Month: August 2015

  • Kuali/ KualiCo Update: One Year and a Cloud of Dust

    The Dust Bowl was the name given to the Great Plains region devastated by drought in 1930s depression-ridden America. When drought struck in the 1930s the arid grasslands which had been broken out for farming no longer had a strong root system as an anchor. The winds easily picked up the loose topsoil and swirled it into dense dust clouds, called “dusters”, “rollers” or “black blizzards.” Recurring dust storms wreaked havoc, choking cattle and pasture lands and driving 60 percent of the population from the region.  Dust during the storms cause eyes to burn, housewives hung wet bedsheets over windows and doors to try and keep the dust out, and many people actually died of dust pneumonia. There came a time when people knew another storm, like the one below, was coming and it was just time to pack up and leave.

    I ended my first blog about the Kuali change to a commercial entity a year ago by stating “Buyer Beware” in reference to the change. Not because I don’t think the higher ed market needs more choices in the ERP space, but rather because the process which occured to get from to KualiCo was just sleazy.    A happy community contributing toward a common goal of creating “higher ed software by higher ed” transformed quickly into extreme paralysis.
    With that and my feeling that “Buyer Beware” is still the appropriate approach to the Kualico effort, let’s review some of the things that have happened with the new KualiCo as described by their blog, news page and the Kuali Foundation web site.
    November 2014 – April 2015 …. not much
    April 20, 2015 … new Kuali.Co offices!  HP started in a garage, Apple started in a garage, Google started in a garage. KualiCo started in brand new offices funded with other people’s money. When a startups highlight news is about their grand new offices instead of focusing on product, clients and results, you have to worry.
    April 2015 – June 2015 … Conversations about culture and cloud.
    A June 11, 2015 blog provided an overview of progress on various issues.  One that was interesting to me is the discussion of Rice.  As I recall from various discussions I thought Rice was dead. The October 16, 2104 Kuali 2.0 update states,

    Project dependence on Rice should and likely will start to decrease over time.

    However in the KualiCo post it states,

    Great things are happening with Rice!
    Kuali rice

    Interestingly, I recently was informed that Rice project board stalwarts Cornell, UC Davis and Colorado State University had departed.  This is a far different story than what is listed in the blog above.
    Another portion of that June 2015 blog briefly discusses the student project, which brings us to July 2015. More than once, July 1, 2015 was referenced by Joel Dehlin, the foundation board and other observers as the target date for delivering the first module of the new student system: Curriculum Management.
    Curriculum Management missed its July 1 advertised availability and continues to use the original Kuali Java code with only an improved presentation layer (based on their AACRAO roundtable as reported by anonymous attendees). There were no slides or other published materials available from the roundtable.
    Many people who pushed the pause button indicated that if KualiCo had not delivered Curriculum Management by that date, then KualiCo is “dead”.  As of this post, 24th of August, 2015, there has been no new Curriculum Management module or any other news about it for that matter.  Kualico failed the most important test.  I wonder what University of Maryland executives are thinking now since UMD took a leap of faith and wrote a $500,000 check to KualiCo for the “new” student system.
    Meanwhile, Boston College is moving full speed ahead as they leveraged all the previous work that was done on the $40 million student project that was abandoned by the Kuali Foundation. Boston College is making great progress, as can be seen in this blog by Norm Wright, the software architect on that project.  In that blog, Norm writes:

    First of all Kuali Student has been branded on campus as “EagleApps.” The primary goal is to create a system that will work for BC now and for a long time to come. A secondary goal is to provide a stable platform that other like minded institutions will be able use to implement their own solutions if appropriate.  As such the BC effort continues to identify likely configuration points and when done they will release the source code under an appropriate open source license.

    The comments section of Norm’s  blog indicate that the University of Washington made a similar decision to continue leveraging the original Kuali Student software and not pay attention to KualiCo.  The university announcement indicates:

    This shift, combined with other changes in the SIS vendor marketplace, prompted the UW to defer a decision about entering into a new MoU with KualiCo for Kuali Student development.

    Recycled News
    KualiCo’s most interesting recent news in the continuing Kuali saga is a July 8th press release that was publicized via LinkedIn with the title: “Coastal Carolina University selects Kuali Research as their SaaS grant & research management solution”
    This is the first press release on the Kuali.Co pages of an institution “moving to” KualiCo’s SaaS offering since their formation last year; about eight months ago.  Or so it seems.

    That must mean things are really starting to take off.  The doubters such as myself are finally proven wrong… or are we?   Let’s take a few minutes to compare this press release to some of the language in a June 5, 2014 press release by the Kuali Foundation.

    Date: July 8,  2015

    As a primarily undergraduate institution, our research administration staff and resources are limited, but we have worked hard to successfully increase our research volume. Kuali Research provides a single reliable source for proposal, award, and compliance information along with enhanced oversight and visibility. The built-in reports and user-friendly functionality provide our staff more time to spend with faculty. We are pleased with the service, reliability, continuous improvements, and seamless upgrades which allow us to administer our research and compliance duties without downtime or delay,” said Bruxanne E. Hein, Director of Office of Research Services at Coastal Carolina University.

    They also state: “Kuali is the only company that delivers Kuali Research as a SaaS solution”
    Kuali Foundation
    Date:  June 5, 2014

    As a primarily undergraduate institution, Coastal Carolina has a limited research administration staff and resources but is working hard to increase our research volume. Cloud Express will provide a single reliable source for proposal, award, and compliance information along with enhanced oversight and visibility with built-in reports,” said Bruxanne Hein, Office of Research Services Director.

    If you think they are basically identical, you would be right.  Coastal Carolina University is a customer KualiCo inherited from rSmart over a year ago.  KualiCo seems to be having trouble with their business model. I think KualiCo felt the need to look resilient, so they have resorted to publishing puffery, and recycling old news.
    That’s not all.  Even though the recent announcement made it sound like KualiCo held onto this client and has a long term relationship, the KualiCo press release on their blog about the win came out July 8, 2015 and an RFP was announced August 3, 2015.
    ( “Coastal Carolina University selects…), CCU publicly issued an RFP, seeking a long term contract for Kuali Coeus hosting and support.  Here is the header of the public Request for Proposal issued with vendors’ responses due on 9/8/2015:

    To announce a win while there is an RFP issued by the institution for vendor bids is an effort to mislead in my opinion and raises the question of trustworthiness.  Buyer beware?
    More trickery, smoke and mirrors:
    KualiCo also says in their release that they are the only one to deliver Kuali Research as a SaaS solution.  I bet that is true since they are the only one with a product named “Kuali Research”  Frankly the press release of a win for an RFP that is about to be issued is very peculiar and the verbal gymnastics used to state that they are the only one with a product called Kuali Research as a SaaS solution is pretty funny as well.   Any time you see “We’re the only… “ you can pretty much assume there is some marketing trickery afoot.
    We were told at Kuali Days 2014 that adding clients was absolutely necessary to make the creation of a commercial company successful.  It seems they are recycling news to make it appear something is happening.  All these signs put an even greater amount of doubt over the viability of KualiCo in the long term.
    What about the Kuali Commercial Affiliate KCA support ecosystem?  The List of KCA’s has gone from 10 to 2 (Not counting EBSCO) Polus and Open Collab per my sources indicate did not renew but they are still listed as KCA’s.   It is again disingenuous for the Foundation to leave their name up to make it appear to the casual observer that Kuali Commercial Affiliates did not sever their affiliation with the Kuali Foundation. Although some might say this is just an oversight, but based on other factors we have seen this past year it appears to be a pattern.  It also appears from adoption announcements onlinkedIn and other sources that colleges and universities are getting quality Kuali support without the affiliation with the the Kuali Foundation.
    Need (in)Patient Capital?
    Here is the highlight of the “patient capital” strategy from the Kuali foundation:

    The commercial entity is being structured in a way that enables some of the very good things that commercial entities can empower when financed by patient capital rather than beholden to quarterly returns of unaffiliated owners.

    KualiCo recently announced a new board member, Darren Wesseman and highlighted his fundraising experience.   First of all, so much for “patient capital” if fundraising experience is now important.  Since universities have been reluctant to provide funding to KualiCo, it seems that they may now be willing to go a different direction to finance development.  But, let’s examine the pattern here.  rSmart now makes up a good part of KualiCo and Chris Coppola, the COO of KualiCo and the ex-CEO of rSmart proudly posted the news about Wesseman on LinkedIn and other venues.  Let’s examine how rSmart previously convinced investors to provide funds and what happened:
    Private Investment of $2 million in Aug 2006
    Private Investment of $3 million in Dec 2008
    Private Investment of $8.5 million in Sept 2011
    Last Round $10.75 million in August, 2012
    Basically, rSmart burned through more than $24 million of investors’ money prior to selling assets to two companies in October 2014.  Once again, let the buyer beware!
    Where are the disclosures, resolutions, and explanations?

    • There are indications Kuali and KualiCo have not provided (and actually refused to provide) any evidence that there is not a special arrangement with the designated Kuali Foundation director. Also, what would prevent KualiCo–after giving stock to Joel and other employees–from “out voting” any Kuali Foundation input and cancelling their agreement with the Kuali Foundation?
    • I do not recall any Kuali Foundation Board resolution providing the name of the permanent Kuali Foundation Director on KualiCo’s board (where is that KualiCo Press Release?)
    • The Kuali Foundation’s director on the KualiCo board should have reported back on the Foundation’s investment and KualiCo stock grants. The disclosures should have been made by the Foundation’s Director on the KualiCo board to the Kuali foundation board and the community.
    • How did the nonprofit Kuali transfer the licensing rights to the for profit KualiCo? KualiCo is not a wholly owned subsidiary of Kuali.  The foundation was supposed to be the steward of the community and public money and respect its fiduciary responsibilities. KualiCo now imposes AGPL licensing on previously ECL licensed software to achieve vendor lock-in.  This is a big one.

    Just when you think you’ve heard it all, there’s more!
    KualiCo apparently has now changed its name to “Kuali,”   a move that will only further demand an answer to the question of whether the historic non-profit Kuali is playing clandestine corporate gymnastics to benefit from commercial profit while continuing to enjoy its tax-free status under the IRS Code.  It’s no secret that the result of the for-profit designation “Co,” appended to “Kuali,” resulted in a significant amount of anger on the part of the Kuali members, who were not thrilled that their dues were used to fund a for-profit start-up and purchase part of the for-profit rSmart – all this with little input or approval, and without any resultant equity interest in KualiCo.
    I think colleges and universities are smarter than that and are starting to lose faith in the Kuali foundation and the way it forced commercialization with KualiCo.   So where do we stand one year later?  In the middle of a dust storm.  We should know and see more, but we really don’t know. What you can see is KualiCo’s attempt to monetize Kuali software and community as well as their utter failure at so many levels all the while moving away from community and the spirit of openness.
    When the dirt is blowing in the middle of a dust storm and you can’t see clearly you really need to wait until the storm is over before beginning to clean up the mess the storm brought upon you.  This storm is still picking up speed. Just like the “Okies” packed and headed for California during the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s  it may be time to pack up, leave and re-group in a better place.
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    And now we move again…..

  • The Little Moodle Moot that Could: Mountain Moot 2015

    I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, I think can

    – The Little Engine

    NOTE:  Wow I am slow getting this out.  Too many projects.  Hope it is still useful.  Here it goes…
    As best as I can tell, a Mootineer is one who helps run the Mountain Moodle Moot. Our good friend Dan Case, the organizer and Lead Mootineer, has done an amazingly creative job of turning $650 in seed money into a destination Moot event for Moodlers.  I don’t think Dan was quite sure he could pull off a Moodle Moot when that $650 showed up at his door, (see image below)  but as in many other cases when a passionate individual and a plan come together, you often get amazing results in spite of circumstance.  Dan and the Carroll College crew have truly created a community based event that allows Moodlers in attendance to refill their Moodle buckets and enjoy the heart and character of Montana in just a few fun filled days.
    650 dollars to do a conference seriously
    I believe this was a destination Moodle event even before Chief Moodler Martin Dougiamas, decided to show up for the 2015 Mountain Moot.  That is a key point for this post and probably the main reason I decided to show up for this year’s moot.  I have thoroughly enjoyed the Mountain Moot each year I have attended and I have always learned a lot.  Although I have been deeply engaged in Moodle deployments since 2004 I am not as engaged at my current institution as deeply I have been in the past. I do have other open projects in the Asterisk/ Digium phone world going, but Moodle is no longer my institutional baby.
    Because of this, I really considered staying home and focusing on other issues.  The second issue in my consideration of not showing up was related to a conversation I overheard in which one person said this has been…

    The Year of Fake Open Source in Higher Education

    I do agree that  this past year has not been good for open software in education.
    I have written a series of blogs about a drastic change in higher education which occurred last August which stresses the very fiber of openness and transparency in educational software.  Much of the argument about this change relates to the shift in licensing from a GPL to a AGPL model in a higher ed ERP software called Kuali, but the reality is the arguments often revolve around the details of the change, not the spirit of open source.  The spirit of open source is the underlying issue. Dr Chuck Severances’ work explains the the GPL vs AGPL issue better than any other and he states,
    Instead of hating corporations for being clever and maximizing revenue – we members of open source communities must simply be mindful of being led down the wrong path when it comes to software licensing.
    Although it is imperative we continue to attend events such as the Mountain Moodlemoot to learn how to teach and serve students better, but I would suggest that we ALL dive a little deeper to understand how deeply a change in licensing of a particular software or the choice of licensing up front impacts true openness, transparency, and sharing. The conversation should also cover the establishment and enormous success of Instructure and their constant reminder that they too are open source.    I feel compelled to comment on this further because I believe Moodle’s new path is directly influenced by this enormous success Instructure has had with the Canvas LMS.   Moodle uses a truly open GPL license while Canvas uses the AGPL3 license.  People not familiar with various forms of open source often fall prey to the marketing machine that is Instructure.  It’s not that they offer a terrible product.  Quite the opposite.
    My series of blogs mentioned above references a situation where there was  a change licensing, terrible communication, as well as what is perceived by many as apparent deception.  Even more documentation chronicling these issues is found here.  Frankly, the whole thing has gotten me a little down on open software in education.  
    The beginning of the conference didn’t help my mood.  It was a bit frightening to me as I learned about the new Moodle Association and its tiered membership model.  Although I now have high hopes for this new path, when I first heard this concept, visions of Sakai,  Kauli, and Unizin danced in my head while the motto “He who Provides the gold makes the Rules”  flashed before my eyes.  Was this another strike against the little guy?  Had the open world and transparent world of Moodle been pulled to the dark side?  Is it time to go buy that shiny pizza truck I have had my eye on?  I wasn’t sure what to think.  (NOTE: Sakai & Kauli are higher education projects started with open source ideals that failed their initial promise.  Unizin is a higher education project the charges a significant entry fee in exchange for…. essentially nothing.)  
    I have used this content previously but I think it important to occasionally offer a reminder of the importance of community in a project such as Moodle.  Years ago, I watched a talk that Dr. Jason Cole did at the  Alaska Society for Technology in Education ASTE 2009.  He described a community which brought a variety of skills together to achieve a common purpose as described by Yochai Benkler’s Commons Based Peer Production model.  He said, “With a big enough network of people, we can self Identify and allocate ourselves to the areas where we can add value to a given project.” Benkler says the Peer Production advantage over the Industrial Model is in identifying the best available human capital and using it collaboratively to highly refine and increase production.  With Chief Moodler, Martin Dougiamas steering the ship, Moodle has done this pretty well.  I was working for a broke little college which didn’t have two nickels to rub together when Moodle came along as a viable option for an LMS.   
    However, as the LMS market has changed it appears only Instructure Canvas has grown widely in past couple of years.  Phil Hill tells us that Moodle gained no schools with an enrollment  >2000 in 2013 and 2014.   Although other sources tell me this is not quite true as they have personally been involved in site adoptions during this timeframe the point that Canvas has drastically changed the LMS landscape is spot on.  With innovation being critical as projects such as Moodle move forward, we have begun to hear cries that we must speed up development.  I suspect this is at least in part a direct result of the Canvas influence on the marketplace.  Moodle’s answer to speeding up development is the the Moodle Association.  I voiced my concerns to Martin about the path Kuali chose in moving from a community based model to a commercial-source entity and he assured me that core was safe.
    martin tweet for twitter gameThis conference had Moodle Founder Martin Dougiamas giving a little different keynote than the other times I have heard him speak.  During the keynote this was re-emphasized.  One of his first statements in the opening keynote,

    We are not selling out, going commercial, or accepting venture capital

    martin dougiamas keynote
    As he continued he described the plan which essentially is:

    • The Moodle Association will focus on and speed up additional development. Memberships will fund new developers to create this new development based on the priorities set by the Moodle Association Committee (NOTE: Since this post is a little too long I will have more commentary on the Moodle Association tomorrow)
    • Moodle Core development will remain the same as proceeds from the worldwide network of Moodle Partners will continue to fund development and oversight.  

    Getting Moodle Out of the Way
    I was talking with one of my Casper College colleagues, Michael Deal, this morning and he mentioned the power of  Martin’s comment about getting Moodle out of the way of learning.  We all have projects which are particularly special to each of us.  Moodle is Martin’s baby, so when he starts talking about getting his own baby out of the way of learning I think you should pay attention.  In the slide prior to the one shown below  there was a similar slide except it had Moodle in the middle of all these components (No I didn’t get a shot of that one).  Essentially he stated we have to get to the point where even though Moodle is in the middle of all the parts, it is not in the way.

    Other Conference Stuff
    My favorite Martin quotes from the Keynote

      1. Open brings privacy
      1. We won’t want to get to a situation where we can’t change our mind
    1. We always need the open option

    One of the key things Casper College has been able to bring to the Mountain Moodle Moot is support for the conference social media game.  Each of the last 3 years we have brought our Social Media Specialist, Justin Pehrson, to help get people up and going with social media, specifically Twitter.  The key role of the games the past 3 years has been to provide another tool for conference participants to connect with other Moodlers.  The feedback I have gotten is that it has worked.  Here is a comparison of Twitter Activity 2013 -2015.   
    mountain moodle moot twitter activity
    Why the significant decrease 2014 to 2015?  I think there was more purposeful tweeting.  Last year several participants were simply retweeting everything in sight to increase their ranking for some of the games.  I think overall numbers have retweeted….I mean retreated because people are tweeting closer to my core recommendations in my post “10 Reasons to Tweet at a Conference”  People were sharing and networking like crazy via Twitter. We have tweak the game each year, but the core of the original game was my creation so I am pleased
    Other looks at the Mountain Moot Twitter Activity:
    mountain moodle moot twitter activity update
    Top Retweets
    most retweets 1
    July 14, 2015
    most retweets 2
    July 15, 2015
    Here are the Rules of Engagement for the 2015 Mountain MoodleMoot  if you have not seen them.

    Live Streaming Video
    Justin Pehrson also provided video streaming of many of the sessions from the moot, including Martin’s incognito presentation.  They are archived and available for viewing at
    martins keynote on video
    Moodle Cloud
    If you haven’t heard of the MoodleCloud, it is a new service which provides teachers a free hosted Moodle instance to help them not have to worry about the logistics of setting up servers and installing Learning Management System software.  It will provide:

      • A full (always current) Moodle version
      • Unlimited database size
      • 50 users
      • 200 Mb Disk Space

    announcement of the moodle cloud
    The Closing Panel
    What a privilege to sit on a panel at the 2015 Moodle Moot in Helena, Montana with Jonathan and Michelle Moore, Gavin Hendrick and Moodle Founder and Lead Developer Martin Dougiamas. (Notice the “wee acorn” amongst the giant Moodle Oaks getting a pic from his position in the panel cheap seats of the educational rock stars on the panel)   

    moodle panel view 1 moodle panel view 2
    moodle panel view 3

    Other Bits and Pieces

    My presentation “Looking Back at the Future of Moodle”  was a lot of fun.  Looking back at the Future of Moodle,  shows us what Moodlers such as Michael Penney, Jason Cole, Michelle Moore,  and D.I. Von Briesen were thinking in 2006. This was filmed at the first Oklahoma Moodle Moot held at Quartz Mountain Lodge near Altus Oklahoma.  My old Moodling buddy Scott Charlson shot the video and provided the footage for the presentation.  
    The family got to meet the Moodle Guy I have been talking about all these years.   Some of my former Western Oklahoma State compadres such as Melissa Smith , Lynn Null and Susan Childs will appreciate this more than others.
    Last but not least was my Petcha Kutcha 20×20 presentation (See image below)  6min40second Broomcorn Strong presentation which was a 1st run of the presentation “Dirt & Brooms” I am moderating at my hometown County Fair in a couple weeks.  By the way, I didn’t make the time limit.  I came in at 6min 43 seconds.
    Kent Brooks Petcha Kutcha
    From its humble beginnings nearly 15 years ago there are now over 46,000 registered Moodle sites, over 119 million enrollments, and 56 million users in 214 countries.  Martin is still the nicest most humble man who is truly dedicated to helping teachers have access to open and free resources to do their job better. If there is a true reason the new format might work…it is probably the preceding sentence more than the other gibberish I wrote above.  Great little moot and a great Mountain Moodle Moot Community. This is definitely a small but mighty Moodle Moot … sounds alot like the little train that could.  Kudos to Dan, Ryan and the Mootineers for another great learning experience.