[LON-CAPA-dev] Vice Provost Meeting

Gerd Kortemeyer lon-capa-dev@mail.lon-capa.org
Sat, 23 Feb 2002 10:21:55 -0500

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Dear LITE Lab Crew,

Yesterday we had a meeting with the Vice Provost for Libraries, Computing, and
Technology, the Dean of Natural Science, the Director of the Division, and
faculty users regarding the future of CAPA, LectureOnline, and LON-CAPA.

The result is that the Vice Provost is willing to transition our systems into
the centrally supported realm, which will give us both more recognition and
resources, as well as stability.

The success is due to the accomplishments of this team in satisfying the
functionality needs of Science, Math, Technology, and Engineering faculty
users. The team (that is YOU!!!) got very high marks for creativity,
functionality implementation, responsiveness to feature requests, one-on-one
support of faculty, and generally being on the bleeding edge of features. It
is our goal to preserve these qualities and leave the "Research and
Development" of LON-CAPA situated in the DSME LITE Lab in close connection
with the ITR grant project.

"Operations and Support" on the other hand will eventually transition to the
central Computer Lab across the street.

As we all know, these features did come at a price: while being "cool," we do
have challenges regarding buggyness, stability, and user interface.

Let me go on record in saying that if yesterday we had had a mainstream
"boring" product which however was very stable and had an easy user interface,
our project would be dead today. In not being able to deliver both "coolness"
and "stability/ease-of-use" at the same time (for lack of resources), we made
the right choice for being able to stand our ground against BlackBoard and

However, due to the buggyness and the interface, the transition of "Operations
and Support" to the central Computer Lab cannot happen immediately. These
problems need to be solved. LON-CAPA needs to become a software where not only
the hard things are possible, but where the easy things are easy.

By Thursday we are supposed to submit a transition plan for LON-CAPA, together
with staggered goals according to staggered budget figures. The urgency is due
to MSU's budget cycle.

Within this project, I am going to propose a separate "Transition Group" (name
subject to change), which will basically debug, cleanup, fill in the gaps, and
straighten out the interface. This will be additional MSU staff programmers,
except for Ron, Nishreen, and Josh, which will probably be part of that group.

In terms of our code versioning system, there will need to be branches - this
team will need to work off one STABLE release, and it will be the challenge of
our current team to incorporate their changes into the current development
branch until the next full STABLE release comes out. My vision of this process
is still somewhat foggy, but we will need to make changes in the way we do
business while making sure to preserve the "creative chaos" that made our
project survive yesterday's decision point. Like it or not, this coming
Tuesday might have to be devoted to spelling out the transition process we

In addition, we do need a transition strand for finishing the content
conversion, and another one for documentation and provision of training
material and manuals.

Thursday is deadline for a complete transition plan with budget ...


- Gerd.

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