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Friday, August 18, 2006

eLearning, Open Source & Litigations

I wrote about the dim prospects of e-learning riding the open source wave. The post evoked some strong reaction – perhaps more than most other posts would normally invite. Someone wrote to me whether I have ever been to any institution to write about them. Well elearning is evolving very fast indeed. I was in a major presentation on a global elearning initiative a few weeks back and I saw significant amount of interest shown in open source – that included discussions around Moodle and Sakai as well. I have seen quite a few commercial elearning packages getting implemented. I read with interest this development : Blackboard, a leading package claimed patent rights on certain tools/aspects of learning management systems. Blackboard claims that the patents only cover narrow company-created innovations. The open source community believes that Blackboard would leverage the patent to force competitors into expensive licensing agreements, thereby increasing costs and reducing innovation. The No Patent Wiki lists issues relating to the patents claimed by Blackboard. Theoretically speaking, leading edge open source applications can be best developed in the academic community – but I very much doubt that we can get together so may thinking hats in a sustainable way to come with a steady pace of consistent applications. The more I began to look at solutions like Moodle /Sakai, amongst the well known applications, the more I realized that one may need to do a lot more to make these global class live applications( just my views here). I do not necessarily subscribe to the notion that open source fosters innovation. Larry Mcvoy once wrote- “It is simply not possible for an innovative software company to sustain itself using an open source business model. For the record, I do not look at patenting as the same as innovation. Mcvoy says bitkeeper believes if the product is open sourced ,we would be out of business in six months .To build a financially sound company needs well-trained staff, who need to be paid well. If everything is free, how can I make enough money to keep building that product for you and supporting you? I can’t agree more.

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