Many users are now turning to Free/Libre 0pen Source Software (OSS, FOSS or FLOSS), as more software developers join the movement to make software available free of charge to everyone. This page provides details of and links to open source software – one of the most important movements in the development of software or e-tools to have impacted on, and continue to impact on, the educational community.
OSS – as the name suggests – is software whose source code is open to modification by a user or developer. It is often contrasted with commercial, proprietary software whose code is protected by copyright from modification. In education, OSS is seen as part of the Open Education Resource movement.
What are the advantages?
Using open source software enables web developers to avoid the dangers of “lock-in” – where once you start using a certain piece of proprietary software you are locked in to using it on a continuing basis. It also avoids the expense of licensing and permits adaptation of the software to local needs. It is this last aspect that appeals to many educators and developers – the ability to modify the source code so as to make the software fit the actual needs of the user.
This clearly has important implications for small institutions, especially those in developing countries that are unable to afford expensive software in the large quantities required for educational purposes. The availability of the source code also makes it easier for such institutions in developing countries to develop local expertise and establish a local software industry.
This “Online and Distance Learning” website is built using open source software – an open source content mangement system called “Drupal”. Hundreds of developers around the world freely contribute their time to create modules and themes to make the system better. If you decide to build a website using a powerful content management system such as Drupal, consider hosting it with SiteGround – the hosting company that specializes in Drupal installations.
What are the implications for the software industry?
Because of the numbers of developers working on each open source software product, high quality can be achieved, e.g., Mozilla Firefox browser (recommended for browsing this site).
Even some of the industry giants have joined the open source software movement, e.g., Microsoft with their open source asp.net.
In April 2009, Microsoft released the ASP.NET MVC source code under the Microsoft Public License (MS-PL). MS-PL is an OSI-approved license. The MS-PL contains no platform restrictions and provides broad rights to modify and redistribute the source code. To learn more about the original release of ASP.NET MVC, read the free ASP.NET MVC PDF tutorial that covers building an end-to-end application (starting literally with File->New Project). For more recent information on Microsoft’s cloud computing platform – Windows Azure – watch the 90 minute end-to-end look provided by Scott Guthrie.
List of schools and programs