Apereo Newsletter - July 2019
We're taking a break for August! Deadline for the September edition will be September 8, with publication on or around September 15. Send your contributions along to!

From the Executive Director

Apereo Treasurer Transition

Charlie Leonhardt of Georgetown University has been Apereo Treasurer for several years. At Open Apereo 2019, Charlie stood down from the role. I’d like to take this opportunity, on behalf of the Apereo Board and community, to thank Charlie for his service over the years. Tim Carroll, a longstanding community member currently with Rogue Wave Software was elected as Treasurer. Our thanks to Tim for being willing to serve.

Join Friends of Apereo!


The Apereo Foundation and its projects have been at the forefront of creating and sustaining software in service of education.  Apereo extends membership to individuals through the Friends of Apereo program. This program allows individuals to support our community programs and activities.  

By making a small contribution that will be dedicated to our support programs, Friends of Apereo can help make a difference. In return, we'll help you stay in touch by providing discounted access to Apereo events and by giving Friends a say in how Apereo is run by voting for a reserved Friends of Apereo board seat.

Apereo's work has touched countless learners, teachers and researchers worldwide, helping to both extend access to learning opportunities, and enriching them. Please help us sustain and extend that by becoming a Friend of Apereo today.

Individual memberships are available for $100.   Joining is easy at

Individual membership supports the work of the Foundation as a whole.  If you'd like to direct your gift to a specific Apereo Project, please specify the details using the special instructions section in PayPal.

Thank you for your continued support of the Apereo Foundation!

 News from Open Apereo 2019

Usability-focused Agile Development at NYU

At Open Apereo 2019, Kyle Blythe and Minhye Kim from New York University presented on their approach to user experience and agile development for the LMS. In general, user experience (UX) encompasses the entirety of a user's contact with a product or service (1). On a more basic level, though, UX asks the question of "how usable is this product, and how can that usability be improved?". Ongoing usability testing with real users helps to answer this question, providing invaluable insights during the development process and allowing for the continual refinement of existing features.

By subscribing to a lightweight approach to usability testing promoted by industry experts such as the Nielsen Norman Group, Steve Krug, and others, the Application Development group in NYU IT conducts regular testing of both existing features and in-flight development work with the university's faculty, staff, and students. This testing is also a critical component of the team's agile development workflow.

When developing new features and enhancements for the LMS, the team works in an iterative, incremental fashion. Following the tenets of
Agile Software development (and those of established frameworks like Scrum), the team at NYU works in dedicated "sprints." UX and usability testing are baked into this process, with entire sprints being dedicated to UX design and lightweight usability testing of those designs; this allows for the proposed feature set, UI, and UX to be vetted and refined before code is even written. This, in turn, allows for a faster, more straightforward development process. Each sprint ends with a defined outcome, or increment, and this process of development/refinement continues throughout the project.

This UX and agile development workflow has been used for a number of Sakai features contributed back to the community, such as the New Gradebook tool (released as part of Sakai 11 in 2016). Usability testing continues to be a major part of the team's process, with features such as a new name pronunciation feature (contributed by Miguel Pellicer and Entornos de formación) making their way into upcoming releases for Sakai.

1. "User Experience encompasses all aspects of a person’s interaction with a company, its services, and its products." Norman, Don, and Jacob Nielsen. “The Definition of User Experience (UX).” Nielsen Norman Group, Nielsen Norman Group,

Project News

 Unitime 4.4 Release

A new version of UniTime (version 4.4) was released in June 2018. UniTime 4.4 includes a lot of improvements in the student scheduling component. There are new solver constraints that can be used to better measure and optimize the quality of students schedules including early/late times, schedule gaps, travel times, lunch breaks, and long days. Test schedule runs can be automated and the results published to other users. A lot of changes have been done to the scheduling dashboard and the reservations. Students can prefer or require certain sections or instructional methods. Courses that are critical to certain students (that is, courses that these students need to make progress towards their degree) can be identified and such students prioritized in these courses.

A few improvements have also been done to data exchange, event management, and course timetabling (e.g., including the ability to combine last year’s course enrollments with pre-registration).

Read more

ITC 2019 Competition Update

We are pleased to announce the winners of the second milestone of the ITC 2019 competition ( that the UniTime team is co-organizing:

1st place (73 points): 
Edon Gashi, Kadri Sylejmani
University of Prishtina, Kosovo

2nd place (69 points): 
Dennis Holm, Rasmus Ørnstrup Mikkelsen, Matias Sørensen, Thomas Spidsen MaCom, Denmark

3rd place (61 points): 
Karim Er-rhaimini
Ministère de l'éducation nationale, France

Congratulations! The award ceremony will be held at the PATAT 2020 conference in Bruges, Belgium in August 2020.

There are more prizes to win and still plenty of time to work on your solver and to compete. The middle and late datasets will be released on September 18, 2019, and November 8, 2019, respectively and the competition will conclude on November 18, 2019. See for more details.
-- Tomas Muller

 Project Updates

North American Opencast Workshop

Opencast is planning a free workshop in Boston but we need to know when you are available.  Please fill out the form, and watch for announcements on the list!

Meeting of the German-speaking Opencast Community: 
September 12-13 at WWU Münster, Germany

The registration for the annual meeting of the German-speaking Opencast community is now open. Register for free on the conference page.

Opencast 8 release managers

It is our pleasure to announce that the following committers have been elected to be the release managers for the upcoming Opencast 8 release: 

  • Karen Dolan, Harvard DCE
  • Rüdiger Rolf, Osnabrück University

We wish to thank them for volunteering and hope the release goes smoothly. The release is planned for December 2019.

Opencast 7.1 Released

Opencast 7.1 has been released. It is the first maintenance release of Opencast 7 and fixes a number of bugs, most importantly, some issues involving the migration to the new scheduler. The release can be found on Github as well as in the package repositories. For more information, take a look at the Opencast 7.x release notes.

 The Return of Focus Group Fridays

Focus Group Fridays are back this Summer! We've scheduled 4 sessions to gather your feedback on two important topics: 

1) The new "SakaiGrader" grading UI - Be among the first to see the latest mockups and demos!
  • 1PM EDT July 19th
  • 11AM EDT July 26th
2) Efficiency enhancements that save user's time - Help us focus in on workflow optimizations that have the biggest impact.
  • 2PM EDT August 2nd
  • 10AM EDT August 9th
Spaces are limited to 10 per session, since we want to keep the groups small enough for productive discussion. So sign up early to reserve your spot! (Connection info will be emailed to those registered on the day of the session.)

I hope you'll participate!

-- Wilma Hodges

Wanted: Your Institution's Story

Consider submitting a vignette for!

If you’ve not looked at recently, go take a look. On the landing page we’re promoting Apereo sponsored software in a series of what we’re calling “vignettes”. These are short stories and messages about what problems adopters are using Apereo software to help solve. Check out the solutions we’ve highlighted so far!

Have a message about Apereo software you’d like to communicate to others? Why not take five minutes to write a vignette and forward to
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