Open-source advocates: Academia, industry must play nice

Open-source software allows even students to contribute code.

Compromise between the Ivory Tower and industry, IT experts say, is the future of open-source technologies in higher education.

Mainstreaming open, collaborative technologies in colleges and universities will require a delicate balance of vendor involvement and experimentation among campus technology decision makers who are willing to stray from the technological old school.

Combining academic ideals with the prowess and resources of industry has become a reality already, as campus IT leaders move freely from one sector to the other—blending the best of academia and business to create software that is open for tinkering and supported with corporate capital.

Advancements in ‘project-driven work’

Advocates of the academic-industrial approach to open technologies have touted SunGard Higher Education’s unveiling of a shared code repository for colleges nationwide, removing redundant expenditures for campuses hoping to develop attendance-tracking software, for example, with no outside help.

SunGard’s shared repository—made secure from unauthorized users—supports multiple code variants, features requests, and assignment tracking, and it lets campus IT officials contribute to programs, applications, and platforms that colleagues from other institutions launched in the repository.

Bill Thirsk, vice president of IT and chief information officer of Marist College in New York, said SunGard’s campus-based collaboration, since being introduced last spring, has created a larger team of college contributors than he’s ever seen.

“Already, there are more institutions involved in this repository than I have ever experienced in my 25 years of involvement on local and project-driven work,” Thirsk said. “I think open technologies are more tilted to higher ed, but I am still a little surprised at some CIOs’ skeptical view of [them].”

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