Recently I’ve been working with Lucas and Fridolin at the Open University who are leading on a project called EDUKAPP, which is a pilot for a web app store for the UK Higher Education sector. The idea is to provide a place to find and share widgets (including both W3C Widgets and OpenSocial applications) for the UK HE community.
Rather than just build a single store, however, we’ve been working on a generic codebase that can be customised for other sectors and communities. We’ll be using this in the ITEC project for its widget store, for example, which is aimed at secondary schools across the EU.
The basic architecture of the EDUKAPP code is a combination of Apache Wookie, Apache Shindig, Apache Solr and Apache Shiro. The actual store is a backend service primarily accessed using JSON APIs to make it easier to create your own UI – there is a default UI that uses Twitter Bootstrap, which should also be fairly easy to customise.
Last week at the JISC CETIS conference we had a chance to meet with potential users and integrators to get some feedback on early prototypes, and we had some great suggestions.
First off the approach of keeping the services and UI separate was seen as important, as not only are we looking at having a few large-scale services running based on EDUKAPP, but also individual sites such as Universities want the ability to deploy store access via plugins in their existing systems – for example, a simplified interface that can fit into a sidebar or block in a learning management system.
A very interesting idea that came up from the meeting was the ability to fork widgets, Github-style. The idea would be that if a university came up with a great widget, for example a timetable app, they could publish this in the store, and developers or students at different organisations could create a fork of it and modify it to work with their services.
We also had chance to talk to folks from IMS who are working on a new version of their LTI spec to specifically handle simplified integration of widgets into learning management systems without having to copy-and-paste URLs and keys, which would be a great usability improvement.
If you’re interested in EDUKAPP, the project is not only open source but also very much open to anyone else getting involved – the project is itself based on a multi-project collaboration already. Its also still at an early stage so there are plenty of opportunities to shape the project direction. There is a Google Code project and also a mailing list. (So far the list has been mostly used by me for posting code updates, but please feel free to ask questions or suggest ideas!)