[Edu-sig] open source admin in academia? (editorial)

kirby urner kirby.urner at gmail.com
Tue Jul 20 00:30:35 CEST 2010

I'm becoming more aware of the fact that one
reason universities need to charge those
tuitions is to pay licensing fees to private
vendors who provide them with such basic
services as the ability to store and schedule
classes, record student enrollment and grades,
record instructors etc.  The catalog needs to
be published on-line.  There might be a lot
of extended education options, e.g. non-credit
courses open to anyone willing to sign up.

Some of these proprietary programs are pretty
old, lack features departments need, and so
various intermediating applications grow up
around the edges to fill in the gaps.

Maybe the big dino system doesn't record
student evaluations for example, or keep track
of which courses are in the pipeline, but still
haven't found a place in the sun.

One would think that universities in particular,
which pride themselves on having advanced
knowledge of state of the art skills, would band
together in various consortia to pool resources
and "eat their own dog food" as it were.  A
school that teaches medicine actually practices
medicine (the "teaching hospital").  Shouldn't
schools that teach computer science and
business administration actually walk the talk
in some way?  Maybe many of them do, I don't
actually know.

To outsource something so core to one's business,
to pay licensing fees while not having the power
to make design modifications, just seems more
than a tad on the ironic side.  It's like a bank
outsourcing everything it does around money.

I realize not every college or university wants to
reinvent the wheel around something so basic,
but I do wonder to what extent there's some
open source sharing going on, around these core
utilities.  Are universities so competitive they
won't share?  So does that mean they all pay
the same licensing fees to use the same
private vendor offerings?

I remember Zope / Plone and SchoolTool.

Is there something even more comprehensive
that's out there, suitable for college and university
use?  Does it come in modularized components?
Is it an over-the-web database?

Or do few if any universities really eat their own
dog food?

Like I say, I'm new to this business, just trying
to get oriented.


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