Good Open Source for Higher Ed Article

Campus Technology has strong backgrounder on Open Source that could be useful for educating your stakeholders. It covers the basics–and a few not-so-basics–in very clear, simple terms. In the latter case, I’d like to highlight just three of a handful of fine points that the article brings forward. First, one critical strategy to consider is “aggregating support costs across institutions so that ongoing costs of running the software can be shared.” In other words, the more organizations can collaborate on support, the better Open Source generally looks in terms of total cost of ownership. The economy of scale reduces the significance of any support cost differentials that may exist. Second, the future value of Open Source on campus is really going to be unlocked via loose coupling:

A typical workflow within a college eLearning environment today might look something like this: A faculty member creates a Microsoft Word or Microsoft PowerPoint document as the basis for a student assignment. The faculty member uploads the document into the Blackboard Content Repository and makes it available to her students through the Blackboard Course Management System. Students create their own Microsoft Word documents and submit them to the faculty member, still within the Blackboard environment. The student also saves a copy of the assignment and submits it to his LiveText ePortfolio system. All of these interactions may be accessed from a university portal application, or they may each require a separate entry and authentication scheme.

Now consider an alternate workflow. The faculty member uses OpenOffice to author the assignment and saves it to what appears to be a network drive on the faculty’s desktop. In reality, the network drive is the faculty’s space in a Fedora-driven content repository � providing functionality such as version control and collaborative access. The Fedora system also serves as a universal document repository from which content is drawn into the Sakai course management system. As the student completes the assignment and uploads it into Sakai, the student’s work is automatically added to the Fedora repository, where it can be referenced from OSP (the ePortfolio system integrated within Sakai), or through collaboration tools used in conjunction with other students.

This is very much the vision that inspires the LMOS.

And the final point I want to highlight is actually a reference to research by my colleague Patrick Masson. Pat was interested in making the point on the Sakai discussion lists that, if Sakai (or any particular Open Source project) wants to get broader adoption, they need to foster broad conversations about the value proposition of Open Source in general across various stakeholder communities within potential adopting institutions. He came up with a clever rough-cut metric of comparing the co-occurrence of the phrases “open source” and “information technology” on a university’s web site to that of peer institutions.

These are just the three points that resonated the most with me; there’s a lot more in the article.

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About Michael Feldstein

Michael Feldstein is co-Publisher of e-Literate, co-Producer of e-Literate TV, and Partner in MindWires Consulting. For more information, see his profile page.
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One Response to Good Open Source for Higher Ed Article

  1. Jeff Ruth says:

    Nice to know of this. My own state university has undergone a change in attitude toward Open Source CMS that is perhaps emblematic of the bigger world out there. Only a year ago Moodle, suggested to me by M. Feldstein, could not be added to the academic servers because of a stated need to stick with the state system’s preference for WebCT or Blackboard. Recently Moodle (and other CMS, like Drupal), were admitted as possible cost-saving alternatives.

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