The Use of Open Source and Free Software in Education: November 6-26, 2006

Barriers and Benefits to using OSS in Training Departments

Barriers and Benefits to using OSS in Training Departments

by Christie Mason -
Number of replies: 8
I'm still looking for benefits to present to trainers in words they will understand.

These are two of the barriers I've seen.
  1. Using scripts/frameworks that aren't supported by their IT departments.  Medium size businesses don't have enough IT to go around so I initially thought open-source might be a way for the training dept to break free of that tyranny.  Nope, too hard to install and maintain unless you use a hosted/ASP solution and those are one trick ponies.

 2. Attitude - there seems to be an almost prideful stance in many OSS applications of being difficult to install and maintain.  It puts up a big stop sign that says "only tech wonks may pass through these sacred portals" and trainers are far from being tech wonks.

In reply to Christie Mason

Re: Barriers and Benefits to using OSS in Training Departments

by Chris Craft -
I think when we begin to talk about Open Source Software, especially in regards to education, we have to be very careful not to overgeneralize. A quick glance over at Sourceforge alone reveals over 100,000 open source projects. Are the majority of them hard to install with little to no support? Maybe.

I think the niche here is finding open source projects that are supported not necessarily by the developer community.

An example, I don't use Drupal much, but a lot of folks in the educational world do, so much so that they set up a CMS Academy to teach other folks how to use Drupal. There is an area where I could go to ask a question. This is above and beyond the Drupal.org forums, of course.

I have been working with and writing about open source software for years, and am a big proponent, partially because of the philosophy behind it. I would encourage you to investigate Steve Hargadon's interviews with some of the open source pioneers. His most recent interview is with Martin Dougiamas, creator of Moodle.

And for the record, the Moodle forums have been unbelievably good! I am helping to test the new beta (1.7) and had a couple of issues. The response time and quality has been amazing. Martin even commented on my blog recently! www.opensourceclassroom.com

I think that the open source revolution is a lot like the teaching/learning revolution. We all need to learn to depend more on each other, rather than a paid support solution.

Just my thoughts...

Chris Craft
www.opensourceclassroom.com
In reply to Chris Craft

Re: Barriers and Benefits to using OSS in Training Departments

by Christie Mason -
I think you've identified one of the biggest barriers to OSS.  There are so many of them that it's very, very difficult to find the minority that are robust, supported, evolving.

Thanks for the link to CMS Academy, it'll be interesting to see how they use the product to support helping others learn how to use the product.  I do a lot of delving into eLearning tools and, so far, haven't convinced anyone to give up expensive, bloated LMS/LCMS applications for a CMS, esp an OSS CMS, maybe this will become the reference site to prove my point that it's possible.  But, she said with her tongue firmly in her cheek, unless you have some "Next" buttons embedded in the learning modules, I don't think trainers will recognize that you're supporting learning.

Christie Mason

In reply to Christie Mason

Re: Barriers and Benefits to using OSS in Training Departments

by Chris Craft -
I think that depends on the trainer. I would wonder if most training departments are full of trainers that are scared to implement a piece of software that are not as familiar with. I would imagine that the bloated LMS/CMS's that you are dealing with are not only expensive but come with some sort of neat package with lots of hand holding and free lunches while they train-the-trainer.

It's no doubt that open source software requires a much more personal committment to learning in a more solitary fashion. This is where I see it overlapping with education. I try to make it a point to help my kids become more self-sufficient and less dependant on me as the teacher. The more that I can convince my kids that they don't have to raise a hand immediately, and that they can try to figure it out on their own, the better.

Maybe you can approach it as something you are trying to learn yourself, and then once you master it, you can begin to show off the cool features. Sometimes you have to take a "cool" approach. I've done that lately with wikis and blogging. It seems so yesterday, but folks in my school are eating it up!

I am sorry you're having a seemingly negative experience with your department. I would imagine that it is a common experience for IT depts across the country. Here's hoping we can change their minds! Let's us agree to be positive!

Chris Craft
In reply to Chris Craft

Re: Barriers and Benefits to using OSS in Training Departments

by Therese Weel -
FOSS is free as in puppy.  

In a paper released in 2004 CSC recommended organizations maintain a "sweet list" of useful open source  applications and make them available for people to tinker with.

http://www.csc.com/features/2004/uploads/LEF_OPENSOURCE.pdf

Since FOSS is peer to peer software.  A formal training program is not a good fit.  (The word train means to drag behind).  What is needed are  instigators, faciliatators and encouragers.  Someone  who has found the value for him/herself and has learned how to navigate the landscape of FOSS.  

 I like Chris's comment

"I think that the open source revolution is a lot like the teaching/learning revolution. We all need to learn to depend more on each other, rather than a paid support solution. "

Yes there is alot of FOSS software.  Not all of it is wonderful.  There is also plenty of paid and proprietary software that provides good value.

The trick is finding the value in what is out there and making those tools available to your group.  It is the role of the teacher (or the tech enabler) to communicate the value of the tool and more importantly how it can be used  by someone who needs to solve a problem or do something more efficiently.


Therese
In reply to Therese Weel

Re: Barriers and Benefits to using OSS in Training Departments

by Heather Ross -
Therese,

I like the idea of the "sweet list", but the link you provided is giving me a 404.
In reply to Heather Ross

Re: Barriers and Benefits to using OSS in Training Departments

by Therese Weel -
hmmm.

Lets try this again

http://www.csc.com/features/2004/uploads/LEF_OPENSOURCE.pdf

Here it is again - If it doesn't work copy into your browser window.

This is a long document released in fall of 2004 by a established technology group similar to The Gartner Group.   It describes the landscape back in 2004. We're almost in 2007 now so things have changed somewhat but understanding the gist of the report for organizations considering implementing open source is still useful.

Therese
In reply to Therese Weel

Re: Barriers and Benefits to using OSS in Training Departments

by Heather Ross -
Thanks Therese, that worked. You're right, it is a long document, but it looks like it would be worth at least a browse through.

Would you mind adding the link to the wiki?
In reply to Chris Craft

Re: Barriers and Benefits to using OSS in Training Departments

by Heather Ross -
Chris,

I think that you are absolutely right about learning "to depend more on each other, rather than a paid support solution."

I find that the best support I receive (for day to day, non-hardware issues) is not from paid services, but rather individual users like myself. Discussion boards are great for this.