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Q3 2018 openEQUELLA Open Source Support Briefing

The quarterly openEQUELLA Open Source Support (OSS) Briefing is an opportunity to share the contributions performed 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 Q3 2018 Support Briefing focused on Community News, Sustaining Engineering, Highlights, a Community Spotlight by NCCCS, and Upcoming Events.

On Thursday October 11, 2018, the Unicon OSS team held the openEQUELLA OSS Briefing summarizing OSS activities for Q3 of 2018.

Community News

We kicked off the briefing by discussing two relatively new community meetings - the openEQUELLA Community Developer Meeting, and the openEQUELLA Advisory Board.

The meeting for developers is to bring together folks who are actively working on, or are interested in starting work on, openEQUELLA projects. It’s an informal format, aimed at knowledge sharing and furthering the developer interest in openEQUELLA. We currently plan to meet every other month, on the first Thursday evening (US Central time). The most recent meeting was held on November first. Highlight discussions included issues around the Blackboard building block, how the Google Material Design UI is going, new developers in the community, increasing the Scripting API, and Docker efforts.

The advisory board aims to find ways to maintain and enhance the openEQUELLA community and application to thrive in the Open Source space. They meet every other month, and the first meeting was in September. There was good energy in the meeting, and one of the primary takeaways was to look for deeper community involvement. Members of the Advisory Board: Alistair Oliver (Edalex), Anton Proppe (Swinburne), Chris Beach (Unicon), Lee Webster (TAFE Queensland), Ian Dolphin (Apereo Director), and Mara Hancock (CCA).

Sustaining Engineering

In the review of Unicon’s Sustaining Engineering efforts, we highlighted some work completed on the Scripting API, fueled by adopter-driven priorities. These efforts were tracked in #475 and #476 on github and will be available in the openEQUELLA 6.7 release branch (note: release schemes are changing, and this will now be known as release 2018.2) . We also discussed scripts that were built for clients of Unicon, and those clients were willing to have them be open sourced to benefit the community. A huge thank you to those clients for further enabling other adopters to make use of the scripts. These scripts include a User Display script, the openEQUELLA Toolbox, and a Check Date script. The openEQUELLA Toolbox was built to migrate videos from EQUELLA/openEQUELLA into Kaltura and link the Kaltura content back into EQUELLA. The Toolbox is a consideration to improve or replace the EQUELLA Bulk Importer (EBI) technology. We welcome comments and thoughts on how to drive the value-add from enhancing the concept of EBI to a cross-platform build scheme.

Other Highlights

We then moved on to discuss other highlights - integrations, workflow scripting, Docker, and the path forward for Q4.

For integrations, it has been discovered that the openEQUELLA integration with Blackboard SaaS and Self-Hosted / Managed-Hosted v3400+ instances no longer work. A short term effort is underway to fix viewing content via the LTI links, and restoring the ability to add new content via ‘Pull-to-LMS’ (tracked here). The long term fix is to rely more fully on standard Blackboard LTI and REST APIs instead of building blocks and web services. This long term effort is aimed to ‘future proof’ the integration.

While notably less severe, we found an issue with the Canvas LTI integration where ‘skinny selection sessions’ log the Canvas user in as a short-lived temporary user instead of the expected SSO flow of LTI. An openEQUELLA skinny selection session in Canvas is used when adding an External Tool to a module, or accessing an External Tool from the assignment HTML editor. In the issue ticket, we determined a workaround of placing various custom LTI parameters in the integration configuration. The long term fix will be to update the custom LTI parameters in the XML endpoint that openEQUELLA exposes to integrate with Canvas.

We provided a feature highlight in 6.5 and above with Workflow scripting. This feature was built by Edalex and enables users to execute a script as a first-class workflow task. You can configure users to be notified when a scripting error occurs, when a script runs successfully, and allows a soft-fail if scripting errors occur. This scripting is another place in the application where users can leverage the power of the standard openEQUELLA Scripting API.

Abilities of Docker and openEQUELLA were then discussed. While a Dockerfile had been available for a while to run an openEQUELLA install with configuration parameters, we enhanced that ability to be more configurable, and added another Dockerfile that builds openEQUELLA in a container. The Dockerfile to run openEQUELLA is not necessarily ready for production use, but the Dockerfile to build the installer and upgrader of various versions has been used to emit production-worthy artifacts, complete with a tie-in of a Java Signing Certificate if desired, to make the Admin Console and other client-side Java apps more secure.

In looking ahead to Q4 work, we aim to solidify the Docker enhancements, open source an example of modernizing the 6.5 theme (separate from the ‘new’ Google Material Design UI effort), implement the short-term fix to the Blackboard integration issue, work on the Sustaining Engineering backlog with input from our OSS Subscribers, and continue to sunset the Admin Console by migrating functionality into REST APIs and presenting them in the Google Material Design UI.

Community Spotlight

For the Community Spotlight, Jon Sweetin from North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) presented on an excellent example of integrating EQUELLA. NCCCS wanted to boost the discovery and reuse of its learning objects, so they built an integration with a suggestion / recommendation engine dubbed the ‘NC Brain’. The integration keys off of existing search results and provides a simple flow for users to drill deeper into similar search results while staying in the same interface. Jon said they are reviewing what components they will be able to open source in the near future.

Upcoming Events

After the spotlight, we noted several upcoming events around openEQUELLA. We encouraged folks to participate in these events to deepen the excitement around and value-add of openEQUELLA.

  • openEQUELLA Webinar: Online - 10/25/2018
  • Educause: Denver, CO - 10/31/2018 - 11/2/2018
  • openEQUELLA Community Developer Meeting: Online - 11/1/2018 (US) / 11/2/2018 (AU)
  • Edalexpo: Melbourne, AU - 11/15/2018
  • Unicon OSS openEQUELLA Briefing Q4 2018: Online - Jan 2018
  • Open Apereo 2019: Los Angeles, CA - 6/2/2019 - 6/6/2019


The briefing was well attended, and we appreciate the discussion and follow up from the call. We encourage you to reach out to the community, get excited about openEQUELLA, ask questions, and help shape the future of this open source Content Management System.

Click here for the video recording.
Click here for the briefing slides.

Chris Beach

Chris Beach

Software Developer
Chris Beach is a Software Developer at Unicon, Inc. and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science. Chris is currently involved in the support and development of open source software, focused on openEQUELLA and uPortal. Chris was previously a Senior Support Analyst for EQUELLA at Pearson, where he was involved with hosting support and escalated client support for EQUELLA.