Building software platforms and data standards that support teaching and learning is great but building them with a passionate community that contributes to its success is magical! After all, that’s the basic recipe that brought about industry changing projects like Wikipedia, Firefox, MySQL, and even the key analytical technology underlying IBM’s Watson, winner of Jeopardy!
I’m excited to announce that going forward the Ed-Fi Technology will be available under an open source license.
(The data standard has always been publicly available) Make no mistake, Ed-Fi didn’t become what it is today by hiding it away. It became what it is by dropping it into the incubators of our state, district, university, and ed-tech partners, then letting it evolve and improve naturally. This move just widens and accelerates that work.
If you’ve previously signed a user license, you won’t need to do anything different. However, for the rest of the ed tech vendors, universities, school districts and states that haven’t joined the Ed-Fi movement yet, it lowers their barrier to entry and facilitates exceptionally rapid adoption and democratizes investments.
We know that maintaining such a large community will be as much work as maintaining the code, but over the years, we’ve learned a lot. The importance of a welcoming community, strong governance structures, partnerships with global tech platforms, and most importantly, what’s possible when we allow educators and ed-tech professionals to lead the way.
We know that the world is changing right now, and the way we deliver the tools of education will look vastly different in the months and years to come. We also know there has never been a better moment to move forward, to adapt, to create a new experience and to welcome in more leaders to our movement. The door is open and we invite you to join us. #edfiopensource
What “Open Source” Means
Technically, “open source” means that the source code for the Ed-Fi Data Standard and Ed-Fi Technology Suite will be publicly available without having to sign a license or legal document. Anyone will be able to inspect, use, modify, and enhance the code that makes Ed-Fi work. All future technology and existing code will now be licensed under the open source Apache License, Version 2.0 which governs how original and derivative work can be developed and used.
But more broadly, “open source” is a mindset—one that has long been at the heart of our community and are now making official with this announcement.
We believe that any organization—from small school districts to large state education agencies to makers of education technology products—should be able to achieve data interoperability. Transparency and community are fundamental to the Ed-Fi Alliance, and we exist to help educators and administrators unlock and unleash the power of student data.
Adopting an open source license brings us much closer to realizing that vision as an entire community.
When This Will Happen
As you’re reading this, the move to open source is already underway.
We have a detailed transition plan laid out in these Frequently Asked Questions. Over the coming months we will be making sections of the existing source code publicly available via GitHub.
Beginning April 2020—and continuing throughout the year—Ed-Fi is converting most of our source code repositories to the Apache 2.0 license and we anticipate having this work completed and made publicly available by the end of the year. We’ll continue to update you as we make new advancements.
Why Open Source
We’re adopting an open source license for several reasons. In many ways, we’ve always had an open-source mindset and are now aligning our technology strategy to match.
1. Democratize Student Data
We believe educators, administrators, students, and parents deserve access to data in order to improve education in the classroom and strategic decisions at the district and state levels. Data shouldn’t be owned by any one vendor or company. As an open-source solution, Ed-Fi makes student data more secure, usable, and available.
2. Culture of Continuous Improvement
While we have always factored in community input in our technical roadmap, adopting an open source license will further open our work for thoughtful contributions. Ed-Fi will vet contributions to ensure they’re high-quality and deliver on our shared vision.
3. Ed-Fi Technology is open for Contributions and Investment
Interoperability is a movement and we need every stakeholder in education working together to make this shift. Moving to an open source license will allow more companies and organizations to freely contribute and invest in the work of the Ed-Fi Community.
4. Making Implementation Easier
Until now, to get access to the Ed-Fi source code and implement it in your organization, you needed to sign a user license. New users will no longer need to go through several approval cycles, because all Ed-Fi work will be under the Apache 2.0 license which does not require a signature from individual contributors or users, it is an opt-in license. When we’re open source, the license will go away. You won’t need to “sign” anything to be able to achieve data interoperability with Ed-Fi.
5. Building on the Foundation of Strong Governance
Over the past several years we have been working within our community to establish a strong foundation of governance. Opening our community even further will enable us to build on that structure and to make our processes even more robust. Our community wants us to go open source. We listened. And we feel that an open-source project will invite more (and deeper) community engagement.
What Will Change
In most ways, nothing will change. A spirit of transparency and collaboration has been part of the Ed-Fi mission from the beginning, so for our existing Ed-Fi Community who is already contributing to our process, they won’t need to change anything. For the larger ed tech community that is not yet involved in Ed-Fi, your organization will now be able to quickly and more easily implement an interoperability strategy. This move simply makes it 100% official.
Going open source will also make our code base more community-focused. Developers and data experts from across the country will have the opportunity to make the Ed-Fi tools better, and once their changes are vetted by the Ed-Fi team, they’ll be made available to everyone.
While a license won’t be required to access the code, we hope you will choose to be an active part of the Ed-Fi Community by signing up for an Ed-Fi Community account in order to access technical documentation, learn about upcoming Ed-Fi events, read use cases, connect with your colleagues at other organizations, and download free learning resources.
We will continue to move forward with our transition to open source over the coming months. Our goal is to have all code repositories made public by the end of the year. More details are published in our Open Source FAQ.
We’d love to hear from you. Let us know what you think. Please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and tweet at @edfialliance with the hashtag #edfiopensource.
Thank you for your continued belief in the power of student data interoperability and your dedication to the Ed-Fi Alliance.