The concept of open-source software seems so firmly entrenched in higher education that it comes as almost a shock to realize there’s actually a debate over it. But debate there was, civilized and trenchant, this week during the annual EDUCAUSE conference on technology in higher education in Orlando, Fla., Network World reports. "It’s really tough to take [commercial software] systems built for a corporate world and stick them into an education world," said Bradley Wheeler, vice president for IT at Indiana University, adding that one recent book estimated education globally would spent $5.5 billion installing ERP software–much of it in modifying commercial software to meet institutional needs. "We spend so much money trying to hard-fit those things in." Countered Adrian Sannier, university technology officer and professor of computing studies at Arizona State University: "I don’t think there’s any reason to believe that we will substantially match our business [with a community-source project] any better than a commercial system. The CIOs of oil companies don’t say ‘our business is so different from everyone else’s [that] we have to write our own financial applications.’ They’re doing everything they can to get out of that business." Colleges and universities have launched several high-profile "community source" projects to develop large-scale education applications. These include the Sakai learning-management system, and more recently, the Kuali project, which is creating such education-focused enterprise applications as financial accounting, and expanding to develop student information systems and even middleware to tie them all together…

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