Open Source Social Networks in Education

Open Source Social Networks in Education

Amine V. Bitar (University of Balamand, Lebanon) and Antoine M. Melki (University of Balamand, Lebanon)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-7304-5.ch002


Social computing systems such as Social Network Sites have become more powerful. In some universities, SNSs have been adopted as a communication method between teachers and students. In addition, educational institutions have started the initiative of using open source social networking application. This chapter discusses the benefits of adopting open source SNS in education. It is organized as follows: 1) a literature review to properly define the terms, 2) a discussion of the effect of open source social networking technologies on education systems, 3) an overview of Elgg, followed by a comparison with different social learning platforms, 4) a case study of implementing Elgg at the Computer Science Department at the University of Balamand, 5) an exhibition of the requirements for the Next Generation SCORM, 6) a case study using Tin Can API with open source SNSs (Elgg), and 7) a conclusion wrapping up the chapter.
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Open Source Software

In definition, open source is a software free code available for free where any person can modify, extend, and improve the code. According to GNU project, free software can be defined as “a matter of the users’ freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software”. Open source software – software delivered with its source code – is an outcome of the convergence of information and communication technologies (Van Rooij, June 2009).

Developers of open source software are also the users of the software where they participate in the collaborative development process. One of the benefits of open source philosophy is that open source software is more secure, because weaknesses and code bugs are easier for users to find and fix due to the large number of people examining the software ((Raymond, 2001), (Stallman,1999), (Weber, 2004). Moreover, open source software is less expensive to use than proprietary software because there are no license fees for the source code.

Consequently, the world is moving towards open education by adopting online teaching. Open education is a new social process that is beginning to act as complete substitute for traditional face-to-face class (Hiltz & Turoff, 2005). It refers to the educational institutions where knowledge and learning materials should be free and open to use by students. Open education resources have much in common with open source software where software has better performance and more customizable than proprietary software. The use of open source software in open education allows better performance and more customizable than proprietary software. By adopting open education, institutions can benefit from a wide range of advantages such as: cost-saving, improving reputation and visibility, developing education strategies, increasing community collaborations.

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