On Thursday, October 15, 2020, the Unicon Open Source Support (OSS) team held the openEQUELLA OSS Briefing summarizing OSS activities for Q2 and Q3 of 2020.
The openEQUELLA OSS Periodic Briefing is an opportunity to share the contributions performed by Unicon on behalf of the OSS program, highlight Unicon's perspective on contributions, share happenings in the community, and describe opportunities to engage further with Unicon.
Discussions for the openEQUELLA Q2 and Q3 2020 Support Briefing focused on openEQUELLA during COVID-19, a review of Open Apereo 2020, sustaining engineering, looking ahead to the release of openEQUELLA 2020.2, and upcoming events.
COVID-19 & openEQUELLA
With concerns related to the spread of the COVID-19 virus, educational technology has had more demand placed on it in recent months. Naturally, we were curious how openEQUELLA has helped adopters in their learner journey strategy and how openEQUELLA has performed with a possible increase of usage.
We asked the community and have included some of their responses.
Zovio is an education services company and owner of Ashford University. They noted the following:
Since we were already 100% online, we didn’t see a huge uptick in the stats but below are a few bullets around how we did leverage [EQUELLA] during COVID:
- Leveraged EQUELLA to manage some COVID related documents and communications. This allowed us to make quick and easy updates as information was continuously being updated.
- Leveraged EQUELLA to help support several business units manage the transition of their teams from working in the office [to] working 100% remote.
We were able to review some of Zovio's statistics and found that usage (# of hits) increased by 339,000 from last year to a monthly average of 6.3 million for March, April, May, and August, with September showing the biggest jump of 1.78 million hits for a total of 7.62 million hits.
The monthly average of users increased by no less than 61,000 from last year’s monthly average.
The average time spent per hit actually improved by a few milliseconds to an average of 25 ms.
BYU - Idaho (BYUI) recently moved openEQUELLA to the Cloud. They responded with:
- The move to Unicon hosting openEQUELLA on AWS added increased stability and better responsiveness which increased adoption.
- We have three different programs at BYU Idaho: Traditional degrees, fully online degrees, and Pathway certificates. Pathway certificates are offered at very low cost in countries all over the world including underserved populations in Africa, Asia, the Pacific Rim, and Haiti. openEQUELLA increasingly serves content for classes in the Pathway program.
- openEQUELLA is increasingly being used to offer html content as it facilitates the ability for less technical people to author content in a more secure environment.
Statistics for BYUI continued to build on the story from Zovio--openEQUELLA can handle increased load and maintain performance. Monthly year-over-year stats for BYUI showed usage (# of hits) increased by 1.2 million for a monthly average of 2.72 million hits.
Average monthly users increased by ~29,000 to 114,000.
The average time spent increased some months, but by no more than 1/10th of a second. Other months saw an improved performance with a monthly average of 123 ms
We received additional feedback about the impact of the pandemic from adopters around the globe:
- A 35% increase in total access during April when compared to the same period last year. This pattern has continued in other months.
- A 24% increase in total 'hits' to a site focused on the month of May, but this has been consistent across months. Also, consistent increases in total bandwidth used ranging from 100 to 247% when compared to the same months last year.
- An increase in the number of visitors by 155% during the month of May.
- Visits in number of hits to an implementation went from 4.2 million during May last year to 10.4 million this year.
- An increase in the number of visitors from 40,122 in April last year to 223,294 this April.
We knew that openEQUELLA is a good solution for content - both for learners in-class, and online. We also knew that the application is performant. One of the stories that emerged from reviewing openEQUELLA adoptions during this time of COVID-19 concerns gave more evidence that openEQUELLA can maintain its responsiveness and effectively support learners even with increased usage.
Open Apereo 2020
openEQUELLA was represented at Open Apereo 2020 by three events. Due to changes announced prior to the conference going virtual, the first part of the conference was geared to a single track of application presentations. openEQUELLA was included, and we provided an overview of the application, how the health of the community was fairing, and some of the new features of openEQUELLA.
We hosted a showcase presentation which used openEQUELLA to highlight how to script the application to more effectively support licensing content as Creative Commons and facilitate the user experience in migrating content from Creative Commons version 3 to version 4. This generalized solution was able to be open-sourced and is located at https://github.com/openequella/openEQUELLA-creative-commons-scripting/.
The final presentation was centered on adopter case studies. Mat Miles from BYUI with Mary Glynn and Kim Palencia from Quinnipiac University offered insights into how their institutions leverage openEQUELLA. Case studies are an effective way to help potential adopters see how they might be able to use an application in their strategy. This session was fast-paced and full of commentary on how openEQUELLA is a flexible and mature content management solution.
As a reminder, as part of the Open Source Support program, Unicon engages in community development, which we call Sustaining Engineering. Our community development is focused on resolving issues and designing implementation solutions.
Sustaining Engineering over the last two quarters focused on efforts to migrate adopters from usage of the Blackboard building block integration into a more standard LTI / REST integration.
- We improved the build process in the openEQUELLA / Blackboard integration repository.
- We completed an MVP of the Blackboard REST integration inside of openEQUELLA. This included features to gather courses by user, enhance performance with better caching, and the testing of the overall solution.
- We added audit logging of rate limits for the REST connection. Rate limits are caps imposed by the Blackboard servers and managed via a REST Application ID. A REST Application ID is required to use the Blackboard REST integration in openEQUELLA. Typically, a Blackboard REST Application ID would be procured by the application owner. Due to openEQUELLA being open source software, it creates an interesting situation on who should create the REST Application ID, and who is responsible for rate limits and associated costs when they need to be increased. We are part way through a discussion with Blackboard on how to answer these questions.
- We completed the Migration building block, providing adopters a path from the legacy integration to the more stable and modern integration.
The roadmap encompasses Unicon and community efforts as a whole to maintain and enhance the application. As the year has progressed, the community chose to reduce the anticipated openEQUELLA releases from three down to two. The community’s goal is to cut a 2020.2.0 release in December.
For 2020.2.0, the two primary focuses are major dependency framework upgrades and continued efforts on converting the legacy user experience to the modern experience.
The major dependencies targeted for 2020.2.0 are Spring 5 and Hibernate 5. openEQUELLA is running with fairly backdated releases of these frameworks, and efforts are underway to upgrade them.
The team working on the legacy conversion effort is aiming to complete the search UX and selection session UX for the next release. In addition, a new feature, Search Facets, will be included. This was previewed as a beta feature in a 6.x release, and will now be ready for adopters!
The following events had or will have community members available to discuss openEQUELLA and how it can fit into your educational technology strategy:
- CanvasCon - Virtual - Free - October 15 , 2020 (it occured the same day as the briefing)
- EDUCAUSE 2020 - Virtual - October 27 -29, 2020
- Edalexpo - Virtual - Free - November 5 (AU) / November 4 (US) 2020
- Unicon OSS oEQ Briefing Q1 2021 - Virtual - Free - early April, 2021 - Please contact us if you’d like an invite
Consider Your Strategy
While openEQUELLA is a great solution for content management, the most important focus is to ensure the solution you’ve adopted solves your strategic needs. Consider where you are at with your content strategy. Is it well defined? Are there pain points with your existing solution? Unicon can help to discover, define, and enhance your content strategy to ensure you’re able to get your learners and teachers the content they need, when they need it.
Taking a wider viewpoint, consider your strategy around the Learner Journey. From the first contact that prospective students have with your institution through their journey to becoming alumni, how you leverage educational technology is critical to your success and theirs. Unicon has deep experience with the lifecycle of the Learner Journey, and we encourage you to reach out for a discussion on how we can help you support your learners through each of their technology touchpoints.
For more details on the topics we reviewed at the briefing, please view the openEQUELLA briefing recording!
Community Engagement Resources
Interested in openEQUELLA and open source content management? We invite you to join the community and make an impact.
- Apereo openEQUELLA website: https://www.apereo.org/projects/open-equella
- Apereo Users Google Group: Send email to email@example.com
- Apereo Dev Google Group: Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org
- GitHub issues: https://github.com/openequella/openEQUELLA
- Documentation: https://openequella.github.io/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/EQUELLA
Click here for the video recording.