Open Source Poised for Surge in Education

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Open source software will nearly double in the education space over the next four years. From its present level of $286.2 million, the market--including software, services, and maintenance--will reach $489.9 million by 2012, according to a report released today by market analyst Datamonitor, which proclaimed that "open source software has the ability to change the face of the education Industry."

This growth includes both higher education and K-12 education and includes financial investments only; it does not measure open source adoptions that do not include some form of commercial transaction, whether that be in the form of support, maintenance contracts, or other financial commitments.

Risk and Reward
According to the report, open source software (OSS) "is proving a success because institutions believe that their current IT applications are falling at the wayside--and by using open source software they will be able to gain further control over their solutions. With OSS the code is open for all to see--thus developers can view the code of the software--and are free to make changes to the software. This means that institutions are able to make technological changes to the product. If there is an aspect of the technology that an institution finds is inappropriate for its needs, then the institution is able to adapt it as it sees fit."

The report also warns, however, that there are risks involved with deploying open source solutions, particularly in the areas of support and maintenance.

"Primarily among these issues is a lack of experienced personnel within an institution. Maintaining and upgrading open source solutions is not a simple process and while communities exist behind open source solutions there is no one at the end of a phone to help fix glitches--as with proprietary software."

OLPC a Potential Driving Factor?
Interestingly, Datamonitor also cited the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) initiative as a possible driving factor for future growth of open source in education, particularly K-12 education. The initiative delivers Linux-based laptops to students around the world, largely in poorer countries. However, in the United States, the state of Alabama is purchasing 15,000 OLPC laptops for students in elementary and middle schools. If the trend were to continue, it could change education in the long run.

Datamonitor's Justin Davidson, the senior analyst who wrote the study, said, "OLPC, to date, is in its infancy. So far it has not been possible to judge its success with assisting developing countries to have widespread adoption of technology within education. However, it is possible that OLPC will have both an impact on education not only within the developing world but also the West--as education institutions look towards it as a way in which they can promote technology within their institution. Vendors need to carefully consider the affect of this potential impact upon their business--and how they may respond as education institutions seek to adopt OLPC, or a model similar to it. Importantly for vendors is that they don't see OLPC as a challenge but an opportunity to further develop and improve the services they offer to education institutions."

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About the author: David Nagel is the executive editor for 1105 Media's online education technology publications, including THE Journal and Campus Technology. He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com.

Proposals for articles and tips for news stories, as well as questions and comments about this publication, should be submitted to David Nagel, executive editor, at dnagel@1105media.com.

About the Author

David Nagel is the executive producer for 1105 Media's online K-12 and higher education publications and electronic newsletters. He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com. He can now be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/THEJournalDave (K-12) or http://twitter.com/CampusTechDave (higher education). You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=10390192.

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