4 Ways Open Source Software Can Improve Education

Everyone deserves an equal opportunity for a good education. But, we all know that some folks have monetary constraints that make those educational opportunities less likely to occur. I taught in a school district with a high percentage of rural poverty and our students did not have access to the opportunities that their urban and suburban peers. Closing that gap was always on our minds. That’s when we discovered open source software. Here are four ways that open source software levels the playing field for students.

  1. Cost-effectiveness. Open source software like LibreOffice, provides students with state of the art software that ensures that any document they create is theirs to keep and share with their teachers and classmates. Access to the same software with identical file formats ensures that everyone can share information easily. This is especially important for schools and universities that are operating on tight budgets.
  2. Flexibility. Open source software is typically very flexible and customizable.. There is no vendor lock-in. There are no contractual limits on deployment. Every student and teacher can have a copy of the software and they are free to share it with their family too. Support from active communities of users and excellent documentation are key selling points.
  3. Security. The source code of open source software can be inspected by anyone making it less likely that malicious code could be hidden from view and can more easily be found by security teams. Open source software is updated more regularly than proprietary products. This is because the open source community is constantly working to improve the software, and they are able to release updates more quickly.
  4. Collaboration. The open source community is a large and vibrant community of developers who are constantly working to improve open source software. This means that educational institutions can tap into a wealth of expertise and resources when using open source software.

Here are some examples of open source projects and communities that have a direct connection to education.

  • Moodle: Moodle is an open source learning management system (LMS) that is used by millions of students and teachers around the world. Moodle is highly flexible and can be customized to meet the needs of any educational institution.
  • Jupyter Notebooks: Jupyter Notebooks are a popular open source tool for creating and sharing interactive documents that contain code, text, and visualizations. Jupyter Notebooks are an excellent way for students to learn how to code and to share their work with others.
  • GCompris: Gcompris is a free and open-source educational software suite for children aged 2 to 10. It includes a wide range of activities.
  • Gimp: Gimp is a free and open source raster graphics editing package that is used for image editing and manipulation. Gimp is available on Linux, MacOS and Windows.