George Lucas Educational Foundation

Readers' Survey 2007: Best Open Source Software for Education

Edutopia readers weigh in on their favorites.
Edutopia Team
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Perhaps illustrating that silly names are the way to go in the digital biz, Moodle won this category by a nose, with the more seriously named Audacity coming in a close second. But what the many "don't know" responses seem to indicate is that the term "open source" causes a considerable amount of confusion. So, here's a capsule definition drawn from Wikipedia: Open source software refers to any computer software available under a license (or free, because it's in the public domain) that permits users to alter and improve the software and to redistribute it in modified form. It is often developed in a public, collaborative manner. In other words, kind of like Wikipedia.

Our Take

Moodle U.

Since the onset of the open source revolution in 1998, much democratized software has been developed, but our savviest readers rightly homed in on Moodle, a free course-management system expressly designed for educators. Downloadable to just about any computer, the software facilitates the building of what Moodle calls "online learning communities." The company claims 150,000 registered users in 160 countries, so the chances for such communities, like the software itself, seem wide open. Still confused? Moodle counters the muddle with demonstration courses to get you started. And the price is right.

NEXT PAGE OF READERS' SURVEY: Who, from the past or present, you'd like to teach your class for a day?

2007 Readers' Survey Index

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Caroline LaMagna's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have to agree that Moodle is one of the best open source software options for education. I set up a Moodle site for my 8th graders last year and they responded very well to using it. Installing it on my website was a little hairy due to my host's upload limitations, but Moodle offers good documentation on that and of course, as I have always found in technology, users are willing to help other users via forums. After it was installed, setting up my courses was a breeze. I opted to disable the chat, blog and forum modules site-wide on my Moodle - my kids are teeenagers and I was not ready to have to monitor something like that 24/7. The blog did not allow for administrator approval before comments would be posted. My district uses Wordpress for our blogs, which does allow for admin approval - so I linked to my blog from my moodle to allow the kids to communicate that way. Toward the end of the year, I set up groups in one of my classes and allowed each group to access a moodle wiki and work on it collaboratively - each group member could only access their own group wiki. It worked out well - nothing amiss and they kids were very well behaved - so I may try that again on a broader scale in the future.

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