Open Source Educational Software

Open source educational software: The benefits, disadvantages, and examples

Open source software is a type of software that is available to users for free and can be modified and distributed by anyone. In the education sector, open source software has become increasingly popular as a way for schools, universities, and other educational institutions to access high-quality, affordable software for their learning and teaching needs.

What is open source in education?

Open source in education refers to the use of open source software in the education sector. Open source software is typically developed and maintained by a community of volunteers who contribute their time and expertise to create and improve the software. Because the source code of open source software is available to users, anyone can modify and distribute the software, as long as they follow the licensing terms.

What are the benefits of open source software in education?

There are many benefits to using open source software in education, including:

  • Affordability: One of the biggest advantages of open source software is that it is typically available to users for free. This means that educational institutions can access high-quality software without incurring the costs associated with purchasing commercial software licenses.
  • Customization: Because open source software is available in source code form, users can modify and customize the software to meet their specific needs. This can be especially useful in the education sector, where institutions may have unique requirements for their software.
  • Community support: Open source software is typically developed and maintained by a community of volunteers. This means that users can access a wealth of support and expertise from other users, as well as contribute their own knowledge and skills to the development of the software.
  • Security: Because open source software is open to scrutiny by anyone, security vulnerabilities are often discovered and fixed quickly. This can provide a higher level of security than proprietary software, which may have unknown vulnerabilities that are not discovered until after they have been exploited.
  • Flexibility: Open source software is typically designed to be flexible and adaptable, allowing users to easily integrate it with other software and systems. This can be particularly useful in the education sector, where institutions may need to integrate their software with other tools and systems, such as learning management systems and student information systems.

Are there any disadvantages of open source software?

While there are many benefits to using open source software in education, there are also some potential disadvantages to consider. These include:

  • Lack of support: Because open source software is typically developed and maintained by volunteers, there may not be the same level of support available as with commercial software. This can be a problem for educational institutions that rely on timely support and assistance from software vendors.
  • Lack of features: In some cases, open source software may not have the same level of features and functionality as commercial software. This can be a disadvantage for institutions that need specific features and capabilities in their software.
  • Compatibility issues: Open source software may not be compatible with other software and systems, which can create problems for institutions that need to integrate their software with other tools and systems.
  • Lack of accountability: With open source software, there may not be the same level of accountability as with commercial software. This can be a problem if there are issues with the software, as there may not be a clear chain of responsibility for addressing those issues.

Examples of free open source software

There are many examples of free open source software that are commonly used in the education sector. Some of the most popular open source software for education includes:

  • Moodle: Moodle is a learning management system (LMS) that is widely used in schools, universities, and other educational institutions. Moodle provides a range of features and tools for creating, delivering, and managing online courses and other learning materials.
  • Mahara: Mahara is an eportfolio software that allows users to create, maintain, and share digital collections of evidence of their learning, skills, and development. Mahara is often used in conjunction with Moodle to provide a complete system for online learning and assessment.
  • OpenOffice: OpenOffice is a suite of productivity tools that includes word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and drawing software. OpenOffice is a free and open source alternative to commercial office productivity suites, such as Microsoft Office.
  • LibreOffice: LibreOffice is a fork of OpenOffice and includes many of the same features and tools. LibreOffice is also free and open source, and is often used in education as an alternative to commercial office productivity suites.
  • GIMP: GIMP is a free and open source image editing and manipulation program. GIMP is often used in education for creating and editing digital images and graphics.

Open source products that we support

Learning Management

Our staff have been involoved with the Moodle project since the very beginning. Some of our trainers have been using the software for over ten years, and our lead developer helped write portions of the original core Moodle code.


e-Portfolios

The perfect partner to Moodle is Mahara, another open source project which allows learners to display their achievements online. We set up and brand these e-Portfolio sites to provide a seamless experience. 


Remote Teaching

Most recently, completing our offering of online learning tools is BigBlueButton. BigBlueButton or BBB for short allows teachers, lecturers and trainers to remotely present to learners using webcams and virtual whiteboards.

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