Saturday, March 27, 2010

Using Open Source in Education - A Report

In a recent post of ours we discussed the strong desire to go open source in the world of education versus the reality: the increasingly out-of-sync relationship between user expectations and corporate IT services response, where users are expecting way more than most traditional IT services can deliver.

Well, a just released report by technology research firm Grunwald Associates (and sponsored by Educational Testing Service) explores the nuances of developing an open source platform for Internet-based assessment, and touches upon some of the common concerns and misperceptions about open source development and implementation.

The report focuses on the attitute, perceptions, and experiences of education leaders’ regarding the potential for pursuing online testing in an open source environment. It collected and synthesized data from 80 interviews with state assessment and technology leaders (representing 27 states) and national education opinion leaders (representing both public and private organizations).

The majority of education leaders / participants in the study knew enough about open source to point out identifiable benefits associated with the platform, but they also readily admitted to knowing that, for now, they don't know enough to lead their respective districts in this direction.

The study participants viewed the benefits of open source in the context of cost-savings (no annual licenses, no renewals), the development of common standards, and adaptability. However, they also identified hidden costs and security as two areas they are very concerned about; and surprisingly, one of their biggest concerns is the feasibility of a peer-based collaboration, one of the key selling features of an open-source platform.

Here are a few of the key observations highlighted in the report's conclusions:
  • Education leaders do not yet have a strong enough knowledge base about open source for them to make a truly informed decision about an open source platform;

  • Everyone has interest in moving forward but it’s not easy to be the head of the pack;

  • The cost savings that can accompany any open source platform will not, in and of themselves, sell educators on this approach; and

  • Perhaps the clearest inference that can be made from this study is that educators will look for leadership, structure, and organization if they are to take part in an open source initiative.
Worth a look.