Open Source in Education

Open Source in EducationVarious, via KairosNews)

KairosNews has a few good links to articles about the open source movement. “Open Source and Education: A Sea Change?” is a roundup of links to recent “rumblings” on open-source content. Most exciting is the Chronicle of Higher Ed’s report on a multi-million-dollar effort to create an open-source course-management tool.

Charlie’s post links to a page that is in the Chronicle’s “temp” directory, so I won’t repeat it here… you can find it on the KairosNews entry. Charlie notes with amusement the reaction of the chairman of Blackboard (a commercial provider of course-management tools), who uses the standard FUD defense in order to scare potential users away from open-source (and thus protect his revenue stream).

I don’t like using commercial course-management tools because I don’t like the idea of putting so much work into a database that is only accessible as long as we have subscribed to the service. I understand that Seton Hill has recently churned through two or three of these course management tools, requiring faculty to re-learn a new system each time. We’re currently using J-web, but I only use it to post a link to my online syllabus, to post final grades, and to take attendance. But even then I find it limiting… there’s no way to differentiate between an excused absence and an unexcused absence. If I cancel class for a day, or want to take attendance at an extra-curricular event, there’s no way for me to add or remove columns. If a student comes in late or leaves early, there is no way for me to record a partial absence.

Now, if there were a way that I could use XML to label the various components of my online syllabus, and then run a utility that would slurp up all that data into the standard course management interface that the students are familiar with from their other classes, that would be useful.