Randy Metcalfe from OSS Watch gave an overview of Open Source Software using the recent decision by the Open University to chose Moodle as its VLE platform. The aim of OSS Watch is to help institutions think through the implications of becoming involved with OSS.
The OU VLE procurement process included the evaluation of a wide range of OSS and proprietary platforms leading to the choice of Moodle which stood head and shoulders above any other of the products looked at. The implications of this are that the OU will spend £4 million to develop core Moodle components (in addition to money earmarked for internal development – OU skinning, training, support, roll-out, etc.) in effect committing to support the Moodle project in the writing of software that is copyrighted with the permissions to use, pass on, and alter the source code that tends to follow open standards.
The OU aren’t alone, OSS Watch studies show that in the UK in 2003 Moodle had virtually no take-up. However, study in March 2006, showed that 56% of FE colleges are using Moodle!
So how should a procurement process run?
Clearly, rather than ad hoc choices being made a process that uses evidence based decision making is required and there are two steps to this.
Firstly, a needs analysis of institutional and users requirements.
Secondly, an evaluation of the different software options (Developed from Randy’s talk):
- focus on technical and end-user requirements – can it do what you want it to?
- explore the development of the user communities – is there a high level of engagement by both the enterprise adopters and developers communities that are willing to share their expertise and knowledge for free
- consider the Business Readiness Rating (BRR) of the software – is the open source software you are considering mature enough to adopt with confidence
Once the information is gathered, the merits of the different software options can be judged against the needs analysis undertaken to identify the best solution for needs – a rationale informed choice!
Randy left us with some key facts about OSS in UK educational institutions:
- open source is more than just a copyright licensing paradigm, but never less than that
- universities and colleges across the UK use OSS regularly
- institutional engagement with OSS means more than just using it