Open Source in Higher Ed – The Courant Report

I realize that many of you have probably seen this, but, man oh man, the 26th of July was a busy day. This report should be the lynchpin of any argument for open source in higher education. It addresses many of the main concerns that people have about OSS, refutes many of the misconceptions about TPO (total price of ownership) and… well… here are a few bits

Here is a link to the report

  • We believe that software projects (both in higher education and more generally) work best when there is claer mutual understanding between the users and the developers regarding how the software is to be used and what is important for it to accomplish. The success of many community-based open source projects derives from just such a confluence. p. 23
  • (1)Commercial products are often not well tailored to higher education… (2) College and university leaders are concerned that consolidation could result in commercial vendors having excessive leverage to raise prices for the software used in higher education… (3)Commercial software tends to require frequent and costly upgrades… upgrades that are more frequesnt than would have been chosen and that have functionality that differs from what the customer would most value. p. 9.
  • Crucially, the supply and demand sides are present in OSS projects from the beginning via the developers themselves. This is a feature of the Moodle example, in which the founder, Martin Dougiamas, is both a programmer and an educator, and thus was able to execute his particular visi9on of what course management software would do. p. 21.
  • We have good reason to believe to believe that universities and colleges could collectively produce open source software that meets their needs better than commercial products.p.22 (added – it was too sweet not to edit in)

Not all the report makes such a glowing report of the possibilities for OSS. There is a section, for instance, that suggests that for mission critical systems like payroll, CIOs would prefer having a company that they could sue if the software failed. A quick response to this of course, is that if you have hired a services company to support your open source software, then you have someone to sue, but that neither here nor there.

For those of us who’ve been looking for nice, solid research that supports the positions we already hold ourselves, about open source being a perfectly fine, safe reasonable option, I advise the following

  1. chill fine belgian beer
  2. open and pour in nice glass
  3. read article
  4. smile in a satisfied manner
  5. repeat 1-4 as needed

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