Tuesday, October 25, 2005

 

Another Good Idea Crashes and Burns...

Steven Krause’s blog recently mentioned a few free, open-source alternatives (Moodle, Sakai) to the big-market course platforms (WebCT, Blackboard, eCollege). Since I’m all about efficiencies, I jumped on the idea, and forwarded the names to my friendly local on-campus techie. (Course platform software is what we use as the architecture for online courses. Since online courses allow us to reach folks who couldn’t otherwise be reached, and to save classroom space during ‘prime time,’ we’re offering more of them each year.) Since we have to buy a whole new package this Fall anyway, and we have to retrain everyone anyway, I figure, why not save the licensing cost? We could channel the savings towards, oh, I don’t know, reducing our operating deficit!

But noo....

Annoyingly, a big-budget school could do this, but a tightly-budgeted one couldn’t. The rich get richer...

The critical variable is support. With a proprietary package, if something goes wrong, you have someone to call. With an open-source package, you don’t. If you have a significant number of in-house experts anyway, that’s fine; the U of Michigan could probably get away with it. But your local cc can’t, since we just don’t have the quantity of tech staffing to jump into the breach when the inevitable bugs start scurrying around. Which they will.

Grumble.

Seems like there’s a parable in here. When safety nets are privatized...



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