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[school-discuss] Open Source and Quality...
I have been teaching ICT for four years in a secondary school in the UK
and have always been an open source advocate. Unfortunately the picture
I have seen so far is that most of the closed source software vendors
(such as Microsoft, RM and co) have nearly 100% of the market.
It is actually extremely difficult to convince people of the benefits of
Open Source, except for the part that "it is free" (no charge).
Most of the ICT Techician I know have been trained on Microsoft products
and feel quite uncomfortable to go for other solutions as it "would take
too much time and they have others things to do".
Although, some Open Source software have no closed source equivalent,
they offer greater flexibility, but not everybody is convinced by these
advantages...as far as I know.
After many discussion with my Technicians friends, I actually think that
the problem is not really about the benefits of using Open Source
software but more about:
1) Difficulty to setup/ install
2) No really big player in the sector of open source services for education
3) No apparent support (concept of community that is not totally understood)
4) Lack of time to dedicate to train on a specific technology
There is a sort of reluctance to specialise and spend time learning a
new tools when other vendors will promise lots of things (and most of
the time deliver only three quarter of it) including easiness to
install, manage, use... and support !
For example, it is difficult to "sell" Alfresco when MS Sharepoint is
delivered on a CD with all installation and a free training, not only
because the price tag (which was there in favour of Microsoft,
surprisingly) , but also because of the "support" which is seen as
superior, coming from a well known company.
The funny thing is that the people with whom I talked, were not
reluctant to pay to have an Open Source product installed, but they were
just fearful that after the contractor left, nothing would be
working...The problem is not the price, but the guarantee of support
when things go wrong. Hence, preference is given to closed source
In fact, I only understood recently that what is definitively missing
from Open Source software in Education is a quality certification. Not
for the Software itself, but certification and quality insurance from
the service (provided by the contractor or the company they have
delegated the setup/install/customisation/support).
Some companies have already thought of this but it is still done in a
sort of "proprietary way" (Linagora in France for example) and practice
is not really shared amongst the community.
We need to reassure customers... maybe through quality assessment.
Here is the idea:
Quality Certification Organisation: the entity to be created that will
assess the quality of Open Source provision.
The Open Source Software Provider is a company or an entity providing a
software and some level of support/customisation. It is not necessarily
the entity which created the software.
Quality Mark for Open Source Educational Software: will be the
accreditation from the Quality Certification Organisation (there could
be different levels like bronze, silver, gold...).
The Customer could either be a School or a subject leader or a LEA...
Create a organisation (Quality Certification Organisation) that would:
1) Guarantee a level of service and quality from Open Source Software
2) Provide an up to date list of Open Source Software Provider and help
customers to find another Open Source Software Provider that would
provide the same or better level of services.
3) Help Open Source Software Provider and Customer agree on a contract
that would ensure that a level of quality has been met in the delivery
of the services.
4) Provide training to Open Source Software Provider in order to meet
5) Provide a permanent storage for the documents created and delivered
to the customer from the Open Source Software Provider.
The fee for certification should be quite moderate (around £200/£300) so
that small Open Source Software Provider can take part. This will only
cover the running of the Quality Certification Organisation. The
Organisation should be a non-profit organisation so to avoid any bias
and be able to share its standards and criteria with the community (so
marking and certification documents should also be Open Source).
In this way customers would be reassured that if they adopt an open
source solution with an Open Source Software Provider they will always
find someone to speak to in case of problems (including another Open
Source Software Provider). They would also have a guarantee in term of
the quality of the delivery. It will then make the adoption of Open
Source solutions a bit easier to "sell".
It will also allow small Open Source Software Provider to build a
network, benefiting everyone.
What do you think ? Anyone interested in setting up something like this ?