Will your college education be open source?

Students, the future is open source and open access.

When you are researching a college, be sure to ask if the technologies you’ll be using in your classroom and in your projects are open source.

Why?

  • If the future is open source, you need to be skilled in open source technologies, as well as understand why they’re important, when you launch onto the job market.
  • If you can use an open-source version of a software product, you’ll save money over purchasing the proprietary versions. If the university doesn’t have to buy the proprietary version (e.g., the for-profit Blackboard learning management system over the open-source Canvas, Sakai, or Moodle), then it doesn’t need to add the cost of these technologies to your tuition.  (Note: open source technologies aren’t entirely free for universities; like any software, they require staff and server space, but the costs over time tend to be lower than proprietary software.)
  • While learning to use an open-source technology, if you get stuck, you’ll likely find a vibrant online community of ethically minded and passionate users willing to help a newbie learn the ropes.
  • Open source technologies tend to be more portable than proprietary software. If you make something in a class, it’s easier to export it from, say, WordPress than from Blackboard. This makes it easier to republish your best work and showcase it in a portfolio to future employers.

This is why I’m such a fan of the University of Mary Washington’s Domain of One’s Own initiative.  Check it out if you haven’t already.

Many prospective college students and their families don’t consider the impact a university’s technologies will have on their time as a student and their employability once they graduate, which I find odd, as technology has become central to the entire college experience.