Statement concerning the latest round of 2U layoffs

Good morning Open edX :wave:! I am posting this statement from my personal account, but it was written together with my fellow Technical Oversight Committee community members Xavier Antoviaque (@antoviaque) and Ignacio Despujol (@ndespujol). The opinions reflected here are our own.

As you may have heard, a new round of layoffs has happened at 2U in the last few days. As a consequence, many former 2U employees have left the Open edX community. We are saddened by this, like many in the community. Many of the people who were laid off were very active Open edX contributors, some of them for many years, a few since the very beginning of the project. Our first thoughts go to them: to lose one’s job is never a great experience, to say the least. We hope that you enjoyed our collaboration as much as we did. If we can help you in any way, either professionally or personally, please get in touch.

We are not in a position to comment on the reasons why these layoffs are happening. But what is very clear to us is that they are not a reflection of the health of the Open edX project in general, which is thriving. That being said, given the amount of work 2U contributes to the project, it’s important to consider the impact on the rest of the Open edX community.

First of all, we expect that 2U will remain a very important user of Open edX. The edX.org website still runs on Open edX, in no small part thanks to the work of hundreds of open source contributors. Even if 2U were not able to keep up with the current rate of upstream contributions, they would remain one of the top organizations to run Open edX.

Second, and perhaps most importantly, the community has made progress in preparing for this scenario over the past few years. Ever since the handover of edX.org to 2U, and the Open edX project to Axim Collaborative, more and more responsibilities have been shifted from 2U to the rest of the community. To the point that 2U now holds a minimal amount of responsibilities that are mission-critical for Open edX. All GitHub repositories are managed by Axim. All working groups are led either by Axim or outside contributors. There is now a public roadmap for the next Open edX release (Redwood, scheduled for June 2024) and 80% of the new features will be contributed by companies and individuals other than 2U. We have very healthy core contributor and maintainership programs in place to ensure that all aspects of the platform are properly managed. Even in the TOC, 2U members only have a minority vote. Last, but not least, Axim is financially self-sufficient and has enough budget to pursue its mission to improve access to education worldwide.

But then, and this brings us to our third point, we need to account for the fact that the floor has shifted beneath our feet. The rest of the community will need to make up for the decreased investment of 2U in the project. Thus, we must pursue our efforts to empower community members. While the mission statement of Open edX does not change, we should also consider whether we should adjust our current strategy to achieve it. But we do not need to take any drastic decision to completely overhaul the Open edX platform – any engineer would agree that this would be a terrible idea. Instead, we should strive to make the platform more extensible, such that it can be adapted to a wider variety of use cases. We must further improve our governance model to make sure that all contributors feel appropriately rewarded in proportion to their work. Every one of these ambitious goals is well in reach, because we are fully in control of our own future.

We need everyone from the community to become even more involved in the advancement of the platform. Which is why we are making a call to all companies that currently run and sell Open edX: we need you to rise to the challenge and increase your level of involvement. We need you to contribute to the project roadmap, to improve the frontend, to test new releases… Ask your employees to join a working group. If there are aspects of the Open edX platform that you want to change and improve, now is the right time to make an impact and share your vision with the rest of the community.

If, like us, you believe in the Open edX project, are interested in becoming more involved in shaping its future, and are willing to contribute some of your time or company resources to keep it well maintained, please write to ask-the-toc@openedx.org.

We are very much looking forward to working with you even more.

Xavier Antoviaque @antoviaque, Régis Behmo @regis, Ignacio Despujol @ndespujol, Open edX Technical Oversight Committee members

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Thank you for your insights @regis, @antoviaque and @ndespujol

I want to share with you and the broader community the way we are approaching it at edunext.

We gathered in January for our 2024 planning week and one of the important outputs of that week was our shortlist of strategic objectives for the year.
One of the objectives was named “Nurture the forest”. Beyond the metaphoric connection with the tragedy of the commons, we want to double down on our standing commitment with the project, with the full conviction that all the effort we put into it will revert in more business activity over the mid and long term.

The specific phrasing of the internal goal goes like this: “Achieve an ambitious and inspiring index of 2x in a comprehensive health measurement for the Open edX project and its community, encompassing aspects such as technology, community engagement, brand credibility, and market presence.”, so what we’re going to do is basically come up with a way of measuring the things we believe are key for the project from our perspective, and then call that 1X , and then do as much as we possibly can to push that measurement towards 2X. In concrete short term actions, we are looking at how we can strengthen our participation in ammount of CCs, working groups participants and component maintainership. We are also studiying with our customers ways to encourage them to participate directly in the community and bring their valuable insights to the places where it can make the most impact, and last but not least, we want to contribute an updated analysis on the size and composition of the OE adopters base.

I hope many other companies and institutions that run on the platform rise up to the challenge you are signaling and to those out there interested in such a path, if we can facilitate it in any way, please reach out.

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Hi @regis - thank you for initiating the dialogue here. We (edX/2U) are still very much committed to the success of the project and agree with your sentiment. The project is healthy and strong because of this community. While there are still many details to figure out, and we will share as plans continue to develop and evolve, I wanted to share this blog post: edX/2U Update - Open edX

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@regis Thanks for having put this so well together – and @juancamilom & @George_Babey for your answers, which are great to hear! The type of commitment you show quickly here is exactly what the project needs right now I think - a show of commitment, and quick action to demonstrate it. Kudos! :+1:

It is indeed sad to lose project members - farewell to everyone who has contributed to make what Open edX is today. The project will keep carrying your work!

Call to Open edX companies & organizations

As mentioned above, even if it’s going to be a difficult phase, the project might end up improving because of it - in crisis there is often the seed of change. It’s an occasion to rebalance some of our practices within the project, in particular to increase the elephant factor of the project, and correct some of the distortions a low score had on the project governance.

Which does mean that in the community we will all need to pick up some of the work, especially in terms of maintenance - and in exchange, to all be able to take decisions more freely about Open edX.

@juancamilom you sum it up beautifully:

Do this now! All community members, especially organizations, should look to take further commitments - to do so, write to the email Regis gave: ask-the-toc@axim.org

OpenCraft’s additional commitments

On the OpenCraft side, we are doing the following (CC @braden @itsjeyd ):

  • Committing more core contributors to maintain parts of the project - @braden is currently reviewing repositories
  • Taking on more reviews: we will start reviewing more PRs and product proposals, to work down the pile that is starting to accumulate - @itsjeyd @ali_hugo @Cassie will help to coordinate

Changes at 2U

@George_Babey This is really good to hear :+1:

Do you know when you will have clarity on the exact parts of the project 2U will be able to keep contributing, i.e. what the proportion of the work that gets passed on is precisely?

Also, are you OK with the approach discussed in the forum thread about the maintainers working group, in terms of applying rules uniformly for all community members, regarding maintainership, core contributors and permissions?

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@antoviaque, @regis

Recently, there have been layoffs at 2U, resulting in the departure of several active contributors from the Open edX community. We are saddened by this development and extend our sympathies to those affected.

As a member of the community, I am eager to offer my support during this challenging time. I am deeply committed to the success and growth of Open edX and am willing to contribute my time and expertise in any way possible.

I believe that together, we can navigate through this situation and continue to drive positive change. If there are specific areas where I can be of assistance or if you require additional support, please do not hesitate to reach out.

I’d like to connect with you on Slack or during next working group meeting if that makes any sense.

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@Juancamilom and @Yagnesh thank you very much for your commitment and @George_Babey for telling us about edX/2U plans for the openedX project.

To follow-up on OpenCraft’s commitments:

@braden prepared a spreadsheet, with a priorities categorization for the ones we consider maintaining: Maintenance Priorities - OpenCraft - Google Sheets - FYI @feanil

@itsjeyd posted about some of the changes being implemented to allow to do that: Pull Requests Review Delays - #34 by itsjeyd@itsjeyd could you post a status update about the OSPR queue, who is working through the pile now, and list any further help needed?

@antoviaque

Current status of the OSPR queue

It’s still long, but my general impression is that things are starting to move a bit faster, thanks to recent decisions from the new Maintenance WG.

Who is working through the pile?

For the repos that I’m triaging:

For other repos:

  • @farhaanbukhsh is planning to allocate more time to reviewing OSPRs. He’s a CC for edx-platform.

Further help needed

For the repos that I’m triaging, the ones that need the most help right now are:

  • frontend-app-learning: This one has a number of of long-running PRs that are waiting for review. As far as I understand, no final decision has been made about who will maintain this repo going forward.
  • frontend-app-learner-dashboard: No final decision has been made about who will maintain this repo going forward. (However, it seems like it might be too long until that happens.)

CC @Michelle_Philbrick

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Note that the topic of the current thread, 2U passing on maintenance to the rest of the community, has been discussed at the last TOC meeting, last week:

TOC Meeting Notes - 2024-02-13:

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