Purdue School of Engineering and Technology

Purdue School of Engineering and Technology

IUPUI Professor driven by innovation

May 6, 2016

Ali Jafari, serial entrepreneur

Ali Jafari, serial entrepreneur

If America is driven by innovation, as many believe, then count Ali Jafari among those who have spurred innovation through advances in education leading to ideas, products and processes needed to stimulate economic growth.

A serial entrepreneur, Jafari's achievements in the development of a series of Learning Management Systems (LMS) have earned him recognition as one of Indiana's leading high-tech success stories and a global unofficial title of father of LMS.  Jafari is considered as one of the global pioneers in envisioning and developing new eLearning systems and pedagogical methods.

Jafari is a professor of Computer Information Technology and director of CyberLab in the School of Engineering and Technology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). In 1995  Jafari founded the CyberLab where he and his students invent new technological methods and systems to improve teaching and learning. CyberLab located at the IUPUI campus, envisions new ideas and researches and develops advanced learning technology systems, ready for commercial or open source rollouts.  It also builds connections between the university and industries to transfer research outcomes into practice.

In  2012, Jafari was awarded a TechPoint Mira Award in the Technology in Education Excellence & Innovation – Individual category for his contributions to revolutionizing education through technology. TechPoint, Indiana's technology growth initiative, established the Mira Awards to recognize excellence and innovation among the state's technology industry performers and contributors. The awards also focus attention on the broader issue of the importance of technology to the state's economy.

Jafari earned his BS in Business Administration from the University of Isfahan, Iran, before he moved to the United States to pursue a MS in Media Technology at the University of Wisconsin. He completed doctorate studies in Telecommunications/Mass Communication from Indiana University in Bloomington.

Since then, Jafari has continued to innovate and combine the next generation learning systems and social networking features into the academic sphere to form new smart solutions to teaching and learning.

He has conceptualized, researched, developed and commercialized four major software systems. They include Indiana University's Oncourse (became Sakai open source LMS), ANGEL Learning Management System, Epsilen Environment, and CourseNetworking (CN).

In 2000, with seed funding received from Indiana University, Jafari founded the Angel Learning Inc. with David Mills, his 1999 graduate student of the School of Engineering and Technology.  The company was purchased in 2009 by Blackboard Inc. for $100 million. At that point it had grown to about 200 programmers, analysts and sales/marketing personnel.

The sale was the largest commercial transaction linked to the sale of a university start-up company that IU had experienced. As a result, the university realized $24 million for the sale, which supported more teaching and research activity.

CourseNetworking (CN), the last of the LMS systems developed by Jafari, is owned in part by IU, and headquartered in Indianapolis with offices in Malaysia and China. It offers both free and for-fee  LMS services.   CN combines the social component of popular networks such as Facebook and Twitter with similar functionality of existing learning management systems used at many colleges and universities. This patent pending method and technology offers a unique next generation of LMS not included in any other Learning Management Systems.

Unlike existing learning systems, though, which typically limit access to members of a single course, CN creates an engaging, large-scale learning environment that is completely open to any user, nationally and internationally. CN is experiencing the first mover advantage of dominating a new academic social network.

Jafari has also contributed his entrepreneurial savvy to three books, co-editing and authoring Handbook of Research on ePortfolios, "Designing Portals and Course Management Systems for Learning: Beyond Accidental Pedagogy.

He has presented papers and delivered keynote addresses in over a hundred national and international conferences.

Original story can be found at: