Last fall, two Stanford computer-science professors helped create an online code repository that opened some of the university’s locally developed software, interfaces and configurations to the entire world. Hundreds of thousands of developers enrolled free of charge. Their start-up, Codesera, which grew out of that effort, now seeks to give millions a taste of top-quality higher-education-oriented software by expanding its platform to other elite universities.
Based on Github, the online social coding outfit founded by Chris Wanstrath, PJ Hyett and Tom Preston-Werner, Codesera will grow its software repository through official partnerships with almost twenty top-tier institutions: the original Stanford, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and now, California Institute of Technology, Duke University, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Princeton University, Rice University, Stanford University, UC San Francisco, University of Edinburgh, University of Illinois, University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, University of Toronto, University of Virginia and the University of Washington.
Codesera will offer a mix of higher education oriented software including, custom enhancements to enterprise applications such as ERP and LMS modules, portlet specifications for portal integration, API connectors for application interoperability, ETL processes for data warehousing and BI, XML schema for data transformation, etc. Codesera already serves seven enterprise higher ed. applications (Blackboard Learn, Ellucian Banner/Datatel, Moodle, Oracle OBIEE & PeopleSoft and uPortal) and about 30 more will be rolled out later this week and through the summer.
Codesera code and specifications are offered free to any campus online, though campuses cannot receive support. Officials said Codesera will leave the choice to provide support for submitted code/specifications to its partner institutions—for feedback, campus administrators can use an online forum to ask and rank questions, where popular submissions rise to the top. Documentation embedded in the code provides understanding of the material as they go along.
Officials said that in addition to opening higher ed. development to the entire world, the Codesera platform could allow campuses to build a better experience by “flipping” their development. Under this model, distributed code development of common needs replaces traditional, internal and siloed campus acquisition or development practices. “Our vision is that this kind of technology is going to improve the experience for both populations, individual developers and campus consortia” Codesera officials said.
Codesera’s technology could allow other campuses to achieve similar success with their on-campus systems while expanding their resources online, officials said. “You’re not going to get the two to be equal,” they said. “They’re each going to be better than where they are now.”
The company’s founders said they have limited their partnerships for now because Codesera is a small company, with about a dozen employees. They plan to focus on teaming up with top institutions, because those colleges have the highest concentration of talented staff members working across applications—though they added that discussions with other potential partners are continuing. (Two of the projects listed on Codesera’s Web site, “Multi-institutional configuration for Bb Learn SP8” and “Alfresco integration with JSR 168/286,” were developed by the University of California at Berkeley, but officials described Codesera’s relationship with that institution as “experimental.”)
To keep growing, Codesera will pull from a rich venture-capital investment provided by two prominent firms. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and New Enterprise Associates have invested $16-million in the company.
The influx of cash will allow the company’s founders to focus on growing the platform instead of worrying right away about how to turn thousands of visitors into a reliable revenue stream. Officials were reluctant to discuss the company’s business model because they said they’re considering a range of options. One possibility could be to connect certain developers who have opted to see job advertisements with potential employers.
OK, this is fake, but if you read this far, you–like me–must be interested in such a consortia as well.
Why can campuses come together to share their most valuable resources, their courses and course content, but not to share other resources? All of the institutions involved with Coursera use very similar software to undertake very similar processes, yet they each replicate effort to reinvent the wheel. We need a Codesera for Higher Ed. IT for all the same reasons (benefits) institutions seem to be interested in sharing courses through Coursera.
(Apologies to Nick DeSantis, and his article, “Online-Education Start-Up Teams With Top-Ranked Universities to Offer Free Courses” from the Chronicle of Higher Education, April 18, 2012, which I used as a framework for this mock-up.)