User:Leighblackall/Using Free and Open Source Software to Create Free and Open Courseware

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By Leigh Blackall 2004 Courseware Designer For The Australian Flexible Learning Framework Community Other source files relating to this project are available on the Internet Archive.


In 2004 many new tools for Internet publishing, information management and Internet communications were made freely available on the Internet, while some of the most popular free and open source software released newer versions that easily compete both in function and popularity with equivalent commercial software. These new developments in Internet Communications Technologies offer exciting opportunities for education, and to top it all off, The Asia Pacific Development Information Program published a primer titled "Free/Open Source Software - Education" which is essentially a long awaited road map for educational practitioners and policy makers to take full advantage of such opportunities.

What all this means is that the Internet, computer software and Internet based education is about to go through some major changes. Many educationalists in Australia and New Zealand are becoming experienced in the use of Free and Open Source Software for education and are happily spreading the word. Already, concepts like 'The Post Learning Management System Age' have been spawned, and many are taking this quite literally, and with welcoming arms.

As more and more teachers and trainers become aware of the tools freely on offer to them, and more and more students expect their teachers to be able to accommodate the use of such tools in their courses, it is inevitable that the current systems and policies used for Internet based learning in schools, colleges and universities will be challenged, and that new and innovative pedagogy will develop.

The TAFE NSW, Hunter Institute Teaching and Learning Innovations Centre (ITALIC) recognised these new developments as early as 2003, and instigated a small but effective staff development project called “OpenCourseWare” as part of Learnscope2004. OpenCourseWare is just one of many projects that have helped to empower a small but collectively large number teachers and trainers with the knowledge, skills and conceptual framework for taking advantage of free and open source software in their work.


Currently I am sitting at my computer running a free and open source operating system, using a word processor that is also free and open, preparing a document that I intend to be free and open, using research materials made available to me freely and openly via the Internet.

The operating system I am using is Linux Fedora Core 3, the word processor is Open Office 1.1.3, the document I am working on will be licensed to Creative Commons and Free for Education, and the resources I have used to research this document were generously made available on the Internet for me to find using a free search engine called Google.

I am not a wiz with computers. I know a few tricks using a range of software, I use the Internet and email, I publish on the Internet and I am occasionally forced to take my computer to a technician when something breaks. That's about it, I know very little about programming, systems administration or networking, so I am in many ways just an average computer user, using tools specific to my courseware design work.

I'm telling you this because many people in Australia have the misconception that to use free and open source software, or to publish to the Internet must mean that you are technically advanced, or that you know something about programming, or computer systems generally. But I am none of these things. What I have had is an opportunity to try new things, and in doing so I have become familiar with the world of free and open source software and free Internet publishing as it relates to education.

The freedom to acquire and use a range of free and open source software whenever and wherever I need them gives me a great deal of flexibility and increased professional capacity. In particular, I can work nomadically, which is to say, like our students, on many different computers, at home or at work, not restricted to one single computer and operating system, and not limited to the version of software being used.

The freedom and flexibility of free and open source software is a big benefit, but it is more than that. It is also the knowledge that I am taking part in something that is largely about community and sharing, not selling – and as a teacher, that just sits better. What's even better than that is that this attitude is prevailing on a global scale - through the networks of free and open source software and social justice.

Before Learnscope gave me the opportunity to find and try out free and open source software, I was locked into a commercial way of doing things. At the time I was working in a place where sadly a culture of copyright confusion and intellectual property had prevailed. It peaked for me when in mid 2004 the Department sent out an email to all its staff requesting that anyone using software licensed to the Department on their home computers was required to remove the software and purchase their own licensed software. The Department's feeling was that staff should all buy their own licensed versions of software to be within the law and compatible with the Departments choice in software!

Before I was aware of the free and open source software alternatives, I would have probably accepted this request as fair enough. But when I learned how good Open Office was for example, and saw what had to say on their website, "You can install this software on every computer in the school and on every pupil's and every teacher's computer at home without paying any license fees. Please encourage others to do so..." I had to ask these questions:

Why are public education departments buying software at such an expense, and insisting that their staff and students use the same, when the equivalent alternatives in software are not only free, open and more flexible, but are more equitable, accessible, usable and reliable for the students and teachers?

And while we are considering that question I'd like to put forward another:

Why are those same public departments investing so much in a culture and practice of copyright, intellectual property and user pays business models when technology such as the Internet, free and open source software, and concepts like open courseware make it economically viable to at last offer a free and open education equally to all?

I initiated and managed the OpenCourseWare project and that is why I have been asked to write this paper. In it you will read about how the project was initiated and conducted, get an overview of a range of useful software, and find links to further information on free and open source software as well as free and open courseware. This paper is also available as a presentation which summarises all the key points in this paper with graphics and dot points.


I would like to thank Rose Grozdanic for giving me the opportunity to prepare this paper, The Australian Flexible Learning Framework and the Learnscope team for being so supportive, and TAFE NSW Hunter Institute for approving the project. Most of all I would like to thank my colleagues Jock Grady, Kylie Rowsell, Joyce Smith, Adam Bramwell, Marty Cielens, Les Bell, and Michael Nelson for their valuable comments, suggestions, links and assistance throughout this project.

What is Free and Open Software?

To understand the content of this paper and what the project was about it is important to understand the meaning of free and open source software, and free and open courseware.

Free and Open Software (usually termed free and open source software or FOSS) is in itself 2 distinctly different things.

Free software is just that, computer programs that are freely available, usually downloaded from the Internet or used solely on the Internet, freely. Some free software has limits on use such as no commercial use, and is usually stated in the agreement when installing or using the software.

Open Source Software is also usually free to use, but is different in that the programing code that makes the software work is also available to see so that anyone with the inclination and skills to do so, can make changes to the way the program works. Open Source Software is therefore free to use and open for a user to customise to their own needs.

It is generally and sometimes legally agreed that if anyone makes changes to the programing code of open source software, that they in turn make their changes available back to the open source community.

What is Free and Open Courseware?

Free and Open Courseware follows the same principles as free and open software but applies to educational resources and content. Free and open courseware is available to anyone including individuals who are self educating, communities who are home schooling, and institutions and organisations who are teaching and training groups of people - basically anyone.

Like free software, free courseware is free to use as per the agreement stated, which is usually along the lines of the terms of the Creative Commons and/or Free for Education license, or in the spirit of social justice. Like open source software, open courseware is not only free to use as a whole, but the parts that make up the over all content are also available so that a user can make changes or customise it to their own needs .

Advantages to Being Free and Open

There are many advantages over a closed and commercial approach that free and open software and courseware has. Software and courseware that is free is generally used more, or at least deemed more accessible than that which is not free. It is usually always available on the Internet, and should be easy to find there. Entities who are providing the free and open software and courseware may therefore enjoy wide recognition of their service, with complimentary products and services receiving valuable promotion and possibly sales.

In NSW DET the teacher and trainer workforce is largely made up of part time teachers and trainers who move across multiple job descriptions and workplace environments. It is not in the interests of such a teacher or trainer to invest the time required in learning how to operate the commercial software of one employer, if the next employer uses another set all together. Given the freedom, flexibility and rising popularity of free and open source software, the part time teacher would be wiser to invest time learning the alternatives to the commercial software so that if the opportunity arises, they may use it in place of the commercial software and retain effectiveness across all the working environments in which they may opperate.

In the case of free and open courseware, let us imagine that the Hunter Institute (A public Technical and Further Education school in the Hunter Valley NSW) was publishing all its Internet courseware freely for educational use. The likely result would be (given the appropriate Internet search engine accessibility) that the courseware would be used by many more people than it presently is, on a global scale. As the courseware is stand alone and not offered with any help service or learning facilitation, this increase in use will not burden the resources of Hunter Institute. As a result of the increase in use of Hunter Institute courseware, the core people services that Hunter Institute offer to compliment their freely available resources, such as content expertise and topical currency, assessment validation, learning facilitation, competency recognition, and accreditation, would receive a great deal of promotion and label recognition, attracting possibly more fee paying students who require these services to complete their studies. Also, in light of the significant contribution to developing regions around the world, Hunter Institute would likely be eligible to seek funding from a range of global development funds.

In the case of other Registered Training Organisations using the resources for their own commercial gain, they would not be permitted to use such resources without recognising the Hunter Institute. If that organisation made changes and/or updates to the resource, they would also be required to make those changes publicly available. With this arrangement, the free and open courseware is set to be improved far sooner and for less expense than any courseware that has a fee attached. Competitive edge between the training providers is rightly determined by content expertise, topical currency and quality of services.

Socially, open courseware is a practice that preserves the rights of the public and the access they have to publicly funded information. Similar to the freedom an individual has to enter and at least view public library resources while within the library walls and without paying a library fee, the open courseware approach allows any individual to view and study the online courseware before and whether or not they choose to pay an enrollment fee and join a course. This access gives people the opportunity to practice using the courseware fully, before investing money as a fee paying student. People with learning difficulties and ICT literacy issues are set to gain. What a fee paying user gains are the personal services such as accreditation, facilitation and recognition. Open courseware at least preserves the right to access and self education.

Obviously, this model is initially well suited to the public education Departments before many of the smaller private training enterprises. The public education Departments have greater access to the larger public funds including the production resources for making the first round of contributions to the Creative Commons and/or Free for Education resource libraries. Once the initial investment in the Commons is made, the resources within will be set to be improved on by a global community of educators in much the same way as open source software is today.

The Learnscope04 OpenCourseWare Project


The OpenCourseWare Project had its conceptual seed at the AFLF Networking03 event where Marty Cielens, an educationalist from South Australia presented a paper on Open Source Software in Education.

Marty's presentation went through all the tools he had discovered that might be of some use to education and at the end of it he outlined the following possibility for online educators: 1. He had bought himself a domain name for $10 dollars 2. He had bought himself some hosting server space for $60 3. He had downloaded and installed a free and open source LMS (the now very popular Moodle) in less than an hour, and was running an online course in free and open source tools for education the next day. One person, $70, 2 to 3 hours. This is in stark contrast to the amount of time and money invested even on a per capita basis by many educational institutions. Since then there have been a number of teachers follow Marty's lead, and more recently teachers do it totally without cost and with even more immediacy and ease of use.

An idea for better spending

It occurred to me and many others I'm sure that day, that the money being spent by educational institutions on commercial LMS and staff training in the use of that LMS, would be better spent training teachers and trainers in the skills of acquiring and using free and open source software, and on improving the design of online pedagogy. Not only then would DET have saved on the reoccurring licensing fees of the commercial LMS, but they would be empowering and developing a more ICT savvy and flexible workforce, all investigating better ways to teach and learn online.

Straight after Networking03 I was drafting a proposal to the Hunter Institute requesting that money be invested in training some staff in the use of free and open source software in education. That proposal developed into a Learnscope proposal and was approved for funding early 2004. The funds would afford the participation of 10 full time and part time staff from the Hunter institute, plus one from an outside local RTO, to spend the next 6 months finding, evaluating and discussing free and open software and courseware.

Building the project Team

I knew that 10 people would have little long term affect on the large and established culture of the Hunter Institute, so I tried to find staff who would likely have an impact on other staff after the project had finished. Teacher trainers, librarians, IT staff, resource developers, people like that. With the help of the ITALIC staff, I contacted all potential candidates by telephone and short listed based on availability, level of interest, and the willingness of the faculty's to support the project. In the end I had a good team, representing a wide range of staff in the Institute, and a surprising level of support from the various faculties. This support in the form of paying the participants for their time, meant the project could afford to hold events and activities.

To start the project off I created an email group (eGroup) so that the team could begin communicating as a group via email. Though I didn't know it at the time, setting up the eGroup proved to be a good way to gain insight on the team's ability to effectively communicate as a group online. Marty Cielen's from South Australia joined the eGroup and introduced us all to a method of email gaming and successfully involved at least half the team in expressing what they hoped to gain from the project. It was obvious however, that running this project only online was not going to work and that face to face contact would be needed.

An event to kick it off

With the support of the AFLF, I organised an event at the Newcastle Town Hall. This event was to be the first time that our Learnscope group would meet face to face and officially start the project. I invited Marty Cielens to present his inspiring project again, and Les Bell to give us some background on free and open source software generally.

Both Les and Marty knew a lot about the issues and they stayed with the team for a full day to workshop a proper understanding and to help develop a plan for the team to proceed with the project. At the end of the day, the workshop opened to the public and around 50 people came to see Marty, Les and one of our team members present.

This from one of the people who attended the presentation:

"The seminar last Friday was excellent - it inspired me so much that I've set up a Moodle site on a Linux server - with free hosting and a free LMS application, I'm pretty stoked!"

The whole day event, including the public presentations at the end, were important for the team to meet and establish the group dynamics and figure out a course of action for sourcing and evaluating free and open source software. The eGroup alone was not enough to do this, but after the full day workshop, and thanks to Marty and Les, and the natural energy in the group, it was evident that the project was going to succeed.

A website and team workshops to communicate

Around the same time as the workshop, Learnscope agreed to let the project run a forum page on their site. While I knew that at least half the team would not use this forum, I saw it as at least a good way to log the events and discoveries of the project and build a record to assist with report writing later. Those who did use the forum helped to build a valuable account of the online aspect of the project, and develop an excellent source of information for the AFLF community as a whole .

The project did not rely solely on the forum or eGroup for communication. The team members were each given a nominal 8 hours after the workshop to spend in the month leading up to the second workshop researching what software was available, deciding what software they would trial, and preparing an introductory over view of their chosen software to present at the next team workshop. Some team members preferred to spend this 8 hours in a group, and so took it upon themselves to form a subgroup and support each others investigations and learning. While this did mean that less software was reviewed, it strengthened the accounts of what was reviewed.

When the team met for the second time, some members had dropped off. Our Institute IT support member had not communicated in the eGroup, not posted or commented to the forum, and when he did not participate in the second workshop we knew that we had lost a valuable player. If there was going to be one who would promote the Institute's take up of free and open source software it would have had to have been him. Knowing this, I did try personally to encourage him to participate but I was told that his daily workload would not spare him the time.

After the second face to face workshop, each team member was allocated another 8 hours to spend reviewing or investigating further free and open source software over the next month. They were required to prepare another presentation for the 3rd workshop, and post their findings to the forum.

By the time the 3rd and final workshop came around, the core of the team remained - those who had participated consistently right from the start. In our face to face discussions, it was obvious that some of us would continue on after the project, exploring free and open source software and courseware, while others were happy with what they had discovered in the project and would leave it at that.

Outsiders participated through website

Because the forum was open to the wider Australian Flexible Learning Network, occasionally people from outside the project would contribute a link or comment in a thread. While these occasional contributions were very welcome and quite helpful, it was the number of visits to the site that was most striking. At the time of writing this paper, the site had been viewed 44857 times! Even if you half that for the number of times I have personally looked at it, and again from all the times the other team members looked at it, its still a big number considering most of those viewings would have been from people in Australia. 44857 is number that shows that free and open source software and courseware interests a large number of people in the Australian educational community.

Even after the project officially ended, having the forum website has added an immense sense of value to what took place. It is a lasting and accurate memory of the discussions and learning that some team members shared, and a good reference point when talking about the project generally. I have used the site several times as a launching pad for a number of presentations made on free and open source software in education, and it has been interesting to revisit the account of the discussion since.

Where to now?

But in many ways the forum as a record only accounts for the very beginning of the project. Even though it documents discussion for the duration of the project, the real learning has occurred since the project and forum ended. Becoming aware of free and open source software has completely changed the way in which I, and I'm sure most of the participants work. I now seek out free and open source software before considering commercial software, and for social and ethical beliefs, I make a point of using free and open source software where ever there is an option.

I have met quite a number of like minded people in the education circles since the project ended. I have established another eGroup and website specifically for this network to communicate and called in Teach and Learn Online. It continues to discuss issues, announce events, and introduce new tools to each other.

Since the completion of the project, a few of the project team members have been invited to give workshops on using free and open software and to open debate on free and open courseware. At least 4 team members have given more than 1 workshop each, while I have given 5. Even when I feel like my own learning on the topic is far from over, I find myself increasingly being asked to show others where to start. The response from the teachers I talk to is unanimously in favour of free and open source software, and encouragingly inspired by the concept of free and open courseware.

"...Every person in the room walked out with endless possibilities roaming around their mind and already with their own web site up and running. And it was soooooo easy. On top of that the commercial possibilities are almost endless..." - Tony Lorriman, Hunter Institute.

Still to this day I remain totally engaged with free and open source software developments because it so obviously means more than just work. I now look forward to any opportunity where I can share my new knowledge with others, and play a part in someone else's awakening to a world that is free and open. Almost everyone I meet in this world shares this motivation. Mix this with the social motivations of those who work in education... well, there is hope for us yet.

Reviews of Some Free and Open Source Software for Use in Education

While the following reviews will help people get started using free and open source software, the thing to keep in mind is that these may become dated in time. It is important to remain engaged with new and approaching developments as the Internet is still very young and the tools to work with it are evolving rapidly. New tools may be just around the corner that will not only make what you are doing easier, but may in fact change the way you do everything totally.

Blogger is such a thing to me. Before Blogger became what it is today I relied on my own Internet publishing skills to maintain my own website. While that was not too difficult, it was no where near as easy and manageable as today's Blogger service. Blogger has made my own Internet publishing and communication much easier.

Linux – Fedora Core 3 Free and Open Source Desktop Operating System Software There are many editions of Linux, and while all inter operate well, not all are as free and user friendly as Fedora Core 3. At the time of writing this paper, I was very inexperienced with the Linux operating system, however its installation and up front features where refreshingly simple to use and easy to understand. So far I love the way it works, as does my partner if you needed a less bias word for it. Macintosh users especially will be very comfortable in the Linux Fedora Core 3 Operating System interface as it is very similar to the way MacOS works.

K12 Linux Terminal Server Project - Free and Open Source Desktop Operating System Software, and Network Setup The K12LTSP is an alternative for schools who can't afford to buy a computer for every student. K12LTSP is a set up of many workstations that run off the one central computer (applications server). Schools can use old PC's as diskless clients that are boosted by the applications server.

All applications run on the terminal server. Workstations are "thin." They have no software or hard drives. Thin-clients are perfect for schools because they are easy to install and require little maintenance. They are reliable and immune to malicious tampering and viruses.

Open Office - Free and Open Source Desktop Software Text editing, spreadsheet creation, presentation making, website authoring, database recording. Open Office is the alternative to Microsoft Office. One of the key features of Open Office over its commercial equivalents (apart from its flexibility, community support, and freedom to upgrade when new versions are released) is the ability to publish material to the PDF and SWF format easily. MS Word does not yet offer this capability. PDF and SWF are formats that are very useful for distributing content over the Internet.

From the Open Office Schools Project: "Most schools are concerned about equality of opportunity for all students and to extend the range of learning contexts related to information technology. The community supports your school by providing the best office productivity tools available, free of licensing costs. We welcome you into a community where teachers and students can learn about the new software development models of the 21st Century and support each other by sharing free resources and ideas. The best way to learn is to take part!"

Open Office is available for Windows, Linux and Mac systems, solving the cross platform issues finally.

===GIMP=== - Free and Open Source Desktop Software for Image Creation and Editing My first encounter with GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) was not all that positive. Its unwieldy interface, though innovative, was just not comfortable with the way I was used to working in Photoshop. To make matters worse, I was using GIMP on a Windows operating system.

But since then GIMP 2.2.3 has been released and it is just as free as before but a far more polished program. I have had the pleasure of useing GIMP 2.2.3 on my new Linux operating system, and it just felt good. It has changed a lot, dropping some of its more unusual interface features and has become more native feeling to someone far too used to Photoshop.

GIMP is available for Windows, Linux and Macintosh operating systems.

===Audacity=== - Free and Open Source Desktop Software for sound recording and editing. Audacity is a free, easy-to-use audio editor and recorder for Windows, Mac OS X, GNU/Linux, and other operating systems. You can use Audacity to: •Record live audio. •Convert tapes and records into digital recordings or CDs. •Edit Ogg Vorbis, MP3, and WAV sound files. •Cut, copy, splice, and mix sounds together. •Change the speed or pitch of a recording. •And more!

===NVU (New View)=== - Free and Open Source Desktop Software for HTML Authoring and Publishing NVU is considered by those who evaluated it in the OpenCourseWare project to be a very useful tool for creating HTML documents and publishing them to the Internet. Nvu's claim to fame is its WYSIWYG approach. Based on the code for Mozilla's Composer component, Nvu adds enhancements, such as a site manager, a CSS editor (based on CSS), inline style support, forms, customizable toolbars, and tabbed editing of multiple files. NVU is available for Windows and Linux operating systems

===Mozilla FireFox=== - Free and Open Source desktop Software for Internet Browsing Web browser with many features that makes using the Internet easier and customisable. Many valuable Internet services such as Google, Bloglines and offer tools exclusive to the FireFox Browser. These tools as well as FireFox's 'view source' and page 'media' tools are particularly useful.

Firefox is available to Windows, Linux and Macintosh operating systems

Blogger - Free Internet based Internet publishing and communication I first used Blogger in 2002 and I didn't think much of it. It was hard to set up and manage, and the look of my site was dragged down by advertising. Now days, since Google acquired Blogger it is totally different.

First of all, blogging is now much more popular around the world, so its not as foreign to as many people, including myself. Google has made it remarkably easy to set up and manage a blog with many added features including the ability for site visitors to post comments, a range of template designs to choose from and customise, automated social networking that links similar blogs and people to your site, web publishing and archiving by date and quite a bit more.

Blogging is a very useful tool for teaching and learning online with many teachers using it to offer flexible delivery to students, and some even requiring their students to maintain their own blogs as a type of work journal.

===Hello=== - Free Desktop Software for Internet Communications and Peer to Peer File Sharing. Chat and picture sharing, including picture publishing to Blogger. Hello is an application that one must first download and install. Once installed it allows users to communicate by chat and share images in a peer to peer file sharing manner. It also allows a user to publish images to their Blogger site which makes it particularly useful to me.

Users need know nothing about digital image editing and compression for the Internet as Hello takes care of all that. At present there is no limit to the number of images that can be posted to a Blogger site, which makes Hello a pretty powerful little image publishing tool.

Unfortunately Hello only runs on a Windows operating system, but if this affects you then see the review of Yahoo GeoCities and BriefCase below.

Yahoo Geocities and BriefCase - Free Internet Based File Storage and Delivery Free Internet based file storage and serving. Yahoo BriefCase will give a registered user 30 megabytes of free storage space for files on the Internet. GeoCities gives 50 megabytes. Combined that makes 80 megabytes of Internet storage capacity for multi media files such as Flash movies, PDF documents, audio files etc.

Using the GeoCities as storage, and your Blogger site as delivery, you can now avoid the advertising that is normally displayed on the GeoCities sites. Simply link to the files you have stored at GeoCities from your Blogger site and your Blogger site gains 50 megabytes of freedom to look and sound anyway you would like it to, as well as the enhancement of being able to deliver more bulky files to your users such as audio visual presentations.

===Bloglines=== - Free Internet based information management and Internet publishing. If you rely on the Internet as your main source of regular and up to date information, then you are probably tired of having to click and load all the different sites you read. Bloglines captures site updates and recent news from all your favourite sites and places them in the one location – your bloglines page.

Imagine yourself as a teacher who is teaching 3 courses, each with its own Blog site to manage, and every student with their own Blog site journal. Even with broadband, keeping up to date with all those links would be time consuming and frustrating. Bloglines simplifies all that.

It is useful for students and researchers too. Students can link all their class mate's blogs into the one Blogline, and they can sort by course topics. Researchers can track new and recent information and sort it to their personal files.

Bloglines just makes information management easy. And because it is web based, your bloglines site can be accessed from anywhere, and shared with anyone should you choose. - Free Internet based information management. Like Bloglines, is of great benefit to people who use the Internet as a primary source of information. is basically a way to save links to favourite websites and Internet resources - but actually on the Internet. With your favourites saved on your own account, they can be accessed from anywhere with Internet access.

If like me, your computer has crashed and remained out of action for weeks, having your favourite websites saved somewhere other than on your computer is a very handy thing.

A key feature about is its automated social networking. For example, if you save a particularly unique and rare link to some information, will automatically list who else in the world has saved that link. This offers the users an opportunity to browse other people's favourites of a similar field of interest. would be very useful for group webquests, course links, and tracking resource popularity.

===GoogleGroups=== - Free Internet and email based group communication. A recent addition to the Google services is Google Groups. Google groups allows registered users to set up and manage group emails. eGroups are an old but still effective way of communicating in a group around particular topics, but Google has made it much simpler to set up and manage.

===Google Alerts=== - Free Internet and email based information management. One of the handiest search tools from Google is Google Alerts. Simply add the search terms as you would in a normal Google search and set the results to be emailed to you every day, week, month or when new content is added to the Internet. Keep up to date with the latest Internet published information on topics that interest you - all in you email.

===Moodle=== - Free and Open Source Server Software for Course Management Moodle is a Course Management System that is increasingly popular in educational institutions all over the world. Its strong points include a range of pre-configured group activities that are customisable, student tracking, and a very large and active user community, so help and advice is easy to find.

From my own experience, the only down point about Moodle is that it requires setting up on a server. It is nothing to someone accustomed to server side technologies, but a bit of a learning curve for the average user like me. does offer commercial hosting, or the community is very helpful to anyone installing it for the first time.

Of course this is not even an issue for an organisation that has quality IT support willing to install it on the server.

===Cmaps=== - Free Desktop and Server Software for Concept Mapping A concept mapping tool. Very popular with the project team. Cmaps aids with group work, brainstorming, and concept development. It is a useful tool for those inclined to visually mapping out a concept, and is able to be installed on a server so that teams of people can work on the one concept map from many different locations at the same time. Cmaps can be used to create websites and publishes in a range of formats for use as either graphics in documents, or as a document in its own right.

The OpenCourseWare team members who reviewed Cmaps considered it a very useful classroom and project management tool, and have been using it in their own work ever since.

===Hot Potatoes=== - Free Desktop Software for Creating Quizes, Tests and Learning Activities The Hot Potatoes suite includes six applications, enabling you to create interactive multiple-choice, short-answer, jumbled-sentence, crossword, matching/ordering and gap-fill exercises for the World Wide Web. Hot Potatoes is not freeware, but it is free of charge for those working for publicly-funded non-profit-making educational institutions, who make their pages available on the web. Other users must pay for a licence. Check out the Hot Potatoes licencing terms and pricing on the Half-Baked Software Website.

Hot Potatoes is free for use by individuals working for state-funded educational institutions which are non-profit making, on the condition that the material you produce using the program is freely available to anyone via the WWW. However, you need to purchase a licence under any of the following conditions: •You are working for a company or corporation, or an educational institution which is not state-funded. •You are in business for yourself. •You charge money for access to the material you make with Hot Potatoes. •You do not make the material freely available through the WWW. Hot Potatoes is available for Windows, Linux and Macintosh operating systems

Reviews of Free and Open Courseware

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Open Courseware A free and open educational resource for faculty, students, and self-learners around the world. OCW supports MIT's mission to advance knowledge and education, and serve the world in the 21st century. It is true to MIT's values of excellence, innovation, and leadership. MIT OCW: •Is a publication of MIT course materials •Does not require any registration •Is not a degree-granting or certificate-granting activity •Does not provide access to MIT faculty

LearnThat™ is one of the most popular destinations on the web for free online courses and free tutorials in a variety of computer, certification, business, lifestyle, and fun topics!

ITrain Online Free training resources for people and organisations learning about Internet Communications Technology. ItrainOnline is committed to the free and fair sharing of development information. The information and annotations on our site are free, and can be reproduced, translated, and disseminated without restriction.

EduForge Eduforge is a virtual collaborative learning and exploratory environment designed for the sharing of ideas, research outcomes, open source educational software, and tools within a community of learners and researchers. It is an open access resource allowing anyone with an interest in the exploration of teaching and learning to join the community. Eduforge encourages cross-institutional collaboration among individuals within an independent environment outside the normal boundaries of organisational infrastructure and resources. The Eduforge community is well supported by online communication, content and management tools, including Wiki tools, project management, forum, surveys, Concurrent Versions System (CVS), and document uploading and sharing.

WikiPedia WikiPedia is an amazing example of how possible free and open, publicly authored information can be. WikiPedia is a massive online encyclopedia available for free, and open to anyone to make contributions, edits and updates. The encyclopedia is moderated, and if something is deemed incorrect, the previous page is reverted back to. From the WikiPedia site, "Wikipedia is an encyclopedia written collaboratively by many of its readers. Lots of people are constantly improving Wikipedia, making hundreds of changes an hour, all of which are recorded on the page history and the Recent Changes page. Nonsense and vandalism are usually removed quickly." I have used WikiPedia as a launching pad for many of my own personal investigations and it has always been more than excellent. WikiPedia is just another one of those things about free and open source that demonstrate just how positive human interaction can be when given the chance.

Connexions Knowledge should be free, open, and shared. Connexions is a rapidly growing collection of free scholarly materials and a powerful set of free software tools to help •authors publish and collaborate •instructors rapidly build and share custom courses •learners explore the links among concepts, courses, and disciplines. Our Content Commons contains small "knowledge chunks" we call modules that connect into courses. Thanks to an open license, anyone can take our materials, adapt them to meet their needs, and contribute them back to the Commons. And everyone is invited to participate!

===W3 Schools=== - "The Best Things in Life Are Free" Full Web Building Tutorials - All Free At W3Schools you will find all the Web-building tutorials you need, from basic HTML and XHTML to advanced XML, XSL, Multimedia and WAP.

SchoolForge Schoolforge's mission is to unify independent organizations that advocate, use, and develop open resources for primary and secondary education. Schoolforge is intended to empower member organizations to make open educational resources more effective, efficient, and ubiquitous by enhancing communication, sharing resources, and increasing the transparency of development. Schoolforge members advocate the use of open source and free software, open texts and lessons, and open curricula for the advancement of education and the betterment of humankind.

Creative Commons Creative Commons is a nonprofit that offers a flexible copyright for creative work. Creative Commons is using private copyright laws to create a public library of content. Creative Commons has lists of content including audio, images, video, text and educational material. Users can search for content licensed to the Creative Commons and contribute their own content.

===AESharenet=== – Free for Education The Free for Education mark indicates that material may be freely used for educational purposes. The mark may be applied by anyone to any material in which they own the copyright provided they agree with the conditions set out on the Australian Education Network Free for Education website.

Review of Literature on Free and Open Source Software and Courseware

Tan Wooi Tong

Free / Open Source Software Education The Asia-Pacific Development Information Program e-Primers on Free/Open Source Software. A road map for practitioners and policy makers.

Marty Cielens

Open Designs for Communication & Collaboration Simple, freely available resources can support innovative approaches to a wide range of communication and collaboration activities. Open Source resources offer the freedom to experiment, and in most cases are easy to learn how to use, don't put a strain on scarce resources and can be used across a wide range of contexts.

One of the benefits of Open Source technologies is that they allow us to put the emphasis back on good design rather than the tools. Very often, featured commercial products distract us from the design process and we sometimes find the technology determines the process, forcing us to use models that may not be the best for our needs.

Pia Smith

President, Linux Australia ICT in Australia - Time to SOS (Share Our Source) Presentation at the Unlocking IP Conference: Brazil is an interesting case study. It is embracing Open Source from the most technical geek through to the Minister of ICT. Many initiatives are in place in Brazil, including a large one to turn around the current purchase of imported software (to the tune of US$1.2 billion) to the migration of around 500,000 government and school computers to Linux, and eventually to export around US$2 billion worth of software per year. Other countries such as Spain, Malaysia, Germany, and South Africa are also reaping the benefits of Open Source. One of the biggest factors is the idea of sharing knowledge: the concept that IP is not a finite supply, but rather becomes more valuable with sharing and collaboration, and the notion that IP should be protected from monopolisation, not open sharing. Through Open Source we see a sharing culture and meritocracy that can afford fair treatment and equal opportunity to all, regardless of their normal societal restrictions. includes some thoughts and observations from both FISL (Brazil) and WSIS (the UN ICT conference in Geneva).

Phillip Crisp

Special Counsel, Australian Government Solicitors New publishing paradigms and the ‘Free-for Education’ licence Presentation at the Unlocking IP Conference: This paper explains the rules and rationale of the new AEShareNet-FfE (‘Free-for-Education’) Licence Protocol. It places the new protocol into perspective by: •briefly examining the historical evolution of publishing models from relatively proprietary to the new paradigm described as ‘open source / open content’ •explaining those fundamental structures and concepts underlying AEShareNet which are helpful in understanding the AEShareNet-FfE licence protocol. Link to paper:

John Perry

LMS Coordinator The Bremer Institute of TAFE Open Source a new way to Manage Classroom Computing The paper describes a way of managing computer lab environments that will ensure consistency of operation with less hardware asset, and administration effort. Using Open Source technology Lab Admins can give greater access to users to do creative things with computers, knowing that the underlying network retains a default consistency for the next user to use the workstation.

Derek Morrison

Director, Centre for the Development of New Technologies in Learning, University of Bath E-Learning Flexible Frameworks and Tools: Is it too late ? – the Director's Cut Some institutions have been doing more than gathering experience and have made a full-blown strategic commitment to products which represent only one way of offering e-learning. How many have thought about exit strategies? How many exit strategies will work? How many will now be willing to allow 'different e-learning tools' that don't fit into the licensed, and therefore supported, vendor's product? Is it possible to think beyond the monolithic VLE model? In the full paper I support my arguments with some of the alternatives to the status quo.

Using Open Source Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs)

Report from conference held at Working Mens College, Friday 11th June 2004 The JISC Regional Support Centre for London facilitated a major conference for Open Source VLE's. It brought together 50 delegates from across the UK with guest speakers Randy Metcalf and Sebastian Rahtz (JISC OSS Watch), Clive Church (CETIS), and Alistair McNaught (FERL). The focus for the day looked at issues around supporting Open Source and planning for their effective use. Workshops provided 'live' demonstrations from colleges who have migrated to use Moodle as one of their primary learning platforms... Key issues for institutions and practitioners were captured and summaries can be viewed [on the website]

Australian Government Information Office - Open Source Software A pretty comprehensive definition, explanation and examples of open source software.

Nancy Cohen

Studying Free and Open Source Software as an Economic Driver From the National Science Foundation to the World Bank, researchers scrutinize Free and Open Source software developers to ascertain the contribution of FOSS to the economic good.

Dr Kathryn Moyle

Open Source Software ans Australian Education A balanced and introductory investigation into what open source software is, and what the likely considerations are for its use in the Australian education sector.