As technology is a vital component of education it should be an enabler rather than a hindrance to the attainment of institutional objectives. Technology is a hindrance when the costs outweigh the benefits for use of that technology, when it cannot be customized to meet institutional requirements.

The role of education is changing as it has become easier–with advancement in technology to reproduce and distribute teaching resources, making it is easier to reach a broader and more diverse audience. This was not possible in the past as it was costly to produce a course and subsequent reproduction and distribution to students added to the expenditure

Generalizing the usage of Open Source Software will provide development of learning tools and increases the educational quality. As far as the literature is reviewed, not much research has already been conducted about the comparisons of open source learning management systems in distance education.

In education, the use of OSS over the years has greatly increased and its impact felt in various ways as can be seen from the multitude of OSS applications now available for instructional purposes in both higher and junior education Open source software development contribute to a better output in comparison

A frequently used open source software in e-learning contexts is the Moodle e-learning platform. Usually the source code of open source software is freely distributed over the internet and this makes the real number of users. Open source based e-learning can be implemented even in a low e-readiness environment such as in primary educations. The existence of teacher groups and forums where teachers share solutions and support each other contributes to the success of implementation in this kind of environment. Users in such environment accept whatever platform as long as they perceive it to be easy to use.

Examples of Open Source Software

Dokeos. Dokeos is a web-based application developed on free technologies such as PHP and MySQL. Designed to facilitate e-learning and course management, it provides a flexible, user-friendly platform to simplify the e-learning process.

Moodle. Moodle integrates pedagogical features missing in many LMS tools, allowing instructors to construct customizable, online courses or a wide range of course modules on a flexible platform. Moodle can be downloaded to any computer and used to support a single instructor site or a system of thousands of students. It is licensed by the Open Source Initiative under a general public license. 

Bodington. This Java-based virtual learning environment was developed by the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom. Bodington aims to provide a flexible, durable learning environment for large, complex institutions with numerous departments. It allows quick upload and management of learning content, and the multi-layered administrative model effectively meets varied administrative challenges.

Why should Open Source Software be used in education?

One of the main issues that policy-makers have to contend with in making decisions on the use of ICTs in education is the cost. FOSS can lower the barriers to the access of ICTs by reducing the cost of software. 

The use of FOSS also discourages piracy by students, many of whom can ill-afford the purchase of licensed copies of proprietary software. If proprietary software was used for teaching, students would have no choice but to use illegal copies of the software to do homework and assignments at home or on their laptop computers. In contrast, there is no restriction against making copies of FOSS for use outside institutions.

Drawbacks to the Use of Open Source Software

The main potential drawback of open source projects for education becomes evident during their implementation. Using the software to its full potential may prove challenging for beginners, and the availability of the source code is irrelevant for end users if they do not find the product useful. Also, open source products are not always compatible with existing software components.

Open source development has other potential disadvantages. There are no guarantees that a project will reach completion and deliver the desired results, for example. Progress depends on the interest and time of the collaborative workforce, and lack of resources or funding can derail a project. Most commercial open source products, however, are self-sufficient.



Article by: Busayo Tomoh

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