Is Open Source the Right Option for Your Online Training, Teaching, or Learning Efforts? This article compares the difference between open source and proprietary software. Open source software has gone mainstream. Applications such as the Firefox web browser and the Linux operating system are available to support all areas of operations, including teaching and learning. Open source software has become a strong contender in online training and e-learning. As technology advances, e-learning will see more open source offerings that will continue to transform the landscape of online teaching and learning in both academic and business settings.
Open source software now includes:
- Learning Management Systems (LMS)
- Learning Content Management Systems (LCMS)
- Course authoring tools
- Tools to create media elements such as animations, audio and video
- Browser and player for presenting content
- Courseware Libraries
These resources have a few key benefits:
- Open source software is free to download and therefore less expensive.
- flexibility and adaptability
- Extensive active developer and user communities that form a good base for technical support.
- Many open source applications run on multiple platforms including Windows and Linux.
- Compliance with established standards, which is a high priority when developing open source software.
- Ability to use and link to other open source software
Most proprietary software comes without the source code originally written by the programmer. Without this code you have no right to change the way the software is developed. When you buy proprietary software, you are essentially buying the right to use the software in a specific way, and in many cases the company that developed it owns the software and you are just buying the rights to use it.
The main difference between commercial support for proprietary software and commercial support for open source software is that proprietary software is mandatory and open source software is optional. In most cases, if you decide not to pay for support for proprietary software, you lose the right to use it. Incidentally, the cost of proprietary software is rather high.
Perceived benefits of proprietary software include:
1) Reliable, professional support and training available;
2) Packaged, comprehensive, modular formats; and
3) Updated regularly and easily.
However, the downside is that it:
1) Expensive and
2) has closed standards that impede further development.
Open source software has the following advantages:
1) Low cost and no license fees;
2) Open standards that facilitate integration with other systems; and
3) it is easily customizable.
The downside is:
1) lack of professional support;
2) Evolving developer communities;
3) lack of release coordination; and
4) Irregular updates. However, with such a large development and user base, there are many discussion forums and help pages available to users.
So what is the right solution for you and your organization? In general, for smaller organizations and projects, open source solutions seem to be sufficient. The difference in cost more than makes up for the perceived downsides mentioned above. Larger organizations seem to need more robust, high quality products with a high level of service and support. They want responsibility, reliable help and support from their suppliers.
With technology evolving at a rapid pace, chances are you can find tools to meet your open source or commercial training needs. However, open source offers unique benefits, including filling the low-cost niche of high control that is difficult, if not impossible, to achieve through commercial, proprietary routes.
Thanks to Sophia Peters