Open source software (OSS) is any type of software that is distributed with the source code included, and usually includes a license for individuals to change the software in any way they want. Open source projects promote the principles of open exchange, peer-review, collaboration, rapid prototyping, transparency, and community-based development.In many ways, OSS can be viewed philosophically. Fueled by a belief in the innovation of individuals as they develop and enhance software bringing benefits to people across the world.
OSS is also a platform for social change by providing an accessible and affordable software for developing countries, small businesses and nonprofits, and even educators. With access to the source code and the ability to modify the programs to meet their unique needs, OSS is a vehicle that empowers economic development and growth.
Even though the OSS is, as the name states, ‘open’ it does represent intellectual property and is protected by copyright law. The open source initiative (OSI) provides guidelines and licensing stating the usage rights associated with the software. Another type of licensing is the Creative Commons licensing which protects text, blogs, music, audio recordings, podcasts, photographs, videos, songs, websites, and films found on the internet. Like OSI, Creative Commons licensing provides a means to share your work while protecting the author’s intellectual property rights.
Over the course of the semester, we have used several OSS systems. Canvas, our LMS, is open source; however, the cloud-based version does involve fees. Additionally, I use Mozilla Firefox alongside Google Chrome because Firefox, as OSS, does offer greater flexibility and customization that enhance my work. I also produced and edited graphics using the OSS, GIMP. Even though I chose to use Wix for my portfolio, others used WordPress which I generally use for all my web design clients.
Personally, I love OSS for all the reasons listed in this post, but I’m also a fan because of the learning aspect of OSS. When I work to modify and develop an OSS project, I’m constantly stretched to learn more and seek out innovative ways to make the software meet my, or my client’s, needs. But, this learning isn’t taking place in a vacuum; OSS communities offer forums filled with people who are always ready to help tweak a code, offer tips and advice, and even test my work for usability, bugs, etc. As an educator and an instructional designer, OSS offers opportunities to add creative elements to courses and enhance learning in unique ways.