August 2008

This month I'm pleased to introduce our first guest editor, Kevin Goheen. The strength of Kevin's network of contacts from academia, research, and industry is evident in the quality of the submissions he invited for this issue. You'll find plenty of thought provoking content around the editorial theme of education. These include the vertical markets of high performance computing and integrated library systems to the broad topics of open educational resources and predictive management theory.

This issue also marks a milestone for the OSBR as we enter our second year of publication. When we launched we knew that there was a need for it. What pleasantly surprised us in our first year of operations was the large number of high quality contributions received, the diversity of experienced authors, and's extensive adoption worldwide.

Thanks to the grant from the Ontario Research Commercialization Program of the Ministry of Research and Innovation, Ontario has become a significant contributor to the pool of knowledge on open source that is relevant to technology companies, educational institutions, and open source foundations and projects worldwide.

We thank our readers, authors and sponsors for their support. Happy first birthday!

Dru Lavigne



The August issue of the OSBR is focused on "education". The relationship between open source software (OSS) and education is extremely broad and also very important. One could argue that OSS creation and adoption has been driven by faculty and research leaders, with eventual buy-in from the commercial sphere. This should not be a surprise; university research labs are populated with individuals possessing an abundance of creativity, a need to work with platforms for innovation, and a shortage of funding. My own lab's experience with clever graduate students and finite funding sources forced us to collaborate with the National Research Council of Canada on open source helicopters.

Another driver of the OSS education market is philosophical. This issue's first author, Justin Davidson of Datamonitor, pointed in another forum to dissatisfaction expressed by some schools with Blackboard, a major provider of enterprise educational software and services. In 2005, Blackboard bought WebCT, another educational software company. Blackboard's share of the market has grown to approximately 75% and concerns remain within schools over the dominance of one company in the market. Blackboard's subsequent patent dispute with the small Canadian firm Desire2Learn has galvanized the educational technology community and has arguably driven market acceptance of the major open source alternatives in the Course Management System (CMS) space, Moodle and Sakai.

Despite the mistrust of commercial software companies potentially driving OSS adoption, one survey found that larger institutions adopt OSS infrastructure and applications at a much higher rate than smaller institutions because of the lack of support. The smaller schools expressed a great interest in commercial support of OSS. In addition, Datamonitor predicts a compound annual growth rate of 14% until 2012 on OSS, based on their survey in 14 countries of primary, secondary and tertiary educational institutes. They also predict only 3-6% of information technology spending by those institutes, so education will represent a great market for commercial entities. In this issue, Justin writes about spending trends in the educational OSS market and why only some institutions should adopt OSS.

Open educational resources (OER) promise to lower the costs for students in the developed world. Muegge, et al of Carleton University and Jan Hylen of the OECD argue that their implications are far broader. The first article focuses on the democratization of education in developing countries while the OECD paper describes the quality control and sustainability of the OER movement.

We next examine the important tertiary educational application of High Performance (Scientific) Computing (HPC). David Rich of Interactive Supercomputing describes how both open source and commercial components are being combined to provide the optimal scientific computing environment and how OSS is gradually being accepted by commercial users of HPC.

This issue concludes with two articles which describe the use of OSS in libraries. In the early 1990s, I was part of a Task Force on the future of Technologically Mediated Education at Carleton University. As part of our survey, we found that many thought leaders on campuses came from the ranks of the librarians. Carl Grant of CARE Associates provides a checklist for librarians considering OSS Integrated Library Systems (ILSs) and Art Rhyno of the University of Windsor describes Project Conifer, a collaborative effort of three Ontario universities to provide a mission critical OSS ILS.

Space and resource restrictions prevented us from publishing articles on many important OSS education issues, including Moodle and Sakai, the application R, which is quickly becoming the de facto standard in statistics, and the scientific applications SciPy and Octave. We hope to revisit the OSS impact on the education sector in a future issue.

Kevin Goheen

Guest Editor

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