Thursday Threads has been a back-burner activity for quite a while now. Blame it on too many interesting things happening at home and at work (to say nothing of the early arrival of spring weather). This week will be only a slight exception with just two threads of mention rather than the typical three or four. First is the announcement by Blackboard that it is starting up an open source support division and acquiring/hiring some of the bigger names in that sector. Second is a reflection on two independent stories about the effect of copyright uncertainty and digital rights management on book materials.
There was a time when I was moving in both the worlds of the Sakai Collaborative Learning Environment and the Fedora Commons digital content repository. It seemed like a good idea to bring these two worlds together — Fedora as a content repository for Sakai learning objects. Back in 2006, I logged a ticket in Sakai’s tracker to see if anyone was interested. This morning I got notification that they are thinking of closing the ticket.
This started out as a comment to a posting by Chris Coppola, president and co-founder of rSmart Group. The comment got longer and threaded with yesterday’s posting about the nature of BioMed Central, so I moved it to this posting on DLTJ. For those in the library community who are not familiar with rSmart, it provides commercial support for the Sakai collaboration and learning environment and the Kuali administrative systems suite. rSmart is somewhat equivalent to Equinox Software and LibLime in the library automation arena.
This posting has two goals — first, to introduce DLTJ readers to the notion of “Educational Patents” or “edupatents” and provide an update on events of this week. Second, to frame the sometimes contentious interaction between academic institutions and supporting businesses as one of “clashing values.” The former serves as a cautionary tale within the wider scope of the latter.
Are you following the world of “edupatents” (broadly defined as patents that affect the educational markets)? This kicked into gear about this time last year with Blackboard‘s lawsuit [PDF] against Desire2Learn over alleged infringements by Desire2Learn of a Blackboard patent. Michael Feldstein posted a layman’s analysis of the lawsuit and concludes that many “Learning Management Systems have most or all of the features listed in the claims and therefore may infringe on the patent.” Those in the list are not only Desire2Learn and other commercial packages, but also the open source Sakai and Moodle projects. Al Essa has a graphical view of Blackboard’s patent claims, and it does seem that the patent covers a broad spectrum of educational technologies that we are starting to take for granted.
This could easily go in the “Disruption in Libraries” category of DLTJ, but it is a disruption of a different sort. Are you making contingency plans to continue library services in the event a Bird Flu pandemic (or an event of similar sort) happens? A recent posting on the Sakai developer’s mailing list prompted the thought. Sakai is an open source collaboration and learning environment that is typically used for electronic courses. John Leasia of the University of Michigan wrote:
This is a summary of a presentation by James L. Hilton, Vice President and CIO of University of Virginia, at the opening keynote session of Open Repositories 2007. I tried to capture the esessence of his presentation, and omissions, contradictions, and inaccuracies in this summary are likely mine and not that of the presenter.
Setting the stage
This is a moment in which institutions may be willing to invest in open source development in a systematic way (as opposed to what could currently be characterized as an ad hoc fashion) driven by these factors:
Earlier this year, I was on a quest to hook a FEDORA content repository into the Sakai collaboration and learning environment. What looked at first to be a fairly easy integration turned out to be and I set the project aside for another time. Today brings word from Ian Boston of a JSR-170 implementation in Sakai:
At any point in time, there is a college IT director trying to determine whether to upgrade, migrate away from, or stay the course with some software package that the faculty and students rely on to meet their instructional needs. A campus may have outgrown the basic CMS, and the Enterprise version is now needed to bring system performance back to an acceptable level. The CMS provider may have changed code base, requiring major staff retraining to follow the migration path. Costs could be up, service could be down, and new third party tools may not easily integrate. Yet even faced with all of these potential reasons to change, making the decision to do so is never easy. User communities hate change, hate training, and hate repurposing earlier content to work in a new environment.
“The Sakai Project is a community source software development effort to design, build and deploy a new Collaboration and Learning Environment (CLE) for higher education. … The Sakai Project’s primary goal is to deliver the Sakai application framework and associated CMS tools and components that are designed to work together. These components are for course management, and, as an augmentation of the original CMS model, they also support research collaboration. The software is being designed to be competitive with the best CMSs available.”1
Project Name & Description (Short)
bSpace Images Version 1.0
The initial version of bSpace Images will focus on personal collections and provide “baseline” functionality found in existing tools like Course Gallery, ARTstor, Luna Insight, Portfolio, and Spiro. Through a user centered design process, bSpace Images features will be driven by faculty observations and interviews. Unlike the other campus offerings, its interface design will be based on the faculty’s real needs.