Ali Jafari

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Ali Jafari, Ph.D.
Ali Jafari Image.jpg
Ali Jafari in 2014
OccupationProfessor of Computer and information technology, Director of CyberLab, Founder and CEO of Course Networking (

Ali Jafari (Persian: علی جعفری‎) the Founder and CEO of is a serial entrepreneur who is well known for his research and entrepreneurship in the area of Information Technology (IT), more specifically, on development of a series of Learning Management System (LMS). Dr. Jafari's achievements in the development of concepts and technology systems in 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 Ali Jafari is currently working as a Professor of Computer and Information Technology at the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology and as the Director of the CyberLab at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). He 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 his doctorate studies in Telecommunications and Mass Communication from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.

Professor jafari ePortfolio is available online at


Dr. Jafari has 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 Additionally, Dr. Jafari has rolled out his research projects in five open source and commercial companies. He has presented papers and delivered keynote addresses in over two hundred national and international conferences. His research has been published in professional and scholarly journals on a variety of subjects in information technology. His research interests include user interface design, smart learning environments, distance learning, and intelligent agents both from conceptual and architectural perspectives, which guide the Professor’s passion for improving the integration of technology into teaching and learning.

Dr. Jafari wants to see the milestones of research go further than the acquisition of knowledge. In order to tackle real life problems, he feels, "It would be progress if higher education were to put a greater emphasis on commercialization of discoveries—perhaps even assigning commercialization the same level of importance as getting published and attracting grants”. In the future, he hopes to further develop products for commercialization to effectively exploit the uses and opportunities of modern technology in education.

LMS Project Background[edit]

Based on industry observations in 1997 (the WebLab group began trials with off-the-shelf software) including pre-existing commercially viable systems, WebCt '95, Courseinfo/Blackboard '96-'97, VCU's Web Course in a Box, D2L '99, and Real Education/eCollege '96, now Pearson Learning Studio, Jafari developed three of his own LMS university projects. These included 1) Indiana University's (1999) Oncourse project, 2) the ANGEL Learning Management System (2000) and 3) the Epsilen Environment 2004.

The state of the LMS marketplace, commercially viable and open source projects, and the history can be seen here in a LMS Spring 2016 Report From the Industry. and a full listing can be found on Wikipedia at History of virtual learning environments .

Indiana University's WebLab 1996[edit]

The CyberLab, previously called WebLab, opened at IUPUI in 1996 and serves as a research and development laboratory for the IUPUI campus, employing personnel directed by Computer Information Technology professor, Ali Jafari. Although other commercial LMS systems existed, an idea to develop a computer program to create a Web environment for every course at IUPUI began in the fall of 1997 at the WebLab (now called CyberLab)(1) Laboratory on the IUPUI campus. The initial research system became Indiana University's OnCourse R&D project founded by Chris Clapp and Tony Leonard and the system was widely deployed at IUPUI campus-wide in January 1999. Dr. Ali Jafari served as the project director and system architect for the design and development of the Oncourse R&D Project and David Mills served as the lead system engineer.

In 2004, four leading U.S. universities, together with Jasig, the parent organization of the uPortal framework, began a collaboration to combine and synchronize their assorted learning software into a collection of integrated, open source tools. Their primary goal was to improve teaching, learning and research by providing a compelling alternative to proprietary enterprise learning systems; an innovative platform for learning and collaboration that is produced by and for the higher education community. In order to meet the enterprise systems, support and scalability required by more than one institution, parts of the OnCourse "homegrown" project were folded into Sakai.

The development of Sakai (software) was originally funded by a grant from the Mellon Foundation as the Sakai Project. The early versions of the software were based on existing tools created by the founding institutions, with the largest piece coming from the Indiana University "Oncouse" and University of Michigan's "CHEF" course management system. "Sakai" is a play on the word “chef,” and refers to Iron Chef Hiroyuki Sakai.

Angel Learning (2000)[edit]

In spring of 1999, the WebLab group, under their new Laboratory organization named CyberLab, continued their Oncourse R&D project in the direction of the development of "A New Global Environment for Learning or ANGEL. ANGEL—the next generation of Oncourse.

In 2000, with seed funding from Indiana University, Jafari founded Angel Learning Inc. with David Mills, a 1999 graduate of the School of Engineering and Technology at IUPUI. By bringing in previous leaders of the eCollege team, doing exploration and additive research on Blackboard's commercially viable product (David Mills visited Blackboard's offices in late 1999), and providing a lower cost solution than its competitors' ANGEL Learning became commercially viable, and an industry competitor.Under Christopher Clapp, and Ray Henderson's leadership (a former eCollege employee), ANGEL Learning was acquired (May 2009) by Blackboard.

Epsilen Learning (2008)[edit]

By forming a partnership and securing venture capital from The New York Times Company, a new LMS was deployed, called Epsilen. Epsilen was built by an Indian outsourcing company DiaSpark, and led by former Blackboard/WebCT employee (Evan Nisonson August 2010 – October 2012). Headquartered in Indianapolis Epsilen then merged into the New York Times as a content management system. Epsilen no longer competes in the LMS market space.

Current Project: CourseNetworking[edit]

Jafari's most recent LMS technology based company, CourseNetworking LLC (The CN) began in 2011 with seed funding from Indiana University and Dr. Jafari. The CN combines social networking with Learning Management System (LMS) and ePortfolio offering a totally new concept and technology for today's learners. It offers functionalities of LMS, ePortfolio, and Social Networking within one single interface and one software package (both mobile and web) as SAS throughout the world. The CN holds more than a dozen of patent claims for its unique methods offering new LMS and social networking functions among the learners throughout the world.

Recent Keynote and Invited Speaker Presentations[edit]


  • Keynote Speaker, SLATE 2018 Conference, "Technology as an Enabler to Make Learning More Social, Fun, and Rewarding." Chicago, IL, Oct 18-20, 2017
  • Keynote Speaker, EDneXt 2017 Conference, "Think outside of the box of old pedagogy: Let's make teaching and learning more engaging and rewarding," Saint Zavier University, Chicago, Il, Aug 14, 2017
  • Invited Speaker, 2017 ASU+GSV Summit, "Cracking the Code on Innovation in Education with Five Times Founder Ali Jafari and Felice Nudelman.", Salt Lake City, Utah, May 10, 2017.
  • Keynote Speaker, SME CEO Conference, "Why SMEs must invest in technology to beat the Multinationals." LeaderNomics, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. April 26, 2017


  • Keynote Speaker, “Knowledge Co-creation in the Learning Management System: The New Pedagogical Methods”, Innovations in Teaching Conference, Nanyang Technological University, NTU, Singapore, September 26, 2016.
  • Keynote Speaker, “Challenges and Opportunities of Using IT in Cross Border Engagements” SIAS International Conference, Zhengzhou, China, July 20, 2016.
  • Invited Speaker, “Envisioning Social Networking as the Forefront of a New Learning Management System” IMS Global Institute Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, May 6, 2016.
  • Keynote Speaker, “Perception of Blended Learning as an Enabler for Tourism” 10th International Conference on e-Commerce, Isfahan, Iran, April 15, 2016.
  • Keynote Speaker, “Empowering Learning with Social Networking and Gamification for MOOC” University Malaysia Sabah, UMS Ecocampus, Sabah, Malaysia, March 14, 2016.
  • Invited Speaker, “Introducing CN Post” Antioch University, Dayton, Ohio, February 26, 2016.


  • Keynote Speaker, “A New Pedagogy to Increase Student Engagement” ICISC 2015 Conference, UCSI University, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, November 21, 2015.
  • Invited Speaker, “A New Generation LMS Platform for Social Pedagogy and Collaborative Learning” Atilim University, Ankara, Turkey, October 15, 2015.
  • Keynote Speaker, SIDLIT 2015 Conference, Kansas State University, Kansas Missouri, July 30–31, 2015.
  • Keynote Speaker, International Conference on eLearning, ICEL2015, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia, May 26–28, 2015.
  • Invited Speaker, “Research and Entrepreneurship Projects at CyberLab” Indiana University Alumni Pacific-Asia Conference, Bali, Indonesia, May 23, 2015.
  • Invited Speaker, AAPT Conference, San Diego, California, Jan 4-6, 2015.


  • Invited Speaker, The Lewy Global Development Technology Forum by World Learning, Washington DC, November 4, 2014.
  • Keynote Speaker, Conference in Swaziland, June 17–18, 2014.
  • Keynote Speaker, The PLE Conference 2014, Kuala Lumpur Malaysia, August 27–29, 2014.


2016 Named as an Indiana University Innovator of the Year among 12 other colleagues for "Spurring Innovation through Advances in Educational Technology"

2015 IUPUI Spirit of Philanthropy Award

2012 TechPoint Mira Award in the category of Technology in Education Excellence & Innovation - Individual for his contributions to revolutionizing education through technology.

2012 IUPUI Spirit of Philanthropy Award - for launching the Jafari Graduate Fellows program

2003 Educause Quarterly Contribution of the Year recipient for "Conceptualizing Intelligent Agents for Teaching and Learning", an article which appeared in EQ Volume 25, Number 3

Media and Publications[edit]


See also[edit]