OERu Web Services as of August 2022
In the intervening 17 months since my last update the OER Foundation (OERF) has continued to develop new online services for its global community of learners and educators. All of these services are themselves built with - and hosted on - Free and Open Source Software or FOSS. Each application is the work and responsibility of its own global developer community. The OERF participates in these communities at various levels as we avail ourselves of this wealth of brilliant software for the benefit of our users.
In addition to refining our OERu services over the past year, adding a few and sloughing off a few, we have also begun to assist other organisations by hosting systems on their behalf, usually with the aim of handing them over to their control after a period of system administration tuition.
As of this writing, in August 2022, we run the following production systems:
- a couple of WordPress Multisites: our main course delivery site, where each course is a 'subsite' - https://course.oeru.org our train-the-educators blog and sandbox course site. Each educator gets a 'blog' subsite for their own use, and a 'course sandbox' subsite - https://edt4ol.oeru.org
- a trio of standalone WordPress instances for the OERF and related initiatives: the OERF's own organisational website - https://oerfoundation.org the Centre for Open Educational Practice (COEP) - https://coep.nz the OERF's initiative to help educators in the developing world cope with the challenges of COVID19 - https://oer4covid.oeru.org
- a pair of Drupal sites (they've been upgraded to Drupal 9.x) the OERF's information tech site (this site!) - https://tech.oeru.org, and our H5P learning object builder site - https://h5p.oeru.org
- a couple Discourse instances - Discourse is the market leading, modern, full-featured (and open source) forum: our collaboration and support site for educators developing Open Educational Resources (OERs) - https://community.oeru.org our companion site for folks taking OERu courses for both assignments and collaboration with other learners - https://forums.oeru.org
- a couple NextClouds for file sharing and many other uses: our main collaborative document management system and collaborative authorship and sharing media and documents - https://docs.oeru.org our internal collaboration system - https://hub.oeru.org
- to support our NextCloud, we have integrated OnlyOffice allowing it to behave like a feature-rich Google Suite, but refreshingly Google-free - https://onlyoffice.oeru.org
- a BigBlueButton instance - a large scale real-time video conferencing and educational collaboration platform - https://talk.oeru.org
- a Mautic high-powered mailing list automation management system - https://mautic.oeru.org
- a Rocket.Chat instance - a rich chat service comparable to Slack or Discord but fully open source (and we hold all our own data) - https://chat.oeru.org
- a Keycloak instance for our still work-in-progress consolidated authentication and identity management system (aka Single Sign-on) - https://login.oeru.org
- a Mastodon instance - Twitter-esque but de-centralised and non-commercial federated open source social network (part of the Fediverse) - https://mastodon.oeru.org
- a Mailcow instance for managing all our email - Mailcow is a full multi-tenanted SMTP/IMAP/POP email system with active spam filtering, user self-service, DKIM configuration/management, webmail, & much more - even virus scanning for Windows clients - https://about.oerfoundation.org - it supplies email services for the oeru.org, oerfoundation.org, coep.nz domains, among others!
- an instance of YourLS - a link shortener - https://oer.nz
- a Matomo instance - website analytics (like Google Analytics, but without infringing on the EU's GDPR legislation) - https://stats.oeru.org
- a Mahara instance - online academic portfolio tool - https://portfolio.oerfoundation.org
- a Moodle instance - market leading learning management system which we use primarily for offering quizzes and awarding certificates for participants - https://moodle.oeru.org
- a SilverStripe instance - our main OERu website - https://oeru.org
- a MediaWiki instance - collaboration platform for OER development built on the same platform on which Wikipedia is built. All our courses are developed here - https://wikieducator.org
- a GitLab - a software developer version control/collaboration tool where we make all our code available - https://git.oeru.org
- a LimeSurvey instance - survey tool - https://survey.oeru.org
- a BitWarden/VaultWarden](https://github.com/dani-garcia/vaultwarden) instance - password manager and cross-device sync service - https://safe.oeru.org (here's our howto for hosting your own)
- an instance of Semantic Scuttle - a collaborative public website bookmarking service - https://bookmarks.oeru.org
This past year, having elected to use OnlyOffice for productivity purposes, we retired our Etherpad-light and CollaboraOffice instances.
We also added
- a Wekan instance - for project planning via the Kanban methodology. Similar to Trello (among other tools) - https://kanban.oeru.org.
- a Mobilizon instance - for managing events, and people following, discussing, and signing-up for and attending them - https://events.oeru.org
- a RustDesk server instance, allowing us to provide anyone anywhere on just about any computing platform (Linux, Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android) with live interactive shared desktop support
- a server monitoring solution based on Grafana, Prometheus, Node-exporter, Alertmanager, cAdvisor, and other tools, which provide a graphical monitoring solution for each of our servers.
We also maintain development and testing/staging instances of most of these services. Our services are all hosted on virtual Linux servers (we mostly run Ubuntu Linux) provided by commodity cloud hosting providers via Docker and orchestrated via Docker Compose. As we reported last year, in time it's likely we'll move to "just-in-time" scaling via Kubernetes, but for now that'd be overkill.
Hosting on behalf
In the past year, we've started hosting services on behalf of other organisations, including Commonwealth of Learning, Open Education Global, and the government of Samoa, in particular their Ministry of Education, Sport, and Culture's Innovative Lifelong Learning Lab (the MiLLL).
For the MiLLL project:
- a pair of WordPress Multisites, one for hosting open educational resource-based course sites - https://course.milll.ws- and one hosting individual sites for Samoan primary and secondary schools - https://schools.milll.ws
- a BigBlueButton instance supporting learners, educators, and government staff's video conferencing requirements - https://bbb.milll.ws
- a Mastodon instance especially for Samoans wanting to participate in digital social media - https://mastodon.milll.ws
- an instance of Rocket.Chat - https://chat.milll.ws
- an instance of Discourse - https://forum.milll.ws
- an instance of Moodle - https://moodle.milll.ws
- an instance of BitWardern/VaultWarden - https://safe.milll.ws
For the Commonwealth of Learning:
- a WordPress Multisite for hosting OER-based course sites for the Pacific Partnership in Open Distance and Flexible Learning initiative - https://pacificopencourses.col.org
- a WordPress Multisite for hosting OER-based course sites - https://course.oeglobal.org
Costs and Usage
In the past year we have served many thousands of registered users and over 200,000 anonymous learners access our courses (the full content of which are open to all without requiring authentication).
It's also important to note that all of these services can be provided at no cost to our collaborators and learners as there are no per-seat license fees (nor any license fees) associated with any of the services. Our only costs are related to the fairly generic 'cloud'-based virtual servers (all running the FOSS Linux operating system) we hire from a host of competing commodity hosting providers.
Our entire annual IT infrastructure cost, including for our 'on behalf' hosting partners, was comfortably less than USD10,000. What's more our usage monitoring suggests that we were operating below 10% capacity, meaning that we have a lot of additional headroom.
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