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“Can we acknowledge the differences in Free and proprietary software without making OSS a point of debate and fear among faculty, administrators, etc?”

I think so as long as the debate focuses on usability, functionality and business cases, not technology. I wonder what percentage of presentations at your favorite LMS conversion (ANGEL User Conference 2007, Bb2007, MoodleMoot06 and the 7th Sakai Conference) will be dedicated to technology vs. teaching? Hmm, hold on…

…Ok after a rough hand count of the agendas posted on each LMS’s convention page, I found: 84.6% of presentations at the 2006 MoodleMoot where specific to teaching and learning, 77.8% of Blackboard’s where educationally focused, 74.6% of Angel’s and 38.2% of Sakai’s where presentations on teaching and learning. From an IT perspective Sakai wins, from a teaching and learning perspective, I imagine faculty would get more from Moodle. Both open source, two different arguments for adoption.

And fortunately, Ken, I don’t think its too late. I suggest a new term, “edumagic.” It’s the pedagogical counter to the technological. If I say this is not JSR-168 compliant, you tell me it’s not IMS-LD compliant. So yes, I am definitely advocating for a division of labor. I have been very fortunate to work with several people who I (and many others) consider experts in their fields. Who am I to tell them what they need, or what they can have? Should facilities define teaching in a physical classroom?

But what do I say to those who may have technical questions? I answer them. If they want to know why an OSS project can be just as reliable, even more so, than a commercial option, I will tell them what I believe. I would also hope that I have their respect, and confidence, so that they know I would not recommend an application with such poor participation where one death kills the project. And that’s my responsibility, a responsibility I gladly take. So then I would follow-up with what should be more relevant questions for her, focusing on her needs, and tapping her expertise: that’s her responsibility.

And finally, I would be happy to share my developing IT Governance and Management documentation from Delhi ( (External Link) ). It is still under consideration, as I try to unite my management experience and practices with my new institution. It would be nice if one could deploy and rely on a universal model. However, in my experience, I believe the truths to be universal but the implementation to be practical.

7. pat masson - april 23rd, 2007 at 6:16 pm

Wow, many typos above, that sun can really get to you!?!?!?

8. ken udas - april 24th, 2007 at 2:43 pm

Would you suggest that the impact that OSS is likely to have in the educational environment has something to do with the ability of the IT team to translate end user requirements into technological qualities or characteristics? If so, are there different skills, techniques, approaches, knowledge, etc. that an IT department must have to successfully translate end user requirement for OSS and for proprietary software options?

9. pat masson - april 26th, 2007 at 1:24 pm

Ken, Wow this is a huge question. As briefly as possible, to reflect on this question, I would consider the differences in how technology was planned for and delivered on campuses in the past vs. how I would argue it should be today: the centralized “mainframe” that delivered your “ERP solution” vs. a distributed SOA environment, respectively.

It reminds me of an old Wendy’s ad ( (External Link) ) where the tag line states, “Having a choice is more fun.” Think of your ERP 10 years ago (even today). As expectations (dare I say needs?) in functionality by end-users grow from what was once simply access by a few to a centralized data store used for record keeping, to very business specific functionality available to many people, ERP has struggled to keep up. Think of your student information service (in my case Banner), what was once only student records, has grown to include, finance, financial aid, alumni, human resources, etc., now even the Luminis Portal. But consider your actual portal options, Academus, Oracle Portal, uPortal, SharePoint, WebSphere etc. From an ERP approach, as a Banner school, I should be adopting Luminis for SUNY Delhi. But wait, we also run Blackboard (WebCT), maybe I should consider Blackboard’s portal?

IF IT decides which portal to provide, our decision would probably be based on currently supported technology infrastructure (our ERP and supporting technologies). IF faculty decide they would probably choose Blackboard’s portal as it is probably seen as a logical extension of the currently deployed LMS.

I guess I would stop and ask, “Why do we want a portal.”

  • So the first “skill” needed is the ability to work with end-users to draw out functional requirements, define usability to develop use cases, manage development (not just deployment), etc. This might mean that a CIO/IT Director should have a development skill-set rather than a procurement skill-set, or even a business skill-set. It’s use cases vs. surveys, it’s agile methods vs. serial processes, it’s iteration vs. planning, it’s integration vs. installation, it’s facilitate vs. mandate, should I go on?

However there are other skills as well…

  • The actual technical understanding and skills around integration and interoperability of Service Oriented Architecture that a traditional department may not be accustomed to in an ERP environment. After all, installing the next module in a homogeneous ERP environment is much different then integrating two disparate applications.
  • The political savvy to gain buy-in from; your IT department that will require new practices, your faculty who will no longer be able to work with a “solutions first” approach, your colleagues in business offices and the faculty that will be required to provide dedicated “Product Managers” to constantly assess and define functionality and usability and work as a compliment to IT’s “Project Managers,” and finally, your administration who will need to provide better answers to, “Why do we need a portal or an LMS, etc.”

Questions & Answers

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research.net
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Source:  OpenStax, The impact of open source software on education. OpenStax CNX. Mar 30, 2009 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10431/1.7
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