[Author Prev][Author Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Author Index][Thread Index]

Re: [school-discuss] Open Source and Quality...

L.David wrote:

Hi All,

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 solutions.

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 Provider. 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 the certification. 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 ?

Laurent David

You may like to have a look at the OSC: