tCRIL Update: 2021-12-09

Hi folks! It’s been a few weeks since 2U “completed its previously announced acquisition of substantially all assets of edX”. Since that time, a small group of us have remained at the non-profit recently named “The Center for Reimagining Learning”.

We’ve been pretty busy, but I wanted to take a little time to make sure folks in the wider community understand who we are and what we’re doing. Please keep in mind that I’m giving this report from my perspective as a developer on the team.

Let’s start with a few questions I’ve heard thrown around:

So is edX now The Center for Reimagining Learning? Isn’t edX a part of 2U?

It’s confusing, but here are some key points:

  1. Before the 2U deal closed, there was a non-profit company known as edX.
  2. As part of the purchase deal, 2U paid this non-profit $800 million to buy pretty much everything it had–the edx.org website, infrastructure, office space, content agreements with various universities, the vast majority of the staff, and the “edX” brand itself.
  3. Now that the deal has closed, there is a new entity known as edX that is a for-profit, public-benefit corporation, and a subsidiary of 2U. This is the entity that got all the stuff you would associate with edX, like the site, team, content, etc.
  4. The non-profit entity formerly known as edX is now called The Center for Reimagining Learning (tCRIL). While the name has changed, it still continues on with the same trustees, mission, and even the same tax ID as before. It is responsible for the stewardship of the Open edX platform, among other, yet-to-be-determined things. It is also much smaller than edX, with only a dozen people at the moment.

A more thorough writeup of this is in the blog post introducing tCRIL.

tCRIL? I thought I saw it written as TCRIL?

It’s tCRIL (lowercase t), even at the start of a sentence. We’ve sent out a bunch of stuff saying TCRIL because this capitalization guideline only came out last Friday.

How is tCRIL pronounced?

There’s been no official stance on that, so we’ve been going with “Tea-Krill” for now.

Seriously?

Yes. There’s a reason why it’s being called an interim name. At some point the board will pick a new one, but that’s not really a high priority at the moment.

Why couldn’t you folks give me an answer for (insert question here)?

We are trying our best to be as transparent as possible. If we gave you a non-answer for something in the past month, it was probably because we either didn’t know the answer or weren’t sure we were legally allowed to give the answer before the deal had closed. Now that it has closed, we’re scrambling to do a lot of work that was not allowed to start before that time.

So what exactly are you folks up to?

So glad you asked! The dozen of us at tCRIL (along with a bunch of help from edX) have been busy with a variety of things:

Business Infrastructure

A lot of basic business infrastructure followed the rest of edX to 2U, so tCRIL has to set up many of those things again–email, payroll, HR, benefits, CRM, etc.

Updating Legal Agreements

The Open edX Contributor’s License Agreement has changed. There’s also associated backend machinery needed to update GitHub when contributors have signed their agreements. That’s actively being worked on right now.

There is also an entire world of other business-related legal stuff that I (a developer) do not even pretend to understand, but I know it’s being worked on.

GitHub Repo Migration

@feanil has been leading our first major coordinated effort as an engineering team: to migrate around two hundred repositories out of the edx and edx-solutions GitHub organizations and into the openedx organization. edX will keep some repositories that are specific to its business, but pretty much any repository that people outside of edX would use or recognize is going to be moved to openedx over the next few weeks. This involves moving not only the repos themselves, but also either moving or recreating various GitHub App integrations related to continuous integration and deployment.

The focus during this migration is to move the repositories as quickly as possible, without breaking existing workflows. This means that if you had access to a repository in the edx GitHub org, you will continue to have that same level of access in the openedx org. In order to do this, we’re basically copying over all the relevant edx teams and users into the openedx org. That is not what we want for the long term, and there will be a cleanup of this after we’ve had some time to draft a proposal and publicly discuss it.

Migrating Services and Accounts out of edX

Beyond just the GitHub repos, there is a long list of accounts and processes that either need to be moved over or copied. This includes things like AWS, npm, PyPI, Transifex, and DockerHub accounts, as well as sorting through the documentation repos to better separate the parts that are edX-specific from the parts that apply to Open edX as a whole. Most recently, @kmccormick has been working to enable new devstack images from the openedx DockerHub org (instead of using images from edxops).

Core Contributor Program Improvements

Even while all this other stuff is going on, we’re pushing forward with expanding the core contributor program. Three new contributors were added last month, bringing the total to 31!

Blog Posts

The Open edX blog has been a lot more active lately, with posts by @e0d and @ehuthmacher to keep you up to date on some of the big items coming up, including our upcoming End of Year Celebration. @sarina is also working on a series of posts highlighting some of the new goodies in the Maple release.

The open.edx.org site will eventually move to be at openedx.org.

Other Stuff

OEP-31 (MFE i18n) merged, and we’re still helping with reviews for a number of blended projects, like BD-13, BD-14, and BD-32. @cmuniz has also been doing work to improve the tCRIL onboarding process.

We’ve also been entering some items into the Open edX Roadmap project, but please don’t read too much into this yet. A lot of this is just making sure that we get ideas written down and don’t forget about them, with the understanding that it’ll be cleaned up and better organized/discussed at a later point.

What will you folks be working on next, and how do I stay in the loop?

The work mentioned above is likely going to take until at least the New Year. A lot can change between now and then, but some other things that have come up as high priority items are:

  • Figuring out a better long term workflow/permissions setup for repos in the openedx organization.
  • A major refactoring/cleanup of documentation.
  • Open edX Roadmap work.
  • Launching tCRIL-sponsored blended development initiatives.
  • More improvements to the Core Contributor program.

That’s just my fuzzy understanding at the moment though, so please don’t take this as any kind of official prioritization or committment.

We also have a tcril-engineering project board that is public. A lot of the edX/tCRIL decoupling work we’re doing right now is not represented on that board because some of those transition-related issues can hold potentially confidential information. But as we shift away from that work in the coming weeks and months, most of our day-to-day activities will end up on this board.

We’ve wanted to do a lot of these things for a long time, and we’re super-excited about the months ahead. Please keep watching the blog and this forum for more updates!

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Thanks for the update @dave! Can I ask what is the budget of tCRIL? I have a hard time imagining that just a dozen people are responsible for a $800M envelope.

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I don’t know what the budget will be. Any guess I make would be based on googling how endowments work, so I’m not going to speculate here.

Right now, we’re at a point where we’ve got enough staffing to get us off the ground and get started on the Open edX stewardship work that tCRIL is committed to. tCRIL is going to be doing other things as well, but my understanding is that exactly what shape that takes hasn’t been fully worked out yet.

The board still needs to make important decisions about leadership and staffing. We still need to find a CEO, for instance. I expect more of that information to unfold over the coming months. I’m also pretty curious about this, frankly. :stuck_out_tongue:

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