Innovation or Replication?

Why those excited by the Stanford & edX open source platform collaboration (and many other “open” initiatives) don’t get it. It’s “reuse, revise, remix, redistribute,” not “reinvent, redo, redundant, replace.” The below article appeared just this week, in 2004 [May, 2014].

Sakai Project [EdX] launches groundbreaking open source collaboration

By Nancy Connell of News Service [Patrick Masson]

The Sakai Project [EdX], a landmark venture to create open-source course management tools and related software for the higher education community, has been launched by a consortium of four [three]universities, with U-M [Stanford] in a leading role.

The project—a collaboration of U-M with Indiana [Harvard University], the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford—will release its first software next summer. It has received a $2.4 [$60] million grant from the Mellon Foundation and $300,000 from the Hewlett foundation in funding, and it has attracted the interest of at least 13 additional colleges and universities since its launch in December [May of 2012], says Joseph Hardin [Anant Agarwal], director of the Sakai [edX] project.

“The Sakai Project represents significant innovation in software development for higher education. Our goal is to give the entire higher education community free access to the best in course management tools and other software that supports work being done by groups,” says Hardin, director of the Collaborative Technologies Laboratory at the Media Union.

“This collaboration brings together two leaders in online education in a common effort to ensure that the world’s universities have the strongest possible not-for-profit, open source platform available to them. A not-for-profit, open source platform will help universities experiment with different ways to produce and share content, fostering continued innovation through a vibrant community of contributors,” says John Mitchell, vice provost for online learning at Stanford University.

In addition to producing a complete course management system, Sakai [edX] also will publish documentation, a so-called Tool Portability Profile, [edX Platform] that will provide universal access to the framework for other developers. Institutions will gain access to Sakai [edX] software through the Web-based uPortal [github] software, which also will utilize the Open Knowledge Initiative standards [XBlock API].

Hardin [Agarwal] explained that the four university partners will direct a portion of the resources they ordinarily would spend for their individual software development efforts to a Sakai board [the xConsortium] that will have decision-making authority over the expenditure. That amount is expected to total approximately $2 million per year for two years. $50,000 for any campus-generated course and $10,000 for each recurring course, or, $250,000 for each new course produced by edX, plus $50,000 for each time that new course is offered for an additional term.

Hardin [Agarwal] notes that the project, named for the Japanese chef Hiroyuki Sakai, was inspired by an earlier U-M [MIT] information technology project, the Comprehensive CollaborativE Framework, or CHEF [MITx].

A Jan. 30 [May 2, 2012] article about the Sakai [edX] project in the Chronicle of Higher Education quoted Kenneth Green, director of the Campus Computing Project [George Siemens, associate director of Athabasca University’s Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute], who said Sakai [edX] could encourage higher-education institutions to abandon their commercial contracts in favor of its open-source offerings. “It has the potential to gain traction,” [“It’s a natural progression of the Internet influencing and impacting what we thought was a pretty stable field,”] he said, adding [“EdX represents in part an attempt by two universities to reclaim space in open online education, where venture capitalists have recently gained a foothold.”]

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