Oracle Academic Enterprise White Paper

I’m really, really late in my review of this, but better late than never, I suppose.

In any case, Oracle’s Academic Enterprise Solutions Group (AES) recently published an excellent white paper that is definitely worth reading even if you aren’t (and don’t intend to be) an Oracle customer. While many in the group undoubtedly had a hand in the authoring, I think it is safe to say that Michael Feldstein led the charge as evidenced by his blog post on the subject.

Why is it worth a read?

One good reason is that it outlines the challenges faced by academic IT departments that are now being asked to integrate multiple enterprise systems and to take account of things like Facebook and Flickr and Google Apps while, at the same time, maintaining privacy and security standards mandated both by US law and by good business practice. Here’s a quote I particularly like:

Campus IT departments have often struggled to maintain just the one integration between the SIS and the LMS. Now they are facing demands to support dozens of integrations. It is simply not possible for them to meet that demand under the old way of doing things. So rather than being enablers of better education, these departments have become obstacles to it. They need a new way of doing things.

I don’t agree that IT departments have uniformly become obstacles. But it is clear that it is a risk as these demands increase (and they will). But moving on…

Oracle then divides the enterprise into three broad architectural components:

  • Core Academic Data. Oracle calls this the “source of truth” and the challenge here is, with the profusion of enterprise applications on campus, propagating the information that needs to be shared across systems and keeping hidden that information that should be hidden in certain contexts. And with all these systems data consistency becomes a significant problem.
  • Online Learning Environments. This is the LMS but also Google applications, Facebook, Flickr, SecondLife and other applications that are increasingly used in teaching and learning contexts. The white paper proposes a 3-tier Learning Management Operating System (LMOS) that I rather like. I won’t describe it here so you have some incentive to read the white paper but, suffice it to say, it shares a lot in common with Sakai 3.  And points to Sakai 3 as the reference implementation for the LMOS.  I hope we can live up to those expectations–we certainly intend to.
  • Academic Nerve Center. This bit is essentially the reporting and data mining that are needed to make what happens in the other places useful.

I like this organizational scheme very much. Even if it does not translate directly into a techincal architecture for campus systems, it is a useful way for campuses to begin breaking down the issues.

And I’m not going to be coy about being absolutely thrilled (!) by the treatment given to Sakai 3. It’s a great vote of confidence from one of the world’s most succesful enterprise software developers.

So, I have two suggestions for improvement. First, the paper almost entirely ignores the research function of higher education. This is a significant omission-in fact I think the addition of research work bolsters the case Oracle is making for the need for a new approach. And I think it could easily be incorporated into the vision. I would simply change LMOS to AWOS, for Academic Work Operating System.  The same basic ideas would apply (playing fast and loose here!). Ian Dolphin has also written an informative review of the white pater that makes this same point.

The second critique is the way Oracle product information is incorporated into the white paper. I understand they are a commercial enterprise and efforts like this are a mixture of establishing a direction for new products as well as finding new applications for existing ones. In fact I wouldn’t recommend removing the product references fromt the white paper because many readers will find them useful. But I did find that they were distracting from the flow of the explanation. Perhaps they could be moved to an appendix or something? In any case, this isn’t a reason to avoid the white paper–there isn’t a great deal of this and it’s not a major criticism.

So, all in all, a well-deserved (if belated) tip of the hat to Oracle for publishing something useful and thought-provoking.

Perhaps they’ll make a presentation at the 10th Sakai Conference in Boston?


3 Responses

  1. Thanks for the great review and feedback, Michael. We will take your suggestions (and Ian’s) very much to heart.

    In terms of describing the current role of IT in the explosion of integration requests, perhaps “bottleneck” would have been a better word than “obstacle.” There are just too many non-standard, labor-intensive requests that all have to come through the same organization and be handled by the same people.

  2. […] to Sakai Foundation Executive Director Michael Korcuska for providing a nice review (with some thoughtful analysis good suggestions) of my team’s (relatively) new white […]

  3. […] MeLE’s) running on top of one Learning Management Operating System (LMOS) or, if you prefer Michael Korcuska’s term, Academic Work Operating System […]

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