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

Why Haven't You Tried Open Source Software?

OS Project Maturity vs Institution Capabilities

by Sylvia Currie -
Number of replies: 0
Heather asks to hear from people who haven't tried open source software. At the institutional level it often seems too huge and too risky to introduce and support OSS. So if you're not using OSS at your workplace that could be why!

Last year I attended an interesting presentation by Scott Leslie at CADE on making good open source choices. His framework considers institutional capabilities (includes experience and skill level, as well as willingness to learn), and the maturity of open source projects (evidence includes age of project, number of developers, activity level, etc). The point of the tool is to assist in the institutional decision-making process, and also to identify risks so they can be addressed early.

Later in the year I joined Scott and others in a round table discussion at WCET on open source learning management systems, and I applied Scott's framework retroactively to our experiences implementing Moodle at NVIT. The outcome of that analysis was that despite some high areas of risk, the institutional decision to go with Moodle was sound because:
  • Moodle ranked very high on the project maturity scale
  • NVIT scored high in the willingness to learn category, and on the interest in using the software
  • NVIT implemented Moodle as is, then institutional capabilities grew over time after adopting Moodle.
Scott has some information about the framework for choosing the right OS project here on his EdTechPost blog, including a link to the CADE presentation and a link to Karin van den Berg's thesis on this topic from Tilburg University in the Netherlands.