Blog Pile

Open Source in Education (SAC2005)

Open Source in Education- Evolving the IT Marketplace

Bernadine Chuck Fong (President, Foothills College)
Chris Coppola (President, rSmart)

One sentence summary: Open source is good, happening, the game of institutional software is evolving.

Chris Coppola– starts with image of Maroon Bells. Three thoughts during hike:

(1) Harmony of ecosystem- everything plays a part (same as in open source, creating a new ecosystem)
(2) Adaptability / flexibility- bus driver pointed out aspen that had been hit by avalanches. Rigid trees snap; flexible trees bend, survive, and maybe grow in new direction (same as in open source)
(3) Forces that level playing field- relationship of aspen and pine. Aspen are first, nurtures pine, who eventually tower over and dominate. Nature balances by events that take out pine trees, allowing aspen to thrive again (cyclical nature in open source)

Image of mozilla lizard eating Microsoft butterflies
* We know we can build scalable software in open source community
* Open source can compete in the marketplace (Linux and Windows in servers; Apache web server = 2/3 market; mySQL)
* We know companies can succeed with business models based on Opensource (IBM- billions of investment and revenue; HP, Apple)

It is viable… but where is it going?

Community Source- OS movement in Education
* Schools do not compete like businesses
* Patterns – starting with existing application, seeding projects with investment, incubating self-sustaining community, commitment from leading institutions to use the project, building in from ground up commercial support
* empowered by shared purpose, collaboration
* creating word class software- number of OS projects increasing rapidly

Bernadine Chuck Fong
“Is anyone here a President” (no response) “Good, I can speak for all of them”

Why Open Source at Foothill?

Getting started (1993-94)
– vision for positioning as leader in IT
– involving faculty
– Blue ribbon science and tech committee
– using tech in curriculum
– popularization of email
– faculty proposal for email online course
– opportunity to be innovative
– IT attitude and systems orientation
– President’s leap of faith – took a chance, risk
– tech and support issues (email registration)
– “band-aiding for the future”

ETUDES- Easy To Use Distance Education Software
– Michael Loceff- faculty author of ETUDES, co-producer of “24”
– faculty involvement and “incentive” == no pay or re-assign time, but provided online access at home
– development of online courses in multiple disciplines (“no right course”)
– College investment in faculty development time
– autonomy
– independence from 3rd party investors (software needs, pricing)
– responsive to faculty needs (beyond Foothill as college shared software)
– onset of true faculty collaboration

– new issues (scale)
– ongoing tech support
– evolution to alliance

Enter Vivian Sinou in 2000 – ETUDES Alliance formalized
– Membership Dies (development / stakeholders)
– Support Service (hosting, help desk, SIS integration, account management, training)

Community Source Effort- enter Sakai

Future Directions
* integration with eportfolios
– student, course, institutional
* inclusion of student learning outcomes
* remaining on cutting edge of educational issues
– accreditation / assessment requirements (this gets President’s attention)
– collaborative learning
– deep learning

Chris Coppola
Opensource is tip of iceberg

rSmart is part of OSS ecosystem
– leadership (co-founded OPSI, Kuali, Open Source Summit)
– contribution (active in projects, $, time, QA, designers)
– adoption (make it viable for smaller institutions to participate)

Open Source vs Commercial Proprietary

Why commercial open source?
“There is no future in vanilla.. the future belongs to those that know how to make the richest chocolate source, the sweetest, lightest whipped cream, and the juiciest cherries to sit on top…. or how to put them all together into a sundae” Thomas L. Friedman

Open source will win! Educators know the need, can build the software. rSmart contributes, has lower costs participate, gets back more in terms of ideas, and visibility.

What’s driving the OSS movement in education? Why now?
– Colleges motivated to change the current environment (empowered to change)
– current model is broken (economics- $ spent on aadmin systems, costs spiraling, control of destiny)

– models and best practices from OSS infrastructure success
– platform for global collaboration “The World is Flat” – Friedman). Open Source is a flattener.

New Challenges
– integration
– support
– sustainability
– intellectual property
– new skills needed

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. Martin( if that is your name)

    Your comment in reference to a non existing comment, and 3 inserted URLs makes me thinks this smells like spam. I’ll give you 3 days before zapping it.

  2. It is apparently spam. I got a nearly identical one today. The specifics from mine are:

    Author : POS Software (IP: ,
    E-mail :
    URI : (well, let’s not give it to them again)
    Well, I fully agree with your comment. 🙂

    BTW: I visited your blog earlier today and I just wanted to congratulate you on a well presented, and informative resource.

    It’s not often that I come across a web site that offers a wealth of quality. 😉

    Martin (aka POS Software Man)

  3. Thanks for confirming, Toby, it had a strong stench of spam, so I’ve updated by SpamKarma Blacklist for this roach. One at a time, sigh.

Comments are closed.