Open Source Software is widely used by companies, and increasingly also by governments and education. Often Open Source Software is used for internal purposes, such as for training and education. But also for external reasons, such as providing a commercial service to customers.
Why is Open Source Software so successful currently with leading companies, organizations and educational institutions?
Cost and implementation
Open Source Software is free of licensing fees. This does not mean that there are no implementation, training or maintenance costs. But it does mean that the overall costs are significantly lower. The savings on licenses can be used to develop the required capacity and expertise in-house.
Also, Open Source Software usually costs little or nothing to try out. Most Open Source Software providers offer a SAAS solution for a try-out over a period of time.
A try-out before the purchase can save a lot of time during implementation. It is therefore often much faster to get a solution based on Open Source Software working because one is already familiar.
Commercial software is often based on the vision and ideas of one particular company. Open Source Software is powered and driven by a user community. Users of Open Source Software have the freedom – within the rules of the relevant community and the limitations of the Open Source license – to make changes that meet their requirements. Contributing changes or improvements can help developers. This also applies to help to test new functionalities.
If bugs are detected in commercial software, then only the original developers can fix them which is often not a priority. Open Source Software works differently. Once a bug is identified, anyone with the expertise and available resources can provide a solution. Usually there is a central control on implementation of changes and fixes.
Open Source Software is peer-reviewed, leading to higher reliability. Peer-review in Open Source communities often leads to simplification and better documentation of the source code, making maintenance easier.
Open Source communities take a different approach than commercial providers who more or less enforce upgrades. Usually two or more versions are supported. The Open Source user community gets the chance to update at its own pace based on other users’ experiences.
Anyone can view and try out the source code of Open Source Software. In addition to early identification of general problems, this method makes it possible to quickly address possible safety problems, for example by conducting penetration testing.
Open Source code enables external audit of software – ensuring compliance with software standards and regulatory requirements.
Customization, innovation and reach
Open Source Software can be more easily adapted to the specific needs of the user in a way that commercial software cannot. Open Source communities are also often very creative and innovative through input from many different affected users. Any adjustments can be made relatively quickly in the main code-release or delivered as plug-ins at short notice. This allows the cost of maintenance to be shared and also allows for reduction of the complexity of software upgrades.
Access to the source code makes it possible and easier to translate Open Source Software into different languages. These translations can be maintained and updated by different users and providers.
Support and accountability
Open Source Software is not owned by one company. Any company can build a service offering around Open Source Software, creating freedom of choice. Users can choose to deploy with community support, or with the support of a commercial services provider, or based on a SaaS solution if it is available.
User and technical support
Open Source Software is supported by the global community of users and developers, which takes place through mailing lists, blog posts, wikis, videos and other forms of documentation as well as through specific helpdesk or bug notification software.
Commercial software vendors can create “lock-in”. This makes it easier for them to raise the price. Open Source Software does not have this problem at all and makes it easier to switch if desired.
Discontinuation of the product
Suppliers of commercial software may go out of business, or be taken over. Users are left with limited support or need to switch to another product. Open Source Software does not have this issue.
Software licenses are often designed to reduce liability for the products. Open Source Software licenses exist in different degrees such as GPL where the code cannot be changed easily or MIT which is completely open. However, Open Source Software does have the advantage of higher reliability and security of the source code maintained by the user community.
Being part of a community
Users of Open Source Software are part of a user community. There is a collective interest to work together, support each other and improve the software. Contribution of code, documentation or other expressions of expertise are recognized and welcomed. Partnerships around Open Source Software lead to new opportunities and improve existing solutions faster than with internal teams.
Using Open Source Software for education, training and knowledge transfer
Education and government agencies are increasingly using Open Source Software instead of commercial software, next to the frequent use by Enterprise organizations and SMEs. In addition to the generic benefits of Open Source Software described above, there are a range of specific benefits. Why is Open Source Software now so important for education, training and knowledge transfer?
Cost and agility
Open Source Software is free of licensing fees. It’s not completely free of course, because of implementation, hosting and maintenance cost. The limited cost makes it easier to set up a team that ensures that the software is used for the specific purpose such as internal training and external training. And also by allowing this team or this person communicate regularly within the Open Source community. In order to stay informed about the developments of the product and to evaluate its possibilities for your own organization or service regarding knowledge transfer. This makes it easier to address challenges in daily practice and to increase agility with regard to the organization’s IT strategy. This also applies, for example, to integration with other systems such as HR and CRM software.
An Open Source community is a place to share or facilitate innovation. Sharing and encouraging use and further contributions such as sponsorship, funding or investment helps ensure that one organization not only bears the future costs of supporting innovation such as the implementation of Experience API, LTI and Open Educational Resources. The flexibility of Open Source is a major advantage in ensuring user satisfaction regarding interface design, accessibility and responsiveness on new platforms and devices.
For example, an organization may decide to invest in a Learning Analytics innovation, accessibility and user friendliness on mobile devices, or specific functionality for working with competencies, tasks, and skills that benefit the entire community. This creates more end-user satisfaction with the software, such as an LMS, LCMS, authoring environment or web-conference system. The Open Source community enables users or institutions to actively participate in the financing and participate in the development of new functionalities, developments and standards that benefit everyone and which can later be further developed, integrated or expanded. All with the goal of providing better learning and training services.
Investments by end users, companies, organizations, partners and institutes directly benefit the development of user satisfaction and product improvement. Innovation of the learning environment or content development capabilities are not limited ad resources are not only used for product marketing or functions solely intended for administration and management.
Support and integration
Open Source Software for learning, development and training can be supported internally, complementing an active community of problem solvers specifically in this area. In addition, there is often also support by integration specialists and partners, or by SaaS providers and partners. These are often also organizations that not only have technical knowledge, but also have functional knowledge and experience with implementation in training processes and with the didactic or pedagogic side of online learning.
Institutions are free to move between these models: internally, with community support or supported by a partner and provider or in a mix to meet their needs, budget and context. The fact that the Open Source code provides full transparency is also an important guarantee for open standards in the field of digital learning and training, many of which are also continuously developed further by special institutions such as IMS and ADL. Think of SCORM, LTI, Experience API and OER but also HTML5, WebRTC and SOAP and REST. This helps integrate efforts enormously and facilitates migration and interoperability between systems when needed.
Adaptation and customization
If we go beyond just an LMS, we usually need a more flexible learning environment that meets the needs of different audiences, user groups of educational styles and learners. That is, an Open Source Ecosystem that supports specific requirements for innovative learning solutions. A Learning Content Management System with a central library in which all kinds of content can be managed and reused. Think of Serious Gaming, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Simulations and Learning Analytics.
Other Open Source tools, environments and frameworks can be integrated relatively easily with the existing learning ecosystem based on open standards for interoperability such as LTI (Learning Tool Interoperability) and xAPI (Experience Application Programming Interface), replacing the outdated SCORM standard. In addition, for a relatively easy integration with other LTI based tools for content creation, portfolio management, asset management and video management. But also for using existing content that is available based on Open Educational Resources (OER) or making it available yourself.
Open Source Software helps to close the “innovation gap” between the needs of users and the opportunities that commercial software can offer. That is not to say that commercial software cannot be used, provided that it also meets open integration standards. The innovation gap is particularly important in projects where the chances of success are very important. Teachers and students are closely involved in the development of the solutions they are going to use. This includes curricula and learning lines created by companies or government organizations.
Making connections between the Open Source Software community and the 21st Century generation is a ‘win-win’ situation for everyone. Open Source Software offers the opportunity to develop 21st Century skills across almost all disciplines based on digital skills. so to track all possible learning experiences and activities, and report through advanced Learning Analytics based on Artificial Intelligence methods. This commitment also offers students the potential to become co-creators of their own learning and make the materials available as Open Educational Resources available to others. That is, away from the learning model of the expert who knows it all towards an interactive and social learning model that is much more effective and efficient for society. A development towards Open Source content formats such as H5P and also Open Source content such as Open Educational Resources. So not only Open Source applications but also content formats and content itself. This is an important development for education, training and training that will accelerate online learning to complement traditional learning.
Existing e-learning software, such as the Learning Management System or the Learning Experience Platform, does not exist forever and may be not longer the last word in the field of online learning. Three years ago, EDUCAUSE (a global online learning organization in 90 countries in the field of online learning and responsible for the creation of IMS that have developed LTI and QTI) discussed what they call the “Next Generation Digital Learning Environment” (NGDLE). The NGDLE according to the view of EDUCAUSE demonstrates an important consensus for learning platforms to support education and learning with many innovations. The NGDLE is a considerable challenge, but with the Open Source approach it can be realized much faster than otherwise. Open Source Software offers a future in which the vision of more flexible and responsive systems can be realized together, in order to accomplish the mission of fully personalized training and training.
Future Learning and Open Source Software for online learning.
We at Future Learning work closely together within the ILIAS Open Source Community also in the development of new functionalities together and for users such as Defense and NATO, as well as translation and testing of new versions, working with the BigBlueButton Open Source Webconferencing environment for online learning. We are active in the H5P Open Source Content Creation and Content Management Community.
We also offer integrated solutions based on these platforms and environments. These Open Source Software communities, especially ILIAS, are based entirely on following open standards in terms of technology, functionality and interoperability, with the aim of enabling fully personalized learning.
There is always the possibility to also involve commercial tools through open standards such as LTI and xAPI. And there is always cooperation with other Open Source tools and also commercial learning tools based on the open standards for technology, content and integration. The ultimate goal is to offer learning environments that really work and deliver results while being affordable and future-proof.
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