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Picture of Mark Johnson
Open Source Options for Education
Group Developers

Hello everyone,

Those of you in the UK (and perhaps some who aren't!) may be aware of the Cabinet Office's Open Source Procurement Toolkit.  As part of my current job, I've been compiling a document to compliment this called Open Source Options for Education.  Moodle, Mahara and other related tools are featured on it, so I thought I'd draw it to the attention of this community.  You can read the announcement here: http://osswatch.jiscinvolve.org/wp/2013/01/17/oss-watch-releases-open-source-options-for-education/

It's been produced as a collaborative document, so if there's anything you'd like to add, there are links in the annoucement and the document itself as to how to contribute.

 
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Picture of Patrick Masson
Re: Open Source Options for Education
 

Mark,

Thanks for sharing this information. I am familiar with OSS Watch and the Open Source Procurement Toolkit--both efforts provide an excellent starting point for those investigating and assessing open source options.

I think such efforts would benefit with greater participation, specifically to provide depth and context around "open." Particularly, many have expressed concern the term open, and thus open-source, may suffer from "open-washing" (Michelle Thorne, David Wiley, ReadRightWeb, CNS News, and many more...).

Looking at the OSS Watch and the Toolkit, I am wondering what criteria is used to identify "open" source software. That is, is the sole criteria for including software in the "Open Source Options for Education" index, that it is released under an open source license? Or are there greater requisites, for example, openness in standards, governance, participation, direction, etc.? I would offer, uPortal and LifeRay are both released under an open source license (Apache License, Version 2.0 and the GNU Lesser General Public License, version 2.1, respectively). Avoiding the "which open license" debate, my point is, the organizational model of these two efforts, related to open, is actually quite different and could impact the projects. uPortal is manged by a board elected by and from the community of practice, while LifeRay is managed by a private company. Please do not infer any value judgement here, I hope only to offer the ability to manage a project--either driven by the community or driven by a "benevolent dictator," or even a private corporation--might affect ones interests (even ability) in joining and contributing to an open source licensed project.

In addition to the above, LifeRay--like more and more organizations offering open source licensing (including Instructure Canvas, which is listed in the Open Source Options for Education)--offers two versions, an "enterprise" version and a "community" version. For many, this approach, releasing two versions that may not share functionality/features/support/access, may cause ambiguity.

Considering this, I am wondering if the list of applications included in the Open Source Options for Education are measured/assessed with some sort of standard definition for what openness requires beyond a license? As one who has spent his career in higher education working to raise awareness and adoption of open source options, I have found the quality of an open source application is directly related to the openness of the community that supports it: the greater the openness in the community, the better the production. I would stress, any organization looking at an open source option, should consider many things beyond the license, just as they would as part of their due-diligence when assessing a commercial option. For me, openness includes attributes around transparency (in development and decision-making); self-organization (allowing any interested party find/create their own affinity group); collaboration (the ability of those in the community of interest to share), etc. 

In this effort The 2-3-98 Project was developed and specifically, to help those interested in open source options, assess the openness of the community supporting the project: ideally reducing the concerns around open-washing. The 2-3-98 is developing an Openness Index as an attempt to assess the maturity of openness of an organization (i.e. an open source community) and provide a road map for further adoption.

I would be interested to hear your thoughts (and others on this list) on the Openness Index and if/how such an effort might contribute to the OSS Watch's Open Source Options for Education.

Thanks,

Patrick

 
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Picture of Mark Johnson
Re: Open Source Options for Education
Group Developers

Thanks for your feedback Patrick.  As you probably know, the Open Source Initiative maintain The Open Source Definition. When OSS Watch (and indeed the Cabinet Office) refer to "Open Source" we mean software which fits within that definition, i.e. is released under an OSI-approved licence.

I agree that the governance and development models of a piece of software are important to consider when procuring a piece of software, although they are beyond the scope of this document.  OSS Watch also provide training and guidance around assessing these areas of a project to make sure it's suitable for your institution's goal.  We have several tools for assessing the openness and sustainability of a project which are documented on our website and we're available to help people make use of these (not trying to make a sales pitch, I just want to be clear that we are aware of these issues and aren't presenting the document in isolation).  In particular, we have a guidance document explaining how to best make use of "Open Source Options" type lists.

 
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Picture of Visvanath Ratnaweera
Re: Open Source Options for Education
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers
Hi Mark

This is the work of a now extinct Linux User Group some years ago: http://lug-zhaw.syndrega.ch/wiki/Freie_Software_in_der_Lehre for whatever its worth. It is in German but has only key words.
 
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