Open-source advocates: Academia, industry must play nice


Despite the emergence of international open technology communities such as Sakai and Kuali—which began with six universities in 2004—Thirsk said the heads of campus IT departments often avoid open-source options, sticking with closed systems that have dominated business and education for decades.

“Other CIOs see risk, or simply don’t understand how serious the developers and governing bodies that oversee communities are about quality,” he said. “While we don’t adopt all open projects, we do believe they will be the mainstay of software development of the future.”

Another open-source development that has drawn praise from educators: Echo360, maker of a popular lecture-capture system, announced Sept. 6 that professors using the company’s video and multimedia tools could make their class material available for any educator using the open-source learning management system Moodle.

Echo360 officials said the growing appeal of open technologies in higher education motivated the company’s developers to incorporate open web sharing into their college platform.

“Many institutions choose Moodle because of its flexibility for instructors. [Our] Moodle integration embraces this approach,” said Fred Singer, CEO of Echo360, which partnered with educational technology group NetSpot to develop the open-source resource for professors and students.

NetSpot, based in New Zealand, hosts eLearning platforms for 600,000 users worldwide, according to the organization’s website.

Another lecture-capture software that lets viewers watching professors’ online videos to zoom and pan around recorded images will make the software’s program code available as open source and encourage campus IT officials and students to contribute.

Developers of ClassX software, the lecture-capture program created by an engineer at Stanford University, hope to make text-to-speech options—among other features—available through advancements made in the open-source community.