Open Source E-Learning Systems: Evaluation of Features and Functionality

Open Source E-Learning Systems: Evaluation of Features and Functionality

Phillip Olla (Madonna University, Livonia, MI, USA)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/ijossp.2012100103


E-learning applications are becoming commonplace in most higher education institutions, and some institutions have implemented open source applications such as course management systems and electronic portfolios. These e-learning applications initiatives are the first step to moving away from proprietary software such as Blackboard and WEBCT toward open source. With open source, higher education institutions can easily and freely audit their systems. This article presents evaluation criteria that was used by a higher education institution to evaluate an open source e-learning system.
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Techniques for delivering educational material are constantly evolving to keep pace with new technologies and society habits. Educational content can be created in a variety of formats, such as video, online courses, telecourses, and podcasts, which are just a few of the alternatives to the traditional brick-and-mortar classroom environment. These alternative formats are creating a paradigm shift that is exemplified by the term e-learning, which is sometimes called online education or distance learning. The growth in e-learning is compounded by the confluence of Web-based technologies, advances in digital storage, processing and media, and the ongoing boutique approach to software development. This convergence of technologies facilitates education and learning that become ubiquitous and more engaging for both students and educators (Koohang & Harman 2005). E-learning relates to all activities relevant to instructing, teaching, and learning using various types of electronic media. The electronic delivery conduit could be the Internet, intranets, extranets, satellite TV, video/audiotape, and/or CD-ROM.

There is a variety of software applications and platforms that can be used for e-learning. They are defined using a variety of terms, including educational knowledge portal (EKP), learning management systems (LMS), virtual learning environments (VLE), education via computer-mediated communication (CMC) or online education. They might also be called a managed learning environment (MLE), learning support system (LSS), or learning platform (LP). This chapter presents a list of criteria that need to be considered when an organization is considering the implementation of an e-learning system.

E-learning applications are expected to reduce institutional expenses and increase institutional revenues (Harvey, 2004; Moallem, 2004; Porter, 2003). Some higher education institutions are considering the use of open source e-learning applications. Open source software products are freely available for delivering education online (Coppola & Neelley, 2004). Siemens (2003) proposes that the benefits of using an open source model are increased quality, greater stability, superior performance, improved functionality, reduced vendor reliance, reusability, reduced costs, auditability, reliability, and quick bug fixes.

This chapter is structured as follows: The first section provides an introduction to open source software (OSS), followed by an overview of the features and functionality that can be incorporated in any e-learning system. This is followed by evaluation criteria that can be used to evaluate open source e-learning systems.

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