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Open Source: Affirmative Ambivalence?

Will open source thrive in higher education? Campus Computing 2004 looks for an answer.

Open source has recently received a lot of attention in higher education technology circles, especially with the release of the Sakai open source CMS and the announcement of the Kuali Project’s intention to produce an open source financial system. But beyond the core group of developer schools, how do institutions perceive the open source movement?

The 2004 Campus Computing survey asked 516 participating schools to indicate whether open source will play an increasingly important role in their IT strategy, and whether they felt open source could be a viable alternative for ERP systems.

Though a higher percentage of institutions indicated that open source software would play an increasingly important strategic role, perhaps it’s more interesting that nearly 30 percent of respondents said that open source would be a viable alternative for key campus ERP applications—this with the Kuali Project virtually just announced.

“We get a very interesting portrait in terms of attitudes towards open source,” says Casey Green, founder of the Campus Computing Project. “I would characterize it as affirmative ambivalence. I think we are seeing a statement that open source is going to be an important part of the landscape for our institutions over the next two to three years…but we have some very strong advocates, we have some very strong antagonists, and we have many agnostics in the middle.”

Green g'es on to say that it might be more interesting to consider whether open source applications will make the transition from the back room to become branded, day-to-day products—open source CMS, student information systems, ePortfolio systems, financial systems, or other key applications for our institutions.

He reports that there still is a “huge level of uncertainty,” but indicates that it is understandable, considering where the open source products are in their development cycle. In the end, open source must pass the test of the marketplace, as d'es any other product or technology. Over time, as open source comes to campuses, we’ll know whether or not it will thrive.

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