For weeks now I’ve been drafting a post about how the Open Source Community is making big strides in helping support and expand the reach of education. The latest news about MIT’s announcement of edX developing an open-source learning management system has tipped me over the edge and it’s time I share three ways in which the Open Source Community is improving access to education.
BE PRODUCTIVE FOR FREE
You can get a full-featured and widely-support Operating System for FREE
Ever heard of Ubuntu? How about Linux? Wait! Don’t run away just yet.
The folks over at Canonical who are behind the Ubuntu operating system, one of the most popular of the open-source, has just released version 12.04. Besides having a rather interesting name, Precise Pangolin will be supported for five years (Thanks to Paul M for catching my previous three-year error). So what? This means that instead being forced to update to a newer operating system for fear of losing support and compatability, users who begin using Ubuntu now will be enjoy term support on a nice little operating system.
What if I don’t want to use Ubuntu anyways? Not everyone who wants to learn and be productive can afford the latest Apple products or version of Windows. Ubuntu has been refining the look and feel of their operating system in preparation for this release, which will provide a full-featured computing environment to users for free. This means not having to pay for individual Windows or OSX licenses, not having to pay for a productivity suite like Microsoft Office (check out LibreOffice), and also having free access to the quality software and apps you already know for social media and gaming.
For a school running on a limited budget, the savings from using Ubuntu and the free education software bundle can go towards keeping support staff and instructors on, being able to purchase better hardware or other networking systems (routers, server space, etc) or simply to maintain a more lean technology budget. If you’re are at all interested to see how possible it is to remove your school’s dependency on expensive licenses for computer software, check out this article about Mark Osborne, a Deputy Principal at Albany Senior High School in New Zealand. Our F/OSS class taught by Dr. Paul McKimmey was lucky enough to have Mark give a Webinar and talk about the many successes and few challenges of running a school entirely with free operating systems and software. At any level, you can put students in front of a computer with Ubuntu on it and they just work. No complaints, they will just work.
TAKE OPEN COURSES FROM TOP UNIVERSITIES
Some of the best College-level Instructors are working to open Education to the Masses
The partnerships forming between some of the top universities in the U.S. will soon be offering more open (free) online courses than ever before. MIT and Harvard have joined together to form edX. Instructors from Stanford, Penn State, University of Michigan, and Princeton are offering free courses in many subjects through their group called Coursera. Also another group of robotics researchers from Stanford have joined together to form Udacity, offering many computer science and web development courses.
Here’s a video from the edX launch last week:
The development and delivery of open courses through these partnerships is going to help shape the landscape of education, through what many are identifying as a disruptive technology. What’s more is that the edX project is apparently planning on developing their Learning Management System (LMS) as an open source project, building in some of the latest performance-tracking and data collection mechanisms to improve the system for students. This means that not only will the edX group be able to roll out improvements to their online course delivery, but will allow other institutions to use the same platform to offer online courses. This is some heavy stuff.
EARN ACHIEVEMENT THAT IS UNIVERSALLY RECOGNIZED
The Open Source Community is working on standardizing the way you can show Achievements
I’ve mentioned Mozilla’s Open Badge Infrastructure before, but this open-source method of earning, awarding, and displaying achievements beyond what an A-F grading scale can show. Earning credit for open courses (see above) is something that is still under development, but Mozilla’s work is gaining momentum as instructors seek ways to recognize students through a standardized (and open source) microcredentialing system. If you’re interested in finding out how Open Badges work and the possibilities of using them in education, check out this recorded Webinar by Dr. Kyle Peck (Penn State) and hosted by Brian Mulligan (Ins. of Tech, Sligo, Ireland) from Wednesday May 9:
Between Ubuntu, Open Courses, and Badges, we will be watching Education evolve quickly
These three gifts from the Open Source Community are going to support the development of open educational resources, evolving on their own as we move into the next few years. If you didn’t know what it means to be “open source” or to offer “open educational resources,” I hope this post has given you an introduction to their implications in education. It’s an exciting time to be in educational technology, to say the least.
Did I miss anything? Questions and comments welcome below!