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Copyright 2011, IPM, INDIA
Open source Software ADOPTION: an academic perspective
Deepika Satyarajan, Vishwesh Akre
Manipal University Dubai
ABSTRACT : Open Source Software (OSS) is defined as a computersoftware that is freely provided and which permits users to use,change, and improve the software, and to redistribute it in a modifiedor an unmodified forms. OSS is developed in a highly social onlineenvironment where developers are dispersed in space and time, butrarely interact in a face-to-face manner. Literature in this fieldspecifies many successful OSS implementations in AcademicInstitutions globally. Educational Institutions have diverse opinionon the academic use of OSS. The concept of open access and theproliferation of academic blogs have broken down many barriersin the educational sector. With the reference of studies conductedin various countries such as Switzerland, USA, Australia, UK etc.,it can be said that there are two distinct views on the academicacceptance of OSS. One view is in favor of the use of OSS, while theother is hesitant about OSS thinking that it could suppress thecreativity of individuals. OSS represents a social dimension ofLearning through a Persistent, Unified, Massively Multi-User, andSelf-Organizing Virtual Environment extending beyond thetraditional classroom into the universities common areas wherelearners build knowledge and understanding through serendipitousand collaborative exchanges both within and across subject areaboundaries. The digitization of education is a relatively newphenomenon but has already transformed the education sector.Most Educational Institutions are operated on a non-profit basisand many of them are government funded. Open Source Softwaresare freely available on well-known OSS Project communityproviders such as www.SourceForge.net and hence can beimplemented in Educational Institutions at no procurement costs.This research is an attempt to examine the differences between theimplementation of OSS and Proprietary softwares in EducationalInstitutions. Findings of this study could facilitate Universities andEducational Institutions to evaluate the options of using OSS fortheir Information Technology or Information Systems requirements.KEYWORDSOSS - Open Source Software, OSI - Open Source Initiative
OSS is software delivered with its source code and is anoutcome of the convergence of Information andCommunication Technologies (ICTs). OSS allows users tohave access to the source code of the software, the freedomto use the software to create derived works and redistributethe derivative software for free or at a charge . OpenSource Software communities such as Sourceforge.net playa vital role in providing the platform for the creation,modification, maintenance, support and distribution of OSS.
OSS development process was initiated by theestablishment of - Open Source Initiative (OSI), a non-profitcorporation formed to educate about and advocate for thebenefits of open source and to build bridges among differentconstituencies in the open-source community . OSIsmain activity consists of creation of OSI Approved Licensetrademark so as to create nexus of trust around whichdevelopers, users, institutions and governments canconsolidate open-source cooperation. The OSI activelypromotes OSS by educating developers, decision makers,and users about its advantages and benefits. Its boardmembers are active in the core open source developmentcommunities as well as in academic, government, andindustry circles .
2. USE OF SOFTWARES IN ACADEMIC SECTORS
Academic Institutions have always used software forclassroom teaching, lab room teaching, library managementand other academic administration domains. VariousSoftware Manufacturers have designed creative softwareproducts to be used in different functional realms ofEducational Intuitions.
As part of the OSIs mandate on education, board memberspresent about open source technologies, collaboration andcommunity at conferences and seminars across the world.OSIs Education Committee focuses on the use andteaching of OSS in the educational context, from earliestchildhood instruction up through graduate and post-graduate levels. The Education Committee is responsiblefor developing, arranging, and conducting educationalconferences, programs, courses of instruction, and onlineeducational seminars covering open source software,licensing, and communities. Many researches have beendone on OSS. It is very popular in other Western countriesand has also been implemented in various EducationalInstitutions in the West . OSS has proved to be a very good option for EducationalInstitutions as they help to create new innovative ideas ofbut the faculties as well as the students which enhance thelearning ability and a new interesting and interactiveapproach to both teaching and learning . The use of
Special Issue of IJCCT, ISSN (ONLINE): 2231 0371, ISSN (PRINT): 0975 7449,Volume- 3, Issue-1, 2013
Copyright 2011, IPM, INDIA
OSS in Academic institutions would be beneficial to thestudents as some of these softwares are linked toprofessional certifications (e.g.: Red Hat, Linux, Sun Java)and can add value for them in the job market. OSS not onlywould provide a new dimension to learning but alsoencourages students to participate in knowledge creationand enhancement activities, and sharing the findingsthrough the public Internet. It improves interaction betweenstudents and teachers and develops individual skills on thewhole. Students can learn new OSS softwares as their codesare available. By studying the codes, the students can getknowledge about various development methodologies,complex logics and other programming techniques. Facultiescan utilize OSS by interacting with students in a moreefficient and effective way. Teachers can conduct lecturesonline, post lecture notes, assignments, tutorials, Projectsetc. by making use of OSS softwares such as Moodle[21,22] and OpenMeetings [21, 22]. Most of the EducationalIntuitions are non-profit organizations. Hence the use ofOSS would be preferred in Educational Intuitions as lessexpenditure is incurred in procuring the OSS. This shouldindicate that the adoption of OSS in Educational Intuitionswill increase in the days ahead. But the fact remains thatmost of the Educational Intuitions are still relying onTraditional or Proprietary Softwares.
2.1 TRADITIONAL SOFTWARES USED IN ACADEMIC
Proprietary software is a software program that is offeredfor sale and comes with a license that provides the suppliercontrol over the source code. The supplier holds ownershipor intellectual property rights over the software and restrictsmodifications and the distribution of the source code.Academic software has become increasingly important foruniversities, since it automates a growing range of individualand institutional activities. It is important that such softwarereflects both - the procedures and the business models ofacademia. Commercial or proprietary software raise at leasttwo intertwined problems as follows: Expenditure of software, costs which are hard to calculate
and even more difficult to cover. Lack of technical transparency combined with strong
dependency on the product in use.Private institutions often have heavily promoted proprietarydata formats to make users dependent on their products.This has proven to be a big handicap for higher EducationalIntuitions that rely on the cross-institutional exchange ofscholarly publications, course materials and the relatedmeta-data. In the meantime, several companies have reactedto the respective complaints of higher Educational Intuitionsand started to increase the interoperability of their products.
Consumers still depend on the vendors, since theknowledge about proprietary software and formats isnormally a well-protected secret . Some commonly usedproprietary softwares in academic sector are MicrosoftOffice, Blackboard etc.
2.2 OSS USED IN ACADEMIC SECTOR
OSS can prove to be a boon to Educational Intuitions, byproviding solutions to some of the problems faced by usingthe traditional softwares. The open source idea is thusincreasingly becoming popular in higher education. Thekey characteristic of open source products lies in the factthat their source code is made public and freely accessible.
Openness of the source code is a prerequisite for theopportunity to publicly test, vary and improve software.This procedure is very similar to the scientific method ofknowledge production, where all essential steps(hypothesis, method of observation, results) have to bemade transparent and open for critique. Open sourcesoftware is published and discussed in specializedcommunities. These documented debates are an efficienttool to safeguard and raise quality. In the long run, theyalso can lead to the development of open standards, whichin return can guide future software developments. Opensource products can become public domain withoutnecessarily being for free . Some common OSS used inEducational Intuitions are Open Office, GIMP, Moodle etc.
3 RESEARCH METHOD
Literature review on OSS was carried out to study the OpenSource Methodology and the various OSS and Proprietarysoftwares used in Academic Institutions. Over 20 researcharticles from journals and conferences were studied toexplore the research done in the field of OSS, worldwide.Comparative analysis was done between features of OSSand Proprietary Software. The features were rated on threelevels Low, Moderate and High. Low rating indicates thatthe features were present in the software but at a verybasic level. Moderate rating indicated that the features werepresent and had above average functionality. High ratingwas used only for exceptional functi