Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Technology Enhanced Learning: Part 1 of 3 - Can Free Open Source Software (FOSS) successfully replace any proprietary software used by teachers?

Please note: First published on 6th June via my LinkIn account
FOSS also known as Free/Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) has become more main stream over the last few years as the educational sectors utilised the advantages provided by FOSS.
FOSS is normally free 'as in beer', but more importantly the code is free as in 'freedom'. This means that the software code is not hidden and therefore allows educational establishments to modify the existing computer programme to provide a particular function and/or to ensure it can interoperate with current and future systems thereby reducing the risk of 'lock-in' to proprietary software.
The Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) 'Moodle' is an example of FOSS and many educational establishments use it as their VLE,  including the Open University (OU). Although almost all FOSS software is built by a community of interested parties, the community of practice which has built up around Moodle is impressive. The Open University (OU) has utilised the openness of the code to build bespoke plugins for their own use. The OU has honoured the copyright (sometimes known as copyleft) licence and has made the plugins (code) available for everyone.
I have used this post (1 of 3) to provide an example of where FOSS provides a successful VLE. Moodle is a server based VLE which is accessed using a modern browser such as Firefox (another FOSS product) or via an app on a smart phone (Android is another FOSS product). The operating system which powers the server can be proprietary, but Moodle will operate just as well on Linux (another FOSS product). Linux is powering more and more servers and devices across the world and this link provides a list of 30 big companies and devices currently running on Linux.
The next post (2 of 3) will explore whether FOSS can successfully provide a replacement for a proprietary desktop PC/laptop operating system. The final post (3 of 3) will explore whether FOSS can successfully replace any proprietary software applications used on a desktop PC/laptop.

Note: This post uses information from a small research project I carried out in 2009. The title of the non-published paper is, 'Critical Evaluation of the Barriers to Using FOSS (Free
& Open Source Software) in One College'. The non-published paper is available by clicking here