Learning used to mean going to school, sitting in a classroom, and listening to the teacher or professor discuss the topic of the day. Today, Information Technology is being utilized to provide a virtual learning environment for the students. Learning is no longer exclusively relegated to the classroom. Long distance learning can be done anywhere and anytime. With the introduction of smart phones, a student can learn the French language while sipping coffee at the local Starbucks.
The evolution of technology made e-learning more and more engaging and interactive. Commercial software engineers race to top each other in developing the best online learning tools available. But there are still a lot of potential users who are turned off because of the cost.
The Internet somehow leveled the playing field between corporate companies and individuals. Before the Internet, software giants like Microsoft charged users a lot of money just for license software but now, open source software like Linux is challenging the traditional notion of corporations existing for profit. Open source software are now being developed and used for web-based learning, giving everyone an opportunity to learn new skills and develop their potential. There is even learning management system software available for free over the internet.
Advantages of open source web-based learning:
Virtually Cost-Free. With minimal to free courses available, corporations, organizations and individuals don’t need to pay anything for lessons. Especially for underprivileged working students and business start-ups, free is always welcome.
Knowledge-sharing. Community-based learning is always a collaborative effort between individuals with the same goal.
Customization. The codes are also available to the public and can be re-designed to suit the student’s need.
Protection. Users are not subjected to “vendor lock-in” tactic.
Integration. The free software can be integrated to other open source software allowing the application to be upgraded with the latest technology.
Specialization. There will be a wider range of specialized courses available as compared to commercial software developers that usually develop courses for more popular subjects.
Advantages of commercial elearning applications:
Guaranteed expertise in development and implementation. Companies hire experts on courses and experienced programmers to develop and implement the software. The user is usually guaranteed a reliable system. On the open source model, there are no guarantees that the application would be reliable and organizations may not have the proper expertise to implement the program right away.
System Maintenance. The maintenance of the application is usually stipulated in the agreement between the provider and the customer. The customer may report errors or problems to the providers and they are obligated to fix the problem unlike community-based elearning support where support is not guaranteed.
Open-source web-based learning has a long way to go before it can catch up with the commercially available ones but the sheer number of benefits from open software application like these is hard to ignore.
Reliable learning management system software is needed to facilitate the virtual learning environment. The industry needs experienced volunteers willing to donate their time and skills to develop this open approach to e-learning so students who can’t afford to pay the commercial courses can still grab the opportunity to learn.