Long-time readers know that I have had a close affiliation with the Sakai Foundation at teams and served on the Board of Directors relatively recently. This year, Sakai merged with the Jasig Foundation to form the Apereo Foundation. The purpose of the new organization is to become a sort of Apache Foundation of higher education in the sense that it is an umbrella community where members of different open source projects can share best practices and find fellow travelers for higher ed-relevant open source software projects. In this merger, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. For example, last week the foundation just announced that the board of the Opencast project, which supports the Matterhorn lecture capture and video management project, voted to effectively merge with the Apereo Foundation. (The decision is subject to discussion and feedback by the Opencast community.) On the one hand, Opencast probably wouldn't have joined the Sakai Foundation because they want to interoperate with all LMSs and wouldn't want to be perceived as favoring one over another. On the other hand, had they joined Jasig prior to the merger, they would not have had access to the rich community of education-focused technologists that Sakai has to offer. (Jasig has historically focused mostly on tech-oriented solutions like portals and identity management solutions). The fact that the Opencast community is interested in joining Apereo is a strong indicator that the new foundation is achieving its goal of establishing an ecumenical brand.
And in that context, I am pleased to tell you that I will be involved with the foundation in a more ecumenical role. Specifically, I will be facilitating an advisory council.
About the Council
The goal of the council is to provide the Apereo Foundation Board and community with perspective. When you are running an open source software project, it's easy to get a little near-sighted as you focus on the hard work of shipping code, gathering requirements, coordinating volunteer developers, finding additional volunteers, and so on. You can get lost in the details that are essential to short-term viability for the project but that can distract you from issues of long-term sustainability, such as thinking about schools that have not adopted your project that might, or about important changes on campuses that are relevant tot he ways in which your software will be perceived and used. The Advisory Council is meant to offer some of that perspective. We have invited participants who are one or several steps removed from the projects. They might work at a school that is heavily involved but not be personally heavily involved. They might be at a school that has adopted a community project but is not deeply involved with the community at the moment. They might have been active in the community in their previous job but further removed from it at present. Or they might come from a school that has not adopted any of the projects but could be receptive to adopting the right project some time in the future.
The group will convene four times a year to provide feedback on presentations from the Board and from various project teams on their vision, goals and plans. That's it, really. Provide perspective. It's a simple role, but an important one. We hope that if all goes well our council members will choose to act as informal ambassadors between the Apereo community and the broader community of higher education, but that would really be a byproduct of success rather than something that we're asking our councilors to do.
I am absolutely delighted with the group that we have assembled:
- Kimberly Arnold, Evaluation Consultant, University of Wisconsin
- Lois Brooks, Vice Provost of Information Services, Oregon State University
- Laura Cierniewicz, Director of the Centre for Educational Technology, University of Cape Town
- Tedd Dodds, CIO, Cornell University
- Kent Eaton, Provost, McPherson College
- Stuart Lee, Deputy CIO, IT Services, Oxford University
- Patrick Masson, General Manager, Open Source Initiative
- Lisa Ruud, Associate Provost, Empire Education Corporation
I feel privileged to be able to work with this group.
If your goal is to provide perspective, then it is particularly important to get a diverse group together. Overall, I'm pleased to say that we have achieved diversity across a number of dimensions:
- Roles: I wanted to get a good balance of academic and IT stakeholders, as well as at least one ed tech researcher. We've achieved that.
- Institutions: We definitely achieved some diversity of institutions, particularly when you throw the Empire Education Corporation and the Open Source Initiative into the mix. In the future, though, I would like to get more representation from smaller schools that don't typically get involved in open source projects.
- Geography: Apereo is a global community and ultimately needs global input. But we have to balance that against the need to have a workable spread of time zones among council members who will be meeting with each other mostly virtually. The compromise we struck this time around was to have one representative from Europe and one from Africa as a down payment toward that goal. Ultimately, we will probably need to have several regional advisory councils.
- Gender: In keeping with the Apereo Foundation Board's stated goal of cultivating women leaders in the community, I am delighted that we have achieved gender balance in our council membership. By the way, this was not hard. Asking colleagues to recommend women who would be good isn't any different from asking them to recommend academic deans or leaders from small schools.
- Race: I don't know for certain how we did on this metric because I haven't met some of the council members in person yet, but my sense is that it is either a near or a total failure. Going forward, I would like to shoot for more racial diversity.
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So that's the deal. I am looking forward to convening the first meeting of this group (probably in January) and getting to know them better. More generally, I am really happy with the direction that the new foundation is taking and am privileged to be able to play a small part in it.