Open source

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1 Definition

  • Open source is software that can be modified (because it is distributed along with its source code).
  • Usually (at least at the time of this writing), open source also means free.

See also open content.

2 Typology of open source models

There are several criteria which can be combined:

  1. Cost:
    • Free
    • Free for certain communities
    • Commercial
  2. Open source:
    • Source code is (not) available
  3. Copyright:
    • "Free as beer" (you can do what you want),
    • Restricted to insure "continuation", e.g. GPL style that will not allow you to change copyright on derivative works
    • Restricted to non-profit use
    • Restricted

Of particular interest to education is so-called Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), in whatever combination of "free cost", "open source" and any sort of copyright that allows either free reuse or restricted reuse.

3 Well known copyright schemas

There are many "open source" licenses and variants ! Please follow the links in Wikipedia:Open-source software for details...

3.1 GNU General Public License] (GPL)

GPL grants the recipients the following rights (or freedoms):

  • to run the program, for any purpose.
  • to study how the program works, and modify it. (Access to the source code is a precondition for this)
  • to redistribute copies.
  • to improve the program, and release the improvements to the public. (Access to the source code is a precondition for this)

In addition he GPL seeks to ensure that the above freedoms are preserved in copies and in derivative works. It does this using a legal mechanism known as copyleft.

(see GNU General Public licence or the easier to read Wikipedia: GNU General Public license and Wikipedia: Free software for finer points)

3.2 BSD License

  • This license has few restrictions on it compared to other licenses such as the GNU GPL or even the default restrictions provided by copyright, putting it relatively closer to the public domain.
  • The BSD License has been referred to as copycenter, for comparison to both standard copyright and the GPL's copyleft: "Take it down to the copy center and make as many copies as you want".

(see Wikipedia: BSD license for details).

3.3 Apache license

  • The Apache License (versions 1.0, 1.1, and 2.0) require preservation of the copyright notice and disclaimer, but it is not a copyleft license - it allows use and distribution of the source code in both open source and closed source software.
  • This license is used by all "Apache" products (e.g. the Apache webserver), but other people adopted it as well.

(see Wikipedia: Apache License for details).

3.4 Creative commons (various variants)

  • Creative commons is a non-profit organization that offers flexible copyright licenses for creative works, e.g. authors, artists and educators. This licence is rarely used for software, but it could in principle (in the same way that open source models are used for contents). See the open content article.

3.5 Eclipse and IBM Public Licences


4 Open source in education

“ The advantage of Open Source Software (OSS) which one hears mentioned most frequently is that it is free and can be adapted and extended to meet ones own needs. More important, in my opinion, is the advantage educational institutes can obtain by applying OSS: to shape e-learning according to a clear vision of the educational methods one plans to apply” (de Vries, 2004).

De Vries (2004) distinguishes four stages or phases of OSS adoption

  1. Promote the use of OS, do not develop yourself under OSS
  2. Develop with OSS in specific projects
  3. Use and development takes place primarily with OSS
  4. Use and development takes place primarily with OSS with active participation in community

The latest model is course the most interesting to us. A lot of people argue that some collaboration in larger framework is needed to gain real cost effectiveness (include more appropriate products).

4.1 OSS Module economies

DSchneider is particularly fond of the "Extensions" or "Module economy" that can develop around open-source Internet Services. A good example are LMS projects like Moodle that attracted many developpers to provide extensions to the core that can then in turn be used by a wider community. An other example are C3MS like PostNuke.

OSS modules can be commercially developed if there a people willing to buy or to sponsor. A nice examples is

  • Cofundus where people can submit projects and then wait for bidders (developers to take care of it). See also an announcement about this website and concept.

5 References and links

  • Fred de Vries (2004): Why should institutions apply Open Source Virtual Learning Environments ? [1] (text) [2] (pdf)