Maren Deepwell in conversation with… Ian Dolphin


This time I am joined by Ian Dolphin, the Executive Director of the Apereo Foundation. Ian and I have a lot in common and I am glad to be able to share this brief glimpse into his community and the work Ian does:

Maren: Tell us about what you are currently working on?

Ian: There are a couple of major areas of work for the Apereo Foundation at present. The Apereo incubation process, which is designed to help software develop from being a ‘good idea’ to being realised, working software with a sustaining community, is four years old. We’re taking a good look at how that process has worked with a view to its iteration and continued development. We’re also reviewing our annual events. Apereo and our close partners support eight or nine community events around the world each year. We’re radically changing our main international conference next June to include a greater focus on teaching and learning, and to be more inclusive. With a global membership, including the global South, and global software adoption, that’s challenging. In a broader sense, our community is grappling with issues surrounding privacy and technology in higher education. Those issues aren’t going away, in my opinion, and we need vastly more awareness of issues surrounding technology use and privacy in the sector.

Maren: What influences your work? 

Ian: More than anything, the communities Apereo supports. I am continually inspired by the small and large scale innovation our communities enable for Apereo institutions, their learners, and educators.

Maren: Current recommended reading?  

Ian: The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff; Future Histories: What Ada Lovelace, Tom Paine, and the Paris Commune Teach Us about Digital Technology by Lizzie O’Shea; The New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the Future by James Bridle. You might notice a theme … I believe anyone involved with technology should constantly challenge it’s applicability and use.

Maren: How do you make your to-do lists.. analogue or digital or both? 

Ian: I tend to jot things down the old-fashioned way with a notebook and pen, but then review and consolidate a couple of times each day. At that point, everything becomes digital, and shared between the devices I use.

Maren: On work travel, you are never without..? 

Ian: Too much – I’ve never learned to travel light! Laptop, phone, ebook reader, camera, noise cancelling headphones and music player are my essentials.

Maren: Which learning technology makes the biggest difference to your work (and why)? 

Ian: I’m not sure this fits the categories, but open source software has had a massive impact on my working life. I became involved in open source software in the late ‘90’s – early naughties to help solve problems for the institution I worked for. Since then, either in my former role at Jisc, or working for Sakai and later Apereo, I have felt privileged to work with communities reaching for practical innovation to support learning, teaching and research. I suspect almost anyone involved in open source software would at least mention the word “community” as a significant reason for their engagement. I certainly would.

Maren: Who are your learning technology heroes?

Ian: The communities I represent.

Maren: If you had learning technology superpowers for a day, what would you change? 

Ian: The rigid product category of ‘Learning Management System’ or ‘Virtual Learning Environment’. It’s about time to shed the constraints that accompany the LMS and get outside its particular box. Open source software, such as that created by Apereo software communities, has a significant role to play in this.

Maren: What are your favourite hashtags?  

Ian: apereo #oss , and #edtech.

Maren: What’s the best way for someone to learn more about what you do?  

Ian: I’m @iandolphin24 on Twitter, check out . If you want to know where I am (or where I’ve just been) Flickr is often the best bet, where I’m iandolphin24.

Maren: Thanks for taking the time to join me, Ian, #altc!

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