SFD around the Commonwealth/Zaid Ali Alsagoff

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My Thoughts on FLOSS

  • "FLOSS has the potential to empower the whole world with tools to facilitate effective learning"
  • "FLOSS is increasingly liberating and empowering educators and learners around the world from the commercial hassles and burdens of licenses, versions and cost."

My experience with FLOSS has been from a user and promoter point-of-view (Psychology and Instructional Design background). I have explored many open source and free software related to education over the last three (3) years. What really amazes me is the FLOSS community's fantastic collaboration, support and growth, which is increasingly involving all corners of the world. The quality of FLOSS is increasingly being felt by commercial alternatives, because many of the evolving FLOSS options are increasingly comparable and in certain cases superior. Therefore, I believe Blackboard's LMS patent move is just the beginning of a war to slow down the threats faced by FLOSS. I wonder how many institutions have dumped Blackboard and switched to Moodle, Sakai, ATutor or other open source alternatives. Certainly, this is a concern to Blackboard and other commercial competitors.

For example, from a user and promoter point-of-view I believe FLOSS has still some time to go before it can be fully utilized for all online services. Therefore, at UNITAR our approach has been a blended approach utilizing a combination of FLOSS, commercial and self-developed software. However, as FLOSS mature in more areas we will increasingly move away from the burdens of commercial licenses, versions and cost. By doing so, we can invest more in people and learning, and hopefully in the future play a more active role in contributing to the world of FLOSS.

Finally, I also believe that FLOSS and commercial software can actually co-exist in a win-win situation. To do so, perhaps commercial alternatives should consider providing free software for educational institutions (Charge for the services if required, but not the software). There are sufficient potential money making companies or corporations to be their cash cows :)

UNITAR's Experience with FLOSS

At UNITAR, we use a portfolio of software solutions to meet our online learning needs combining home-grown, open-source and commercial systems: VOISS (our home-grown LMS), Centra (Web-conferencing), Breeze (Multimedia content development), OpenWebMail, etc.

Over the last few years we have explored many FLOSS solutions (Linux, Apache, MySQL, Open WebMail, VTSurvey, Wink, Moodle, Exelearning, LAMS, Dspace, PhPNuke, Mambo, Drupal, MediaWiki, etc.) and have adopted several. Overall, it has been a wonderful learning experience. Not all explorations have been successfully adopted, but it's obvious that FLOSS alternatives are increasingly maturing in many areas (features, security, user-friendliness, support, etc.) and becoming more competitive against commercial alternatives.

Since June 2006, we have been exploring Moodle([1]) with our educators and students. Students and increasingly educators love it (We already have Moodle Junkies!). Also, now that Moodle can easily integrate and communicate with LAMS and Exelearning, I am very excited about the possibility of empowering lecturers with a portfolio of tools or many options to facilitate a dynamic online learning environment in the future :)

ZaidLearn - My T&L & OER Blog