Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Critical Evaluation of the Barriers to Using FOSS (Free & Open Source Software) in One College

This is the beginning of series of blogs where I reflect on how the LSIS Professional Development Advisor (PDA) model has started to reduce barriers to utilising Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL).

I start the series by revisiting the Abstract from my dissertation (18 months old)


Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) has been highlighted by papers produced by several British and international government agencies which suggest that FOSS can provide an alternative to propriety software such as provided by Microsoft and Apple while still providing comparable or improved technology enhanced teaching and learning at a reduced financial cost.

The key question that this research explores is: “Can FOSS successfully replace any current software application used by teachers”? This paper agrees that FOSS is an alternative to some aspects of propriety software. However, it is 'fitness for purpose' that must prevail as pure FOSS can produce its own restrictions by insisting on using relatively unknown file formats such as Ogg Vorbis instead of the commonly available MP3.

The research includes two learning journals and the analysis of formal interviews of two cohorts; ‘technical’ which consists of personnel that support the computer infrastructure and the ‘education’ cohort which consists of teachers that use the computer infrastructure for teaching and learning.

Both journals support the finding from the literature review that FOSS can adequately replace Microsoft Windows operating system, Microsoft Office Suite and many other Microsoft Windows based applications. However, it is the discovery that the technical and education cohorts of the institution where the research was carried out have a vastly different experience in the use of the ‘computer’ at their place of work which has highlighted a major barrier to the adoption of appropriate FOSS. Although the technical cohort express enjoyment in using their networked computers, the education cohorts expressed frustration and consider that the networked computers are too
restrictive to be effective teaching and learning tools.

The recommendation presents a communication model that can be used as a basis for discussion by schools and colleges to assess the current communication routes used.

This research suggests that by actively examining the current communication
frameworks between teachers, learners and support staff will encourage the whole school or college to think collegiately and enable progress along the E-Maturity model to the category ‘e-enabled’. (BECTA, 2008)

The following blog entries will start to reflect on the communication model I produced and identify where the LSIS PDA model has been incorporated to produce the beginnings of what appears to be a sustainable change.

BECTA, (2008). MEASURING E-MATURITY IN THE FE SECTOR – FINAL REPORT. [Online]. Available from [accessed 11th August 2009]