploring some of the episodes, partially based on peer pressure.

In the process I ran across a talk from Sebastian Wernicke, who has a bioinformatics background but now seems to specialize in giving talks. The talk in question is “How to use data to make a hit TV show”, which starts by looking at two data approaches to binge TV production – Amazon’s use of data analysis to choose a new show concept, leading to Alpha House, and Netflix’s use of data to look at lots of show components but then to let humans make conclusions and “take a leap of faith”, leading to House of Cards. The anecdotes set up his description of where data fits and where it doesn’t, and this mirrors what Michael and I are seeing in the use the broad application of personalized learning.

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Patents Rethought: Khan Academy Did the Right Thing

To recap what’s happened so far:

Since then, I had a little more time to look at the actual legal language of the agreement and reflect on the larger edupatent problem. And I’ve come to the conclusion that Khan Academy did the right thing by adopting the agreement. We should feel good about what they’ve done. And given the realities that software patents exist and defensive patents are therefore a necessary evil, we should encourage other educational patent holders to do as Khan has done and adopt the same agreement.

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Ed Tech Patent Update: The Innovator’s Agreement

Carl Straumsheim has a good piece out on the Khan Academy patent Inside Higher Ed today. Much of it is a primer on the uses and limitations of defensive patents, but there is a piece on the specific nature of the patent pledge that Khan Academy has signed that I missed. The pledge, originally created by Twitter, is quite similar to my own proposal in a number of ways. It turns the decision-making regarding offensive use of the patent over to another party and, importantly, the agreement travels with the patent, even if it changes hands:

The IPA is a new way to do patent assignment that keeps control in the hands of engineers and designers. It is a commitment from Twitter to our employees that patents can only be used for defensive purposes. We will not use the patents from employees’ inventions in offensive litigation without their permission. What’s more, this control flows with the patents, so if we sold them to others, they could only use them as the inventor intended.

Shame on me for not doing my homework.

The big difference between this pledge and the one I propose is that I am suggesting that the third party be a trust rather than the inventing engineer. This has several virtues. First, engineers die, and not all of them are going to be equally vigilant in protecting education. Can the engineer sell this right to somebody else? Can the right be inherited? If it isn’t inherited, is the patent then unencumbered? Giving the rights to a trust lays this concern to rest. It also creates a proactive deterrent because the trust could sue anybody that is asserting an ed tech patent.

What I take from the details of Twitter’s pledge is that my proposal is probably legally viable. The original pledge just needs to be adapted to serve the specific needs of education.

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