Last month, a professor at the Higher Institute of Computer Science and Management of Kairouan in Tunisia told us how implementing and customizing Fedena, an open source school management solution from Foradian, enhanced collaboration and understanding between administrators, students, and instructors. Unni Koroth, Foradian's co-founder and CEO, was kind enough to answer our questions about Fedena—and to explain precisely what makes open source school management systems so appealing.
Can you explain the Fedena project for readers who might not be familiar with it?
Project Fedena is building fully functional enterprise software to manage education institutions of any type in all countries. Fedena is multipurpose school/campus management software which is used by thousands of educational institutions worldwide for all administration, management, and learning related activities. You can use it to efficiently manage students, teachers, employees, courses, and all the systems and processes related to running your institute.
There is already plenty of software available to manage schools and colleges. But there are two big problems remaining in the market (as I've summarized elsewhere).
Fedena won the prestigious MIT TR35 India award in 2012. It is also implemented in 15,000 Schools of Kerala, India under Project Sampoorna.
When people hear "open source school management software," they might think of course management projects like Blackboard or Moodle. But it seems like Fedena seeks to accomplish something these projects don't. How does Fedena differentiate itself?
Fedena is not a learning management system. Fedena's features satisfy the basic needs of educational institutions—like attendance, gradebooks, etc. It would be better to compare Fedena to SchoolTool and OpenSIS. But by enabling the correct plugins, Fedena can be upgraded to function like Blackboard or Moodle.
I understand Fedena didn't begin as an open source project. Can you describe the rationale behind opening it up?
Almost all (99.9%) of Fedena's code is from direct employees of Foradian Technologies. We released the fully developed Fedena 1.0 as open source. Now version 2.3 is ready for release.
There are two main reasons for opening it up. First is because of the complex systems and processes present in different schools and colleges around the world. We felt open source software was required to handle this complexity. The second reason is from a marketing point of view. People perform research on free and open source software before choosing proprietary software solutions.
Why is it important for school management software to be open source?
Most people believe that the problem with education is "quality." It is not. It is actually a cost problem. In our experience, most of the schools don't have the money to invest in a high-cost, proprietary enterprise resource planning system to manage their institution. If the software is open source, these schools don't have to pay huge amounts on licensing and customization. They don't have to depend on the provider company for source code modifications.
How do you describe the value of an open source solution to prospective customers at educational institutions? What do these institutions seem to appreciate most about Fedena's open source approach?
We describe the value by focusing on the availability of source code for their future needs. Educational institutions enjoy the fact that there is no vendor lock-in. We don't charge by number of students or users. Some of the educational institutions have even developed their own plugins for Fedena.
Where is Fedena going in the future? What are the project's short-term and long-term goals?
In the short term: Translation to more languages. Right now, Fedena is available in Spanish, Arabic, German, Portuguese and English. We'd also like to see more plugin development from open source developers. So, community enhancement in another goal. Mostly though, we are working on ramping up marketing. Most schools, colleges, and teachers don't know Project Fedena exists.
In the long term: We would like to upgrade the core codebase to a newer version of Ruby on Rails. Right now Fedena is in 2.3.5.