First Annual Open Learning Analytics Hackathon

From research to delivery, building production worthy dashboards


The Society for Learning Analytics Research (SoLAR) and the Apereo Learning Analytics Initiative are pleased to announce a two day hackathon which will be held on the preconference days, March 16-17th, ahead of the 2015 Learning Analytics and Knowledge (LAK) conference.

This event will bring together the learning analytics researcher, software developer and practitioner communities as means to share expertise and collaborate on a clear higher education need: the development of open-source scalable dashboard that works across systems, uses emerging standards, and supports an Open Learning Analytics Framework. This work will build on the OpenDashboard project which was recently released through the Apereo Learning Analytics Initiative

Context & Objectives

In order to facilitate the scalability of learning analytics endeavors, and to allow learning analytics researchers and practitioners alike to focus on the innovative as opposed to the common requirements of their projects, the current hackathon is aimed at converging on an open source reusable dashboard core that provides the basic functionality that most, if not all, learning analytics projects have in common. This dashboard core is envisaged as an environment capable of hosting project or feature specific widgets (or cards) through which users interact with the underlying analytics and infrastructure. In this way, dashboards may provide insights in domains of Student Learning that are particularly in the interest of researchers in Learning Analytics, course instructors, students, and university management responsible for the quality of learning and teaching with minimal duplication of effort. In working on developing dashboards to accommodate these interests, we distinguish four types of functionality -

  1. Functionality that is deemed obligatory for any foreseeable application of the dashboard;
  2. Functionality that might at times need to be disabled but should be part of the dashboard core because those times form the exception rather than the rule, and
  3. Functionality that is needed for widgets to be embedded in and interact with the dashboards;
  4.  Functionality that is widget specific (e.g., specific to particular learning analytics applications and/or projects).

We therefore propose the establishment of requirements for a Dashboard Core and modular learning analytics visualization widgets that can be hosted from that core, with an aim of building a reusable learning analytics dashboard. We will share with the participants the discussions, insights and outcomes, in the format of a ‘mind-map', from a series of local hackathons organized towards this aim.

A key objective of the hackathon is gathering requirements for and building an open, easily extensible "reference" dashboard that works across systems, uses emerging standards, and supports an Open Learning Analytics Framework (e.g. OpenDashboard).

Another objective is to validate the requirements of proposed widgets that can be implemented for a reusable dashboard.

Any software artifacts and documentation generated will be preserved for future hackathons and wider dissemination. We are also encouraging joint efforts on future research papers in follow up or indeed a consortium to extend the OpenDashboard. 

Two Day Agenda

  • Day One (March 16th)  - The morning will be dedicated primarily to orientation activities with the afternoon focusing on baseline problems as means to further orient participants and to stimulate thinking around technical requirements and solutions.
  • Day Two (March 17th) - The second day will primarily be a coding day with reporting out and discussion of next steps taking place in the late afternoon.

Participation Expectations

Although the event is open to everyone and we hope for diverse participation, it is important that those who register are aware of the following expectations:

  • Commit to Two Day Event - Given that knowledge and collaboration will be developed over the two day event it will not be easy for people to "jump in" once it begins.
  • Prerequisite Knowledge and Skills - We will be assuming that participants have either software development, data analysis, data mining, design (UX) experience and/or knowledge of learning analytics.  Please contact us (see below) if you have questions.
  • Be Prepared to Contribute and Collaborate - This will be an active and dynamic two-day event during which participants will be expected to engage in real work and collaborate with others closely.
  • Registration Fee - We will be charging a nominal fee of $130 for both days to cover some of the costs associated with running the event.

You will be able to register for the hackathon when you register for the conference (or you can return and register later). Please note that space is limited and thus registration will be on a "first come, first served" basis.

If you are interesting in assisting with organizing and running the hackathon or simply have initial questions, please contact us at

Infrastructure details.

The infrastructure represents a subset of a realistic campus wide deployment.The infrastructure is based on the Apereo Learning Analytics Initiative, including Sakai LMS connected via the xAPI standard to a Learning Record Store (OpenLRS) and to the OpenDashboard project.

Note: We will explain the infrastructure, the data collected and the related standards during the first half day of the hackathon.

Attendees, please find the Hackathon Environment set up instructions enabling you to have a head start for your local development. If you don't have time to do this prior to the hackathon (or run into trouble setting up the development environment), don't worry - we will help you get it set up onsite. 

Communication Channels

We have set a slack collaboration room as a single point of communication accross and with in teams. The participants can create sub chat channels, share code snippets, google docs etc. which can be useful. We would like to keep track of the collaboration among attendees st and beyond the hackathon. Please check your inbox for an invite from .

Please sign up for Slack.

Slack room :

Apereo Google drive

The google drive has access to the presentations, data extracts for hackathon. Please also create and commit artifacts into this drive.

Also use github to keep track of the code developed/changes. Teams leaders create a github repository for your team. Towards the end of the hackathon we will include this repos into Apereo LAI github.


Hackathon Environment requirements




Java 7+ (JDK)


Feel free to use either the Oracle JDK or OpenJDK.


Oracle JDK Download and Installation


OpenJDK Download and Installation




Feel free to use any git client that you are comfortable with. We'll provide details on the repository, which branch to use, etc at the hackathon.


Git Download and Installation


Maven 3


We'll be using Maven 3 as our build and dependency management tool.


Maven 3 Download and Installation




We'll be using MongoDB as our default backend data store.


MongoDB Download and Installation




Use any source code editor that you are comfortable with. If you don't already have a source code editor or IDE here are some options:


Spring Tool Suite (based on Eclipse)

IntelliJ IDEA



Once you have all of the required software and tools listed above installed you can clone the OpenDashboard project from github. View project on github - note we will not be using the master branch for the hackathon; branches will be created for each hackathon team.

  1. Create a new directory that will contain the OpenDashboard project source code
  2. Navigate to your newly created directory
  3. Issue the following git commands (or perform the equivalent commands from your git client)
    1. git init
    2. git clone

Hackathon Facilitators

Alan Berg - LAK15 Practitioner Track Chair, Community Officer (Apereo Learning Analytics Initiative)

Sandeep Jayaprakash - Learning Analytics Specialist, Marist College


The hackathon organizers would like to thank Unicon for their support with the infrastructure.


Unicon ( is an IT consulting, technology services and open source support company. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive education technologies capabilities across a variety industries, and provides an innovative support program for open source projects. Unicon has been delivering scalable and dependable integrated technology solutions for over 20 years, and considers this to be its greatest strength: "large company abilities, small company values."