Butcher et al. define open education as “an approach centred on students needs, located in multiple arenas of learning and that seeks to remove all unnecessary barriers to learning, while aiming to provide students with a reasonable chance of success in an education”. As such, open education I based on a set of values including: accessibility, sharing, transparency, interoperability, open content, awareness and community.

Open-source software is a movement and type of computer software in which source code is released under a license which grants users the rights to study, change, and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose. Compared to open education, open-source software is a more mature movement which has originated in the late 1990s. As such, it has a couple of lessons, which open education can benefit from.

Open education is not equal to free.

While free is a necessary condition towards open education, it is not sufficient on its own. In fact, even when educational material is distributed free-of-charge, oftentimes it can not be modified and re-distributed.

Open education is not equal to source available.

Making the source of learning material available to inspections can have great benefits in terms of improved quality. However, it won’t ensure open education as the actual learning material could be not free-of-charge for use and distirbution.

Open education is not equal to open-sourcing education.

Making old learning material opened is not equal to open-education as usually the material might be outdated and providing lesser chances of reasonable success to students.

Quality is king.

Open education should aim at building user confidence through realising learning material of a certified quality.

Different development models for different contexts.

Open education can be achieved in many contexts. Each context might require different development model. For instance, a centralised model might be suiting the case of developing learning material with students. A decentralised model might be suited when working among peers.

What open-source software can teach to open education