Newcomer to Jasig / Sakai - Perspective on the Merger

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Russ Little

Apr 19, 2012, 1:05:23 PM4/19/12
to Jasig Sakai Collaboration
Hello all!

My name is Russ Little, Project Director for the Student Success Plan
(SSP) Open Source initiative at Sinclair Community College in Dayton
Ohio. The Open Source effort is being made possible by a generous
grant from Educause NGLC Wave I, Here is a recent article at Educause
for some background on the project:
We are currently incubating SSP with Jasig in hopes of becoming a
fully sponsored project.

I am a newcomer to Jasig & Sakai and as such may have a slightly
different perspective on the merger. With the SSP grant project our
task was to Open Source our software and make it available to other
colleges. We had started down the path of creating our own 501c3
because of some of the complexity of trying to work with existing
foundations. It became apparent there was real value in guidance,
structure, and scale provided by both Jasig and Sakai. The merger
discussion was already in full swing when we approached both
organizations, and it was a key factor in deciding to join. We
initially identified most with Sakai and discussed how we might join
that organization, but the processes and tools for incubating a
project were stronger at Jasig. Our project is specifically focused on
helping students be more successful, but it is not easily identifiable
as being purely a student service or strictly academic. Our focus is
on how we engage our students and help them be successful as a
holistic community of educators, support providers, and administrators
working collaboratively. In our eyes the joining of Sakai & Jasig
provided the right place for us to land as a project, because of the
integration of a suite of tools to support students, instead of having
to clearly identify that our tool can only exist in one space.

As soon as we have our ducks in a row we want to integrate our tool
set with aspects of both Sakai & Jasig and having a common
organizational framework, communication tools, and decision makers is
a real advantage to making that possible. For example tools such as
Early Alerts and Action Plans need to be embedded in LMS and Portal
tools, for both faculty and students to have the greatest impact. We
need the data in the LMS and tools there to help identify who might
need assistance, but we also need tools in the portal space to provide
that assistance, which is often not purely academic in nature. We hope
to be able to leverage the Scheduling tool from Wisconsin to add
student scheduling to our Early Alert and Case Management tools.
Bedework offers opportunities for integration of larger community
scheduling of student workshops or community building events, the list
could go on.

When I look at the prospective merger I see enormous potential for how
we as a community create ecosystems that make students successful. I
read the posting by Brad Wheeler and while I do not know him, I can
see he is clearly passionate about Sakai, and has some very valid
concerns. I disagree with his premise that a combined organization
while not help drive additional collaboration, just because it has not
happened in the past. A new organization is a new opportunity. Just
the simple act of putting all the projects in the same communication
tools, conferences and sharing resources and governance models will
help the collective grow, as well as foster innovation between
projects. Brad spoke of the value of a brand and it is very important,
Apereo can be our banner to work as a team and cross some of the
boundaries that previously were avoided. I do agree with his concerns
that having many different structures and licenses can be a challenge,
but it is also important. I would not have made the decision to join
if the environment was so monolithic and rigid to specified process to
not let my project innovate and be successful. That does not mean I
won’t leverage the wisdom, collaboration, resources, reputation, and
scale of the foundation. Maybe I am being naïve, or maybe I have a
fresh set of eyes about what can be accomplished in the future.

Don’t underestimate the power of scale. For schools looking to adopt
an Apereo solution, the size of the organization, number of members,
number of adoptions, size of the development community …etc, all lend
credibility. It should be easier as a merged organization to pursue
grants and external funding/donations, again from the perspective of
scale and they perceive they are having a larger impact by supporting
the larger organization.

I look forward to collaborating with you in the future!


Nate Angell

Apr 25, 2012, 11:43:59 AM4/25/12

Thank you very much for posting. If others interested in the proposed
Jasig-Sakai merger have not read your post, they should.

In my mind, your post (and the Student Success Plan (SSP) project in
general) brings up some of the most compelling reasons for the
existence of organizations like Jasig and Sakai, and also what can
come from a combined organization.

Especially compelling was your mention of the effort/resources SSP
might save by joining an existing organization, along with the
collaboration and knowledge all organizations might gain working
closely together. I was also drawn to your point about a larger, joint
organization having greater credibility with new adopters.

I have a strong affinity with the goals of SSP. Please let me know if
I can do anything to help ensure the success of the project.

Nate Angell
Sakai Product Manager
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