Open Source | News
Merger of Jasig and Sakai Approved by Membership Vote; Intent To Form 'Apereo' by Early 2013
News of the Sakai and Jasig membership-approved plan for a merger as announced November 5, plus a CT exclusive briefing with Sakai Foundation Executive Director Ian Dolphin
After more than two years of deliberation, the memberships
of two of the highest-profile organizations producing open source software for
the higher education marketplace have voted to go ahead with their
long-considered merger. Sakai, the non-profit organization
best-known internationally for its higher education community-developed open
source Sakai Collaboration and Learning Environment, and Jasig, a
global consortium of higher education institutions and commercial affiliates
that sponsor open source projects for higher education will merge and become
Apereo (the name is a combination of the Latin 'aperto,' meaning open and 'mereo,' merit) by early 2013. A brief announcement appears on the Sakai Web site; of course readers should expect more information in the coming months leading up to actual incorporation.
Merging Sakai's 80 higher education institutional and
commercial members throughout the U.S. and internationally with Jasig's 47
institutional and corporate members globally will initially yield approximately
120 unique institutional members and corporate partners worldwide, with the
strongest presence currently noted in North America, Europe, South Africa, and
The combined communities will broaden the portfolio of open
source software significantly for all, as well as expanding the size and
international presence for the two merged organizations. Just a few of the
major project areas of Apereo will be: The Sakai Collaboration and Learning
Environment (Sakai CLE), uPortal, CAS single sign-on, Bedework Calendaring,
Sakai’s Open Academic Environment--and others.
Extensive, inclusive, and well-documented examination of the
proposed merger reached throughout the membership of the open source
communities of Jasig and Sakai as well as spanning all levels of foundation
staff, management, and board. For a look at some of the discussions and summary
documents, see the Apereo Web site. Campus Technology spoke with
the Sakai Foundation's Executive Director, Ian Dolphin, to get some additional insights into
the values of the merger and future directions of Apereo:
Mary Grush: We hear
about company mergers all the time. But most of those mergers are of companies
with proprietary products, and the strategies of their mergers are of course
intended to put the companies in stronger positions in the market, to sell
their proprietary products. If there is any sense of community it is generally
secondary to the purpose of the merger.
Jasig and Sakai, however are communities--because of the nature of open source development. Could
you reflect a little on the notion of merging two communities?
Ian Dolphin: It's important to recognize that both current organizations represent multiple
communities at present. Jasig supports multiple software products, as does
Sakai. In a very real sense also, both organizations have regional groupings.
Jasig U.K. has operated for several years. Sakai has particularly strong
regional groups in Japan, South Africa, Spain, and elsewhere in Europe. As
organizations, Sakai and Jasig exist to facilitate these communities, either by
providing services which are most effectively handled above the level of an
individual software community or project--such as inbound and outbound
licensing, organizing conferences, and providing technical infrastructure. The
merger will associate a broader range of communities and provide such services
Over time, we expect synergies to grow between projects and
software communities. Apereo will essentially support two types of communities:
software communities, which exist to iterate open source software through its
lifecycle; and communities of interest, which form around particular themes (an
example of this is the Sakai Teaching and Learning community). We expect
communities of interest to play an essential part in stimulating synergies
between projects and software communities over time.
We've been very mindful that bringing together active
communities is very different than the merger of corporate entities. This
process has taken just over two years to get to this point. We could have
driven the process faster, but would have run the risk of not developing a
shared understanding of direction, and of alienating parts of both communities.
We've approached this patiently, and encouraged discussion and debate of
substantive issues as we have proceeded. We've organized joint events, such as
a highly successful joint conference in Atlanta earlier this year. The
memberships of both organizations, as a result of this patient approach, have
had time to reflect and grow together.
Grush: Is there a little more detail on the vote available? Were these the institutional members voting
(not just a board vote)? What was the vote?
Dolphin: Both Jasig and Sakai are membership organizations. Both are made up of education
institutions and commercial partners. Each member organization has a nominated
contact with Sakai or Jasig. These members have cast their votes in a poll,
which carefully followed guidance from non-profit legal experts. The vote will
be released to our memberships early this week.
Grush: Who will be on the Apereo board, and who will be the organizational leaders for Apereo?
Dolphin: The initial board will be made up of four members of the current Sakai board, and four
members of the Jasig Board. When the new organization is incorporated, four
more members will be elected from the wider membership.
Grush: How do you see the projects of these two communities merging? Are there
particularly exciting ways in which the existing Sakai and Jasig projects can
merge? Beyond larger developer pools, are there real possibilities to look at
technology directions and point to reasons the Sakai and Jasig merger really
reflects current technology trends?
Dolphin: We have--very consciously--avoided any sense of driving particular projects
together. Projects and communities evolve and grow at their own pace, and while
Apereo will provide many opportunities for cross fertilization and the
incubation of new approaches, we will not try to force directions on particular
communities. We don't regard that as the role of the foundation.
That being said, our focus on software to closely support
the academic mission--learning, teaching, and research--together with the
infrastructure that supports it, provides some significant opportunities and
challenges. It's a complex area--in many senses more complex and exploratory
than administrative computing--and it is moving from enterprise scale to Web
scale. We intend Apereo to be a global pole of attraction for those working in
this space, growing shared resources, and making a real difference.
Grush: Could you characterize what the merger will mean for Sakai, specifically?
Dolphin: A larger broad community gives the Sakai CLE improved infrastructure, at a foundation
level, and a significantly broader reach. The Sakai CLE community will continue
to evolve under the new Apereo umbrella, but it would be wrong to prescribe a
future course for that development at this point. The Apereo incubation
process--essentially a process of sharing experience and mentoring--will
provide scaffolding for new projects to develop.
This week, we've seen the emergence of a Sakai mobile
initiative--Keitai--which will be one of the first projects to enter
incubation, at the same time that uMobile, a Jasig mobile initiative has
emerged as a software community. There's clearly synergy to explore in the specifics
there, but more broadly, a structured incubation process will act to encourage
the development of new tools and services--and help them succeed. And that has
considerable potential benefit to the Sakai CLE.
Grush: The big question: Sakai really had it right years ago when the words
"collaboration and learning environment" were used, not limiting the
vision to a "course management system" even though that was the
market niche Sakai was in effect operating in. What's in the future for
collaboration and learning environments or learning management systems? In
general, what is the LMS or the CLE turning into? And given that, what are the
key technology directions and trends that the merger supports, going forward
with the Sakai Collaboration and Learning Environment (after Sakai merges with
Dolphin: The initial vision of Sakai has stood the community in good stead. It's worth noting that
the Sakai CLE is used in many institutions to support research collaboration in
addition to supporting learning and teaching online. I want to be very clear: I
do not believe the Learning Management System will go away, as a product
category, but we're heading towards a more holistic view of support for
academic practice online.
The development of interoperability standards such as the
IMS Global Learning Consortium's Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) is
making it easier to plug tools into environments--and to connect environments
themselves. The LMS will need to become more permeable and more open--the walled
garden at least needs more gates. That's one potential line of evolution for
the Sakai CLE, and the direction being explored by the other current Sakai
project--the Open Academic Environment.
There's a notable trend today to explore scale of delivery.
I found the position expressed by Nicholas Negroponte in a recent column in Wired interesting: "Today, programs such as Khan Academy, Coursera, and MIT's own edX are ... focused on teaching, not learning.
Course correction is needed. Pun intended." I believe he has a point;
scale is important, especially in reaching and engaging non-traditional
learners, but we do need to keep a grip on the relationships between all areas
of academic practice as we collectively explore these new frontiers. Learning
and research--and [more specifically] the relationships between them--are
worthy of considerably more focus than the sector currently affords.