Open source provides schools with low-cost, high quality software

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Open source can provide schools with high quality, well-functioning IT solutions at low cost, according to a case study done by VTT, a Finnish government research institute. The researchers looked at the use of Linux and other open source applications by the Kasavuoren Secondary School in Kauniainen, a municipality near Helsinki. The case study, available since May 2011, underpins a plea to schools to increase their use of free and open source software. 

The appeal was published last week by Finland’s open source resource centre (COSS). The centre argues that this type of software gives students and teachers meaningful tools that enrich learning and create new opportunities for learning.

Students and teachers should have the opportunity to use the software and tools in the best possible way they need. It may not be right for the students to have their applications and learning environments pre-determined by an international software monopoly.

COSS points to the successful implementation of open source by Kasavuoren school. The school, with about 330 students and 40 teachers, has been using Linux and other free and open source applications everywhere, on PC workstations, on laptops, and for running terminals, since 2007.

Procurement fails

The school decided to switch to open source when it found that the traditional way of procuring IT solutions led to the use of proprietary systems that did not meet the needs of the school. New IT solutions, the school decided, should allow changes and provide flexibility. COSS writes that the school’s switch to open source reduced the IT costs significantly and has made the system more responsive. Savings are used to develop new tools and services for students and teachers.

The school has created a completely new model involving IT service providers and researchers. The model, called Dream School, describes the approaches and services developed with the users’ needs at their center. It aims to improve the daily life at the school and its use of open source has made IT "part of the pedagogical overall planning, learning and teaching."

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Gijs Hillenius writes original articles for the Joinup project of the European Commission. His articles are republished here with permission.


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