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Apereo Africa Conference 2016 sheds new light on opensource projects

13 Apr 2016 - 17:00
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Vula, UCT's online collaboration and learning environment, is used to support UCT courses as well as other UCT-related groups and communities. The word "Vula" means "open", and refers to the many possibilities provided by Vula, as well as its Open Source origins. Vula is jointly developed with other universities worldwide as part of the Sakai Project. Sakai is one of the software projects being developed and maintained by the Apereo Foundation, an organisation with members drawn from higher education whose mission is to help educational organisations deliver their mission, by developing and sustaining open source software.

The South African Apereo (Sakai) Community, a collection of higher education academic institutions, private colleges, commercial training providers and a political party, recently hold its annual conference in Pretoria. Members of this faculty were fortunate enough to attend.

Approximately 100 participants attended the 2-day event sponsored by UNISA and OpenCollab which featured national and international speakers. We were thrilled to be addressed by speakers such as the Executive Director of Apereo, Ian Dolphin, Professor Paul Prinsloo from UNISA, Dr Chuck Severance from the University of Michigan, Dr Cheryl Brown from UCT and Patrick Lynch from the University of Hull.

We were captivated by discussion around why open source ‘just makes sense’ in terms of suitability, cost, control and possibilities around collaboration. Other topics included:

  • The purpose of teaching and learning, the role of portfolios and learning analytics.
  • Looking at the future and the next generation digital learning environment, and the challenges facing the learning management system.  That the next LMS might be the standard website!
  • How leaning spaces allow researchers to attend to the nuances of  teaching and learning interactions with technologies in a variety of physical places

We heard what is happening at different campus, including Dr Juliet Stoltenkamp spoke about what is happening UWC; Samantha Lee Pan about UCT; Kobus Le Roux about Northwest University, and Dr Nico Baird about WITS. Of course different   tools and technologies were included, for example lecture recording, Xerte, Synthesis, Karuta and Tsugi.

It was encouraging to see the size of the Apereo community in SA and the number of institutions and organisations who use Sakai, or their version thereof. Invaluable as well were the opportunities to network, all in all, two days well spent.