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OSS Not Ready for Prime Time in Education? 252

Posted by Zonk
from the prime-time-drive-time dept.
cel4145 writes "Inside Higher Ed reports that the Alliance for Higher Education Competitiveness has released a new study, The State of Open Source Software. Is it true that open source is 'not quite ready for prime time' in education? Or, as I suspect, is the study just another proprietary software vendor funded report for discouraging the adoption of open source software?" From the article: "Lack of vendor support is one of the largest hurdles limiting the adoption of open source in higher education, Abel said. 'The biggest thing is it takes more physical labor to implement open source because it isn't pre-packaged,' Abel said. "You have to have software developers that can make this stuff work.'" Are the staffing issues associated with OSS enough to outweigh the benefits?
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OSS Not Ready for Prime Time in Education?

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  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Thursday March 02, 2006 @12:19PM (#14835234)

    From the page [a-hec.org] from A-HEC's website cited in the summary, the title reads:
    A-HEC Thwe State of Open Source Software in Higher Education
    Glancing further down the page, we see this gem:
    Subscribe to the A-HEC Alliance!
    So we are to subscribe to the The Alliance for Higher Education Competitiveness Alliance?

    A-HEC might want to get all their ducks in a row before lecturing to us about 'higher education'...
    • by replicant108 (690832) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @12:41PM (#14835429) Journal
      This is also amusing: "The biggest thing is it takes more physical labor to implement open source because it isn't pre-packaged"

      I wonder what kind of physical labor he is thinking of?

      Perhaps this is this some new kind of FUD...

      "Don't use open source kids - you might damage your back!"

      • The Education Suite [kde.org] of the K Desktop Environment (KDE) [kde.org] has made great strides in providing high-quality educational software for schoolchildren aged 3 to 18. The educational applications range from ones that teach vocabulary and foreign languages to math, physics, chemistry, astronomy and computer programming.

        This goes to show that the educational sector is considered a high priority by many KDE developers, which is good because contracts with educational institutions account for a great percentage of softw
    • Yes, open source is obviously better because there's never any typos or grammatical errors on Slashdot.
    • by Rob Abel (958479) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @04:49PM (#14837626)
      Hi All- I've read the comments with extreme interest and wanted to share a bit more on the report.

      First, this study is only about higher education - nothing to do with schools, K-12, etc.

      Second, it broke open source into two categories:infrastructure area (Linux, Apache, etc.) and higher ed specific applications (course management systems, finance systems, etc.). I seen many comments that it is negative but the report itself is not negative at all. I think that is the impression from the Inside Higher Ed article that interviewed many other sources. But, the overall message is not negative. In the infrastructure area (Linux, Apache, etc.) open source is doing very well in higher ed. The application area (course management systems, finance systems, etc.) is where there is no tremendous interest but not a lot of fruit yet. That doesn't mean there won't be - long way to go.

      Third, the study was funded by Sun Microsystems, Unicon, and SCT. While commercial companies all three have been leaders in promoting and implementing open source in higher education.

      Fourth, the study was conducted from day 1 under the auspices that only those who participated in the research and the sponsors would receive the full report. That's how we attract support and involvement. If we made it all available for free no one would see why they should pay or participate (I know because I've tried it that way).

      Fifth, IMS has had no involvement - other than me. We're making the A-HEC research a benefit of IMS membership starting with this and in the future.

      Sixth, IMS is not just commercial vendors - far from it. Members include open University, Stanford, Michigan, Indiana, MIT, etc.

      Seventh, I wrote the report and the sponsors helped make minor editorial comments. So, it is my work and I don't perceive myself as biased but then does anybody? Finally, those that have actually read the report from the higher ed open source community have so far commented that it is on target. I think if anything it is very hopeful about the future but giving statistically valid accounting of the current situtation.

      If at some point in the future this research track becomes well enough subsidized that I can afford to open it up to the whole world I will. That may happen under the IMS umbrella. I certainly hope so. You won't find Gartner, Eduventures, or even Educause providing as much open info on teir web sites as A-HEC has published - and we are much less funded.

      Lastly, A-HEC is a very legitimate honest organization that has had numerous volunteers from the higher education community participate and benefit from sharing of best practices. I personally donated a year of my time getting A-HEC going because I believe in it. It would be nice if folks would get involved and understand what we do before criticizing. Especially when this whole thread started on an ewrroneous premise that the report was negative!

      Thanks for your interest in this, Rob
  • by postbigbang (761081) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @12:23PM (#14835265)
    K-12 teachers are underpaid, and generally lack a lot of computer skills that are necessary to make free-OSS work. Few initiatives exist to get the message out to teachers that there's both remediation software as well as technical skills development source trees available for use, with a few exceptions.

    School systems by either OS X or XP these days, and aren't very compelled to get Linux or OSS alternatives for many reasons, including lack of knowledge of what's available, belief that support doesn't exist, fears of application cracks (like they don't exist elsewhere, eh?), and basic fundamental experience with OSS apps and environments in general.

    This changes as a younger generation replaces older teachers, but it will take time for educators to get smart on what OSS is, and how to use it effectively for both skills and remediation.
    • Few initiatives exist to get the message out to teachers

      SoftwareFor.org [softwarefor.org] is attempting to address just this issue with the Software for Starving Students CDs. We've identified institutional adoption as the key to getting free software to the greatest numbers of students. As such, building bridges to educators is a core initiative for us. Teachers, like everybody else, need to know how F/OSS benefits them.

      So in addition to professional packaging and having versions for both Windows and OS X (a must in

    • Reference: [collegeboard.com] http://www.collegeboard.com/csearch/majors_careers /profiles/careers/106175.html [collegeboard.com]
      Quote:


      The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the 2004 average yearly earnings of teachers (not including special education teachers) by educational level taught:

      *
      Kindergarten: $44,940
      *
      Elementary school: $46,350
      *
      • I have been, and the wages you see are a median that's not broadly reflected. We/they work long hours, with a wide variety of students, some willing, some incapable of learning. So much for pimping teachers.

        I'll agree that computer skills need to evolve in teachers; and various academic disciplines are slowly (but surely) evolving standards for skills and remediation. It takes time, and someone that gives a sh*t without much penuniary interest to do the grunt work. It takes all of the things that makes OSS
        • We/they work long hours, with a wide variety of students, some willing, some incapable of learning.
          I averaged a 10 hour a day work for a teacher, 4.5 hour a day of actually teaching, a Free Period and Lunch and 4 more hours to plan for the next class grate papers, etc... Vs. 8 Hour a day for Average Joe. To inflate that issue. It is true with the average Job, there are people not willing or able to learn help out, or they just try to stop us from being productive we call it Corprate Politics, for teachers
        • Funny, my wife works in a title company, and has worked a lot in mortgage companies. This means that she sees a LOT of salaries. Teachers do make a good living, and the $44k in the parent quote is right in line with what she sees on a weekly basis. This is not just for teachers that have been doing it for 15 years.

          Teachers do not work 10 months a year, and the teacher that works 10 hours a day is very few and far between. (English teachers that must grade essays is likely the exception). Because of
          • by postbigbang (761081) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @02:59PM (#14836711)
            Being an ex-teacher, and knowing well what they're paid for, and the hours that go in, let me add some things in that aren't otherwise revealed in your anecdotal research.

            There are five categories of teachers: aids, those lacking masters or other needed credentials for a 'full license', fully licensed (usually with master degrees), administrators who teach, and special license teachers. In post K-12, there are part-timers, full-timers, tenured, research (e.g. non-teaching but supervisory), administrative, and a slew of small 'other' categories. They all teach, have different skills, and only the top couple of tiers make comparatively decent money.

            The hours in a day are variable. Many spend ten or more if they supervise or sponsor clubs or other extra-curricular activities. They often work weekends doing the same thing, often for additional if low pay.

            They get a few holidays that the rest of us don't. Most of my summers were spent teaching, or taking classes to stay up in my profession. I didn't get to slack but for a couple of weeks, which is less than my professional peers did. I got a nice holiday break in the winter; that part was good. Others in my profession, do, too.

            And, I put up and dealt daily with extraordinary discipline problems, not to count the developmentally disabled and disadvantaged individuals, each with their own circumstances. It's what I was paid for. Today, the problems are more severe and the regulatory/compliance environment problems are exacerbated by parents that don't have time for their children, or let WoW or an Xbox or Family Guy babysit them while they deal with their own stressed out, post-divorce lives. Add in the sociopaths, the drug-enabled, and the litigation prone, and it's a mess. I feel for both students and teachers who are there to learn and teach. It's not easy. Yes, other professions have their stress and they're also crappier jobs, and those that are entirely thankless. But teachers and students are the next generation and embody the hopes of the current ones, and ones past. My hat is off to them, a phase that translates to my respect for their difficult job.
      • Go talk to a real teacher instead of reading reports. My wife has been a teacher for over 15 years and has only just now crossed that median salary you mention above. I don't know where those numbers are coming from but they don't mention what the experience/longevity is for the wage they mention. Those median salaries take 10-15 years to reach. Those numbers are close to starting salaries for IT so there is a 10 year spread. In addition the cap on teaching wages vs the cap in the tech industry probabl
        • Amen to this. My son's Kindergarten (yes folks....KINDERGARTEN) teacher is there by at least 6 am and I have seen her there as late as yes....8 pm. The parents all send a snack in with the kids on a rotating basis and the teacher is in the rotation. I have seen her grading papers, thinking about class projects, participating in the PTA and also helping the PTA out on fundraisers on a weekend (Christmas Shoppe we put together for the kids). The one thing I did find out about this teacher and many others
      • So all in all I don't beleave teacher are either UnderPaid or overpaid, they are getting a fair wage.

        How many blue-collar-salary jobs with a Masters degree requirement necessitate your bringing your work home with you?

      • I once knew a teacher who was nearly terminated from her job for physically interfering with a pre-school age boy who was standing on desks and peeing on the other preschoolers. The most important course a teacher takes is the one on anger management skills. If we all had better anger management skills, Windows would never have been such a problem in the first place.
      • "At first glance, it is hard to see how the market for teachers could fail. True, most teachers' salaries are set by governments in a noncompetitive environment. But candidates choose freely whether to become teachers, in full knowledge of what salaries they will receive. In this sense, the people who choose to become teachers are paid a salary commensurate with their skills, preferences, and working conditions. These teachers are not underpaid relative to what they could earn in other occupations.

        "But wh

    • K-12 teachers are underpaid, and generally lack a lot of computer skills that are necessary to make free-OSS work.

      K-12 teachers are underpaid, and generally lack a lot of computer skills that are necessary to make computer work, period. And we can't blame them for that : they're teacher after after all, their job is to teach kids. Making computer work is the work of computer technician. If you believe that teachers without access to a good tech have an easy time making proprietary software work, you

    • K-12 teachers are underpaid, and generally lack a lot of computer skills that are necessary to make free-OSS work.

      We're not talking about K-12, we're talking about Higher-Education, ie College.As one of the admins for my the Engineering College at my university, I have these comments:

      We have a handful of professors who refuse to run windows. We have more faculty that are involved in research projects with undergraduate students they found was more productive on linux. We have deployed group workstations for
      • Time goes on, and attitudes will change. Quality usually becomes apparent and lives a long life. Linux and other free/OSS sources become more usable as time goes by, and MacOS and others also continue to evolve.

        Getting the word out is the hardest part. Once adopted, academia doesn't change that much. But there must be a huge mass near as academia has a time warp around it sometimes. I don't have a CS degree because no one in this state offered one that didn't involve arcaic IBM mainframes during my college
    • I wonder how you managed to relate underpaid to lack of skills. Just skimming around, I can find a lot of people lacking skills and highly paid. Like former Enron, WorldCom CEOs, just to randomly pick some in the lot.

      If teachers are no longer interested in learning, this explain why they are no longer able to teach.

      Also, how much more difficult is OSS compare to Windoze stuff? I just don't see the point. And are the teachers doing all the IT infrastructure stuff in their schools? Of course not. So, again,

    • Teachers are underpaid because the money goes to big IT companies and others. If just a few schools invested their IT budgets in Free Software development/sponsorship, then every other school would get the features they need for FREE, forever.
    • K-12 teachers are underpaid, and generally lack a lot of computer skills that are necessary to make free-OSS work.

      I run a nonprofit geared towards giving away free computers to underprivileged kids (refurbished older gear running Kubuntu). It has so far been a great success. The school system where I live has just asked me to kit out a few standalones for their Special Ed classrooms, after teachers were so impressed with the Linux desktop. I do not think you give the faculty nearly enough credit.
  • by macsox (236590)
    This is not meant to be a troll, but submitter -- time to look in the FUD mirror.

    As a Mac zealot myself, I recognize in your 'I suspect...' statement the painful sort of denial of the obvious of which we are always accused.

    I always tell people, who ask how I could possibly be an atheist, to go to church just once and think about everything that is said as if there is no God, and to realize how silly and contradictory it sounds. I'd suggest the same to you with this article. Go back and read it as though y
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I suspect they are responsible for the lack of good shows on TV, also.

    • What you say about your atheism seems a bit weird to me: whether I believe in God or not, or which point of view I choose, doesn't affect my reasoning principles. I mean, you have hypotheses upon which you build a reasoning, and this logic has nothing to do with your beliefs (which actually are hypotheses in the reasoning!).

    • I suggest you don't apply this test to your marriage...
    • Re:*sigh* (Score:2, Interesting)

      by IflyRC (956454)
      I agree with everything except for the atheist comments used in the example. I actually have done what you described and honestly I didn't find it silly. I found the message to be uplifting and pointing people in the right direction whether it be spiritual or ethical. Now, should the person I was listening to be Pat Robertson then it does become a different matter - but again, you cannot judge an entire group based on the fringe. In closing, the exercise you described did not sway me toward atheism, it rein
  • 'The biggest thing is it takes more physical labor to implement open source because it isn't pre-packaged,' Abel said.

    Isn't the whole point of college the fact that everyone there is looking for work?

    Next on Slashdot: Wooden bats doomed in baseball because they require pro athletes to practice.
    • exactly what I was thinking too. Not only did I see this report as a sign that OSS was gaining in ED, but also a sign that we should start seeing the schools with good CS departments start building their own software in the near future. And sharing it with the other schools too. There's no competition between schools with regard to who has the better online bookstore, online admission system, etc. Sharing these tools allows each location to spend more on actual education and phyical infrastructure.

      OSS can a
  • "Are the staffing issues associated with OSS enough to outweigh the benefits?"

    Let me play devil's advocate, since I do support OSS.

    Please keep in mind that many corporations offer their products at a substantial discount to Educational Institution. For example. I work for a hardware (not as in PCs) that offers a minimum discount of 25% and up to 50% depending on proudct line to any educational institution. Our support model is the same. An application engineer will come out and help students/factility o
    • many corporations offer their products at a substantial discount to Educational Institution

      Yes, for academic institutes, the money savings of OSS may be less significant. Then again, perhaps support contracts from OSS vendors (Red Hat, etc.) also have educational discounts? I don't really know.

      So, from an education point of view, what are the these benefits that OSS offers which need to be out weighed?

      You've only mentioned money. Well, for education, I would think the ability to modify, tinker an
      • "You've only mentioned money. Well, for education, I would think the ability to modify, tinker and truly control the computer would be crucial (assuming that learning about how computers work is an objective... as opposed to just memorizing how to use particular applications)."
        For a computer science major yes. For the majority of kids in K-12 not at all. Just like most people don't know how to tinker with their car, build a house, or make a fire without using matches most people don't have much use for know
  • by jellomizer (103300) * on Thursday March 02, 2006 @12:26PM (#14835289)
    They don't trust the Kids to fix the problem with the systems. The teachers and Computer Illerate. And the reason the IT Staff is working for the School is because no one else will hire them. So you need 3rd part support to keep things somewhat running. Sure there are some school districts out there that have a good IT policy and OSS software would work great with them. But most that I have seem have no Idea what the C O M P U T E R thing is and really what to do with it.

    Odly enough the school offered better computer classes back in the late 80s then they do now.

    OSS is fine for education if you have some people who understand it just a little. But most schools compter literate and IT staff means you can reinstall an OS when it crashes and add a Cat 5 cord to the switch.
    • I'll agree that you're accurate on some of what you've said, but personally I'll take issue with your assessment of my skills as the technology director for a school district. I'll match my skills with yours any day of the week. Now, maybe I'm the exception in that area. I have made an incredible push in my district this year, to the tune of converting all of our Windows-based labs to thin-client machines running off LTSP servers. you are correct in your assessment that teachers are resistant to this id
      • I'll take issue with your assessment of my skills
        I wasn't taking saying anything about any ones indivual skills but more of a General Average Skillset I have seen, in eduaction, and much of the aditudes I have seen. I have seen some School districts that have excelent IT staff who are on the ball. But most are Sub Par.

        I myself is use to hearing insults about my Professon (Consultant/Contractor), who are no skilled Overpriced Techs, who just follow the gargin of their Partnered company. While I for one t
    • And the reason the IT Staff is working for the School is because no one else will hire them.

      This is just plain wrong. A good friend of mine left a job not that long ago in the private sector to to go work in a University's IT department. He did it because the work environment is a lot better. It has nothing to do with his talents.

      Most of the people that I've known who worked in University IT deparments did so because:

      1) They like the environment better than the private sector.
      2) Job stability
      3) Just grad
      • A good friend of mine left a job not that long ago in the private sector to to go work in a University's IT department.

        School != University.

        In all fairness, the parent's comment is probably a reasonable generalisation, though it's not true in all cases.

        In the UK, for example, there seem to be two ways to run a business:

        1. Produce a half-decent product/service, hire good staff, work with your customers to give them the results they want. Try and get people and/or businesses to buy your product/service.

        2.
    • As an Open Source advocate, I hate to say this, but I agree.

      As a small business owner, I am working on an open source project for higher education. The first obstacle I had to pass over was the thought that OSS needs to be 100% free as in beer.

      What I hope will make my project work where other OSS has failed, is paid support, paid implementation, and the ability for customizations to be covered by said support. By charging a fraction of the cost of the closed source equivalent, but providing the same, if n
    • It is my policy to never point out grammar or spelling mistakes on forums unless I am quoting someone, can't understand the intended meaning, or that is the purpose of the forum or thread. I just thought it was amusing that in an a thread about computing and education someone could include so many grammar and spelling mistakes including misspelling 'illiterate.'

      To get on topic though, I really think this varies from school to school. Some educational institutions employ and create more OSS than nearly an

    • Sorry...reason I work here is I have been here 10 years and don't want to loose a week vacation unless I get what I want. It's not that I can't get employed anywhere else and we DO use OSS here.....ALOT.
    • I don't normally feed trolls, but what the heck...

      I am a network and system admin for an elementary school district. I have a BSCS and almost ten years of industry experience. I know my way around a server room.

      I don't work in Education because no one else would hire me, I work in education because schools and school districts need IT people too. Sure the pay isn't great, but I have more freedom to experiement with projects that interst me, and I feel like I'm making a difference. Most people who work i
  • At my alma mater, the IT people implemented a RHEL lab for the CS majors. They didn't actually disable any of the "no no" services like SSH, and each of the lab's PCs had an IP address that was visible outside of the university. Anyone could have opened a remote connection to these machines.

    Open source stuff only takes a lot more time and money to implement if your IT people just don't know what they're doing. I'm not a sysadmin, but I doubt that it's anything other than the golden rule of "you get what you
    • SSH is about the only port you would want to leave open to the outside world on a workstation. Many *nix machines are set up like that, so people can log in and run things remotely.
    • We had a similar lab at my school. Being a CS student, I actually used an SSH tunnel to a random machine in our block of machines to run mozilla over so I could get access to all the school subscribed journals and such at home.
      If they had let, say, a telnet server or web server on there, that's a different story. But SSH is relatively safe. It's designed specifically to be a safe way of accessing a computer remotely.
    • So it's dumb to provide the ability to remotely access the exact same enviornment that the students use in the lab?

      Don't have a copy of matlab on your windows PC at home? Well, just pick a color, and ssh to color.labs.cs.foo.edu. Then you can do your work.

      This isn't dumb, or an oversight.. It is intentional.

      Note: I used to sysadmin for a university, and we did this for exactly this reason. Having publicly accessable machines was policy, as sometimes students were coming from off campus, or were faculty f
    • ...not make up silly excuses about the choice of platform for your IT infrastructure.

      They didn't actually disable any of the "no no" services like SSH, and each of the lab's PCs had an IP address that was visible outside of the university.

      It does seem off to "waste" good public IPs on lab workstations but depending on the era when things were set up that was commonplace. The workstations at my alma mater also had public IPs, but back then Internet meant Telnet, FTP, Gopher, Archie, WAIS and this new-fangle
  • Let the Kids do it! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rewinn (647614) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @12:31PM (#14835329) Homepage

    What is "Education" supposed to be anyway?

    Primary school kids may be too young to do operating systems, (...although a smart 3rd grader can certainly downloard & install OpenOffice with a little supervision ...) but middle schoolers can definitely install OS's with a little supervision, and high-schoolers should be able to keep the computers running in the school district's kindergartens.

    Not every kid will have the desire, but if only 5% of your highschoolers have an interest in technology: problem solved!

    Any school district that is paying for its office software is wasting Our Money! and if they are not using this opportunity to train up kids to run computer system, that's a waste too.

    • >You really trust any of those students not to install: games pr0n key loggers root kits mp3s and ripped copies of major motion pictures that the riaa will sue the school over and other surprises?

      Normally I ignore Anonymous Coward, but he makes my point for me.

      Kids are going to do things that are stupid, immoral and/or illegal. That's part of being a kid. Education is, in part, about teaching them to tell what is stupid, immoral and/or illegal.

      It's better they learn this stuff and make their mistake

  • Linux: Needs an administrator with at least 2^8 functioning brain cells.

    Windows: Needs an administrator with experience in practicing voodoo.

  • Open Source is a development model with specific licensing requirements, and as such it seems ridiculous to evaluate its suitabilty for "Prime Time" You might just as well pick a selection of random Closed Source software and evaluate the how suitable these are for "Prime Time"

    A bunch of developers is a bunch of developers it makes no difference whether the product they work on is Open Source or Closed Source. I dont see how development model can be evaluated in this way. What counts is the end product. The
    • It makes it a lot easier to teach how the computer works if you have the source code to all of the software, both OS and applications, running on it. That way the students can both learn by studying the source and experiment by making changes.

      I am sure that the provision many (in computing terms) years ago of the Unix source code to educational establishments not only helped many students learn about computing and provided ready made material for the classes but also helped to spread the use of Unix in indu
  • by blueZ3 (744446) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @12:43PM (#14835447) Homepage
    Of course vendor support and/or getting a complete package is a big part of the picture.

    A lot of teachers have to do their own IT work. In my school, there was an IT supported computer lab (with about 20 three-year-old PCs). If there was a problem in the lab, you either fixed it yourself, or waited three or four days until one of the IT guys from the district office could come out and troubleshoot. This means that something that's familiar (Windows, Office, etc) is a better bet for a lot of teachers, because it's a lot easier to figure out how to resolve a problem with something you're already familiar with. Printing is a good example; if the printer went on the fritz, I already knew the five Windows-centric things to try. If the computers had been running Linux, I'd have had no idea (at that point) where to start.

    Another issue is that most teachers aren't geeks, so they want a "just works" system. They don't want to have to fiddle around to get things working--they want to insert the Oklahoma Trail CD and have the students playing the game. Right or wrong, there's a perception that "other" operating systems are more complicated. When you're at school eight hours, then at home grading and planning for a couple hours, and commuting thirty minutes a day, you just don't want to add anything else that takes time.

    Both of these issues mean that teachers believe that OSS isn't "ready" for educational use. Of course, a lot of that is perception. Remember that most non-techies are a few years behind the curve, so a lot of them don't know about Linux distros like Ubuntu or about OSS programs like Open Office.

    Finally, there isn't really a lot of appealing software out there (OSS or closed source) for educational use. Indeed, there isn't really a strong argument to be made in favor of using computers in the classroom in the first place. In my opinion (which is based on three years of teaching experience), a lot of computer use in classrooms is misdirected--it's generally intended to be used as a reward or an activity to keep part of the class quiet while the rest of the students do something else. It's not that OSS isn't ready for education, it's that educators haven't yet worked out how to fit computers into education in an effective way.
    • Good points a few responses.

      Unix systems are let less management intensive on networks. You may find that IT guys can handle problems much more easily on a Unix based system. To use your printing example the typically Unix based printing systems LP, LPR, Cups are all designed to be administered remotely not locally. They are all designed to generate automated error reports which can be emailed to administrators. LPR and CUPS are designed to be robust and fail less often. The fact is for an administrato
      • 1) There are no licensing issues so programs can be moved freely

        Most schools don't care or get a site license so this really is not an issue.

        2) The system ships with hundreds of educational packages preinstalled

        Ok....how many of these hgave any of these teachers heard about man? I will tell you it's a big fat ZERO.

        3) The OS can be designed around children's needs (no model of a uniform interface for all users)

        Children are a hell of a lot more flexible then the teachers are because they don't know anything
        • 2) The system ships with hundreds of educational packages preinstalled

          Ok....how many of these hgave any of these teachers heard about man? I will tell you it's a big fat ZERO.


          So what? The math teacher can look in the docs for "math education middle school" and try out a dozen apps to see which ones he wants to use.

          Children are a hell of a lot more flexible then the teachers are because they don't know anything and one of the big ways they learn is exploring. Teachers can get stuck in a rut.

          Adult interf
          • bi-lingual is beneficial without a doubt. But simply teaching in a foreign language to prevent the need to learn the second language is not. This is the United States and all citizens whether children or adult should be required to learn English and use it in public interactions.
      • To use your printing example the typically Unix based printing systems LP, LPR, Cups are all designed to be administered remotely not locally. They are all designed to generate automated error reports which can be emailed to administrators. LPR and CUPS are designed to be robust and fail less often. The fact is for an administrator its very useful that LPR and Cups expose the administrator to the details of communication and allow these to be modified in easy ways.

        If you know how to do all those things you
        • Not sure who schools hire for IT. I'm arguing it works out cheaper and thus you can replace 3 $30k admins with one $80k admin (and including benefits that's a lot of savings). OTOH a business can outsource their IT administration if they need less then one full time Unix admin. I think it runs something like $20k/ year for 5 hours a week of support (that's very good admin quality) with more support during outages emergencies....

  • "You have to have software developers that can make this stuff work."

    Or a bunch of clever kids, which are in ample supply in the classroom. Just b/c the average idiot teacher can't do it doesn't mean it can't be done. Even my own highschool, poorest in the county, was able to handle two DEC workstations I won in a contest, b/c they let my team and I admin them. To his credit, one of the teachers involved was also a hacker capable admining them as well.

    This reminds me of a recent Air Force recruitin
    • yet whoever made and approved that commercial (presumably adults) thought it was and had no idea what real l33t skillz are.

      While this is likely a true statement, it is also way besides the point.
      The people who put the commercial together had about four seconds of time to give the kid... it's kind of hard to show off any "real l33t skillz" in four seconds. On top of that, that commercial isn't really aimed at the true hackers (who I would guess wouldn't fit in too well in a military environment, but that mi
  • It seems that everything is subject to the tyranny of the bell-shaped curve. Institutes of higher education that have smart and effective leadership and staffing will weigh all of their options carefully and deploy a mix of OSS and proprietary software appropriate to their environment. But the bell-shaped curve tells us that it is likely that places like this are few in number. Most of what we'll see will be in the big bump in the middle and will be heavily influenced by marketing and FUD to "play it safe"
  • Most schools in the U.S. are run autonomously. Typically there's a "technology" instructor, or maybe a single sysadmin split among two or three schools, or some combination.

    Schools are subject to school boards and parents. Parents are hypersensitive about little Janie and Johnny getting behind, and they don't want anything that means Janie or Johnny won't have the most popular thing. The system is extremely risk-intolerant, ruled by the LCD. Individual parents may be smart, but get them together and you
  • Know what TCO studies and IT White Papers remind me of? Expert Witnesses in courtrooms. The prosecution and plaintiff attorneys will both bring in highly qualified experts in a given field to testify on something. Remarkable that these expert witnesses agree exactly with thier side on the issue. You can get an expert witness to testify on your behalf in just about any area, as long as the price (or agenda) is right. Same thing with these reports and TCO studies. They always exactly reflect the views of thei
  • The article summary (can't read the entire article without subscribing) is addressing concerns that open source can not fill the business specific software requirements for higher education institutions (curriculum management, etc). This is not talking about web servers, word processors or other generic software systems. This open source limitation is true in many industries.

    Most open source developers do not have the business expertise to attack vertical software markets, nor do many of the people who kn
  • Here, in schools (Score:3, Informative)

    by phorm (591458) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @12:54PM (#14835544) Journal
    Well, here I am working in schools. Our elementary school labs are almost entirely linux. The kids actually quite like it, the teachers sometimes don't... or at least the older teachers. Now why is that... because people seem to dislike change at older ages.

    Last time I setup a basic Open-Source lab (Abiword, OpenOffice, Firefox, GIMP, etc) the kids had figured out tricks that I hadn't even touched. They had gorgeous Impress (Openoffice program similar to Powerpoint) presentations, and were happily playing with penguin games. In fact, if there's anything the kids love about linux most it's the penguins... they draw penguin pictures, have stuffed penguin toys, play penguin games, etc. Of course OSS isn't just about Linux, there's BSD (which we also use) and even windows OSS applications as well (the aforementioned Impress was actually the windows version).

    Going back to the games, it seems that in the OS world games are often more "wholesome" than many of the windows components. Of course, part of this is probably due to the fact that many popular linux games are based on old classics (Frozen-Bubble, SuperTux, Pingus == Arcade Bubble Game, Mario, Lemmings)... but that does tend to make it overall kid and/or educational-environment friendly.
  • I know someone working in k-3 education and they have been given a number of nice computers to use for testing and education purposes. I hear daily stories of horror issues that just drive the teachers crazy. These are Mac's they've been given suprisingly enough. They have no staff trained to use them, and whoever set them up got clever by putting the Dock in a non-standard place with hiding turned on and all sorts of other special customizations.

    The programs they're supposed to use are pretty basic "multip
  • I guess, I'm wondering what the alternative is to OSS at least in the CS field? Since Microsoft and other closed source companies don't publish their source, how can you study it? At my school, we studied Minix (which is open source). I suppose it would be interesting to have studied Windows, but since we can't view the source, so there's not much to study.
  • Cisco and companies that develop for MSFT platforms. What conclusion did you think they were going to reach? Every school that installs F/OSS is lost business for them. It's like expecting the Beef Council to run an Eat Chicken campaign.

    Heaven forbid any of these companies would have to take their gravy train product line and port it to another platform. *shudder* That would mean actually working for living! What are you, a Democrat? I bet you don't even have a gardener, do you?

  • For what it's worth, at my wife's school, they're using some new whiz-bang Windows based testing software that's supposed to automate the taking and grading of some types of testing. Worked fine on the first server but when they moved the system to a new server (should have been no big deal), fails totally. Login, pull up a test, enter result #1, lights out on the entire system.
    They've been fighting the problem for at least a week.

    Don't know the details but even if it's something simple like a config sett
  • It depends whether the end-game is a 'commercial' education or a 'free' education.

    If you have in mind that the purpose of education is to enrich the education providers, then you should stick with commercial software.

    If you have in mind the the purpose of education is to enable those being educated to be self-sufficient in all respects, then you should aim for free software; and you should view non-free software as a stepping-stone to 'free'

    The commercial providers will move on to other things; in this c

  • And fact checking. And interface checking. AKA what some folks would call "pre-packaging".

    What works is when there is sort of an open source "fact community" around an educational project that can use a common interface to do the "educational packaging" without racking up the costs of content experts, etc.

  • And being used at a number of US institutions (San Francisco State University, Humboldt State University, etc.) and worldwide, with large installations in New Zealand (NZVLE 45,000 students), a number of 10-20,000 student installations in Spain and France, the Open University of the UK is building out for 160,000 students next year, etc.

    In fact the install base of Moodle rivals Blackboard/WebCT:
    More http://www.moodle.org/stats [moodle.org]

    What people say about it [humboldt.edu]
  • by mikeb (6025) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @02:18PM (#14836311) Homepage
    In my experience of secondary education in the UK, the lack of support is a key issue in holding back the acceptance of FLOSS in schools. Not the kind of join-a-mailing-list-and-ask support at which most FLOSS packages excel (I find Debian especially good for that) but a different kind of support which is harder for individual package developers to put in place. From what I see, most hard-pressed teachers and heads want someone they can ring and to whom they can, essentially, say "I want to buy one of those" whilst they point to a solution that someone else is already running. The next problem for them is "if I buy that, where can I get a technician to run it?"

    They don't want to roll-their-own FLOSS implemenation, they just want stuff that works and needs no wizard to keep it running.

    Most schools in the UK can't even pay enough to get good *windows* support technicians, let alone get support for a GNU/Linux guru.

    As more are brave enough to go ahead anyhow, the situation will ease but this is a classic symptom of a technically-led young sub-industry - infrastructure like support services will only develop when an emerging pool of early adopters grows to sufficient size.

    Because of that, and because of the need for a recognised brand in this area, I have worked on solving some of those issues through Cutter [cutterproject.co.uk] which does provide a pre-packaged and commercially supported 'solution' for shools. Others will probably do so as well. Mostly it's a matter of time but nobody should really be surprised by that finding.
  • Are there any colleges not using Linux, or Apache, or OSS mail servers, DNS servers, FTP servers, etc?

    When I go back to visit my old school there are labs with 50 or more linux workstations in almost every building, or every building I walk into anyway.

  • It is true that projects to cover education-specific needs haven't gotten particularly far, most likely because it's a relatively specialized field that doesn't have too many developers actually in it, and open source developers working on software they aren't planning to use themselves are easily distracted.

    For general stuff, projects are generally in the stage of being about as good as closed-source products, but not compellingly better. There's a lot of interest and pilot programs, but relatively little
  • by edremy (36408) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @03:11PM (#14836820) Journal
    The answer is "maybe". It completely depends on the application and how technical your people are. Hiring someone who can manage an OSS course management system is going to cost more than a Blackboard support person. Will you make it up in not paying Blackboard? Maybe. Can you get a replacement person when the OSS guy gets hit by a bus or gets offered more money? Maybe.

    The latter one is worrying my boss. I support an OS CMS (Dokeos), OS electronic porfolio (OSPI), OS image management system (MDID) and a few others. I'm the only guy here who understands them- everything else here is Windows/IIS other than the portal. What happens when I leave? You put out an ad for "Academic technology person: Blackboard experience" and you'll get dozens of applications. Put one out for Sakai, Moodle or the even more obscure Dokeos and you'll be lucky to get one. You need to get someone who can program, who isn't afraid of unfamiliar code and who can still do the rest of the job.

    Can you buy support from someone like RedHat? Sometimes, but a lot of academic stuff is pretty obscure, not used by more than a few dozen schools and highly specialized. We have support for our OSS portal (uPortal) but frankly it sucks- the latest upgrade was a nightmare, managed by paid support people who could barely understand the system. We're still trying to figure out all the details in various places because a key person left suddenly.

    At least with a company you have someone to blame. It may not help (I'm fighting a commercial company with utterly worthless support and a badly broken product right now) but I can point the finger at them and say "It's their fault, not ours!"

  • At my university (10'000+ students), more and more of the students facilities are switched to GNU/Linux (already more than half of it). We used to be a 40% Solaris/40% Windows/20% others shop, now we are a 60% GNU/Linux/20% Windows/5% Solaris/15% others (Mac, SGI, etc.) site.

    But hey, this is Europe, no idea about the US.

  • When it comes to software used in education, shouldn't the students be part of the system? When I was in high school and college the computer systems and other specialised equipment that students used, from glassware to oscilloscopes, from sports equipment to metalworking tools, were maintained by students and staff working together.

    That's what computers in education should be all about!

    Now if you're talking about the administrative systems, the front- and back- office systems that the students don't have a
  • I'm getting really tired of comments like "OSS isn't pre-packaged, so it's hard to get working" and "you need to be a developer to get OSS to work". These comments are symptomatic of an idea that adoption of OSS must be all-or-nothing.

    Let's take a look at Higher Education, since that's the topic at hand. Let's assume that the OS of choice, here, is Windows -- and for desktops, it probably will continue to be for some time, as you need affordable on-site Help Desk staff and such isn't widely available yet.
  • At my kids' school, they use Linux in one "lab" and Windows 95 (you read that right) in another. Somebody donated a bunch of machines with 95 on them and they don't care to upgrade them. I probably don't have to tell you which lab is cheaper to run by an order of magnitude than the other.

    Now, it's Win95 so that's not a fair comparison as opposed to XP. But, even so, the other arguments are bunk. The kids learn just fine using Linux, and the lab is much cheaper to run since it's all running off a central
  • by davek (18465) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @07:40PM (#14839048) Homepage Journal
    I've been tossing the idea around about selling some open source project ideas to my old high school. When it comes to the labor of installation and maintainence that usually comes with open source projects, I see this as the very REASON I would use this in class. Fixing all those little tedious bugs associated with any open source project are a great way to learn how operating systems work.

    Open source too much labor for education? FUD.

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