Thursday, February 25, 2010

Kineo Insights Webinar: The Truth About Open Source – a conversation with Sakai’s Executive Director

Today as part of the Kineo Insights webinar series – a conversation on open source. The following are my notes from Part 1 of the webinar: The Truth About Open Source: A conversation with Michael Korcuska, Executive Director of Sakai.

sakai logo

The Truth About Open Source

  • Who writes the code?
  • How safe is it?
  • Is it really free?
  • And other burning questions about source…

Poll #1: How many of you currently use open source LMS?

  • 5% currently use one
  • 95% do not use an open source LMS.

Poll #2: What do you consider the primary benefits of an open source LMS?

  • Cost (55%)
  • Avoiding vendor lock-in (40%)
  • Ability to customize (70%)
  • License flexibility (35%)
  • Other (20%)?

Poll #3: What are the biggest barriers to open source LMS?

  • No support/Accountability (58%)
  • Sustainability risk -- how long will that product be there? (37%)
  • Total cost of ownership (32%)
  • Difficulty to maintain (68%)
  • Lack of security/quality control (53%)

Poll #4: Who is the audience for your training?

  • Employees (60%)
  • Customers (30%)
  • Partners/Resellers (5%)
  • Consumers/Public (5%)
  • Other (5%)

Michael Korcuska – big picture issues with open source LMS.

Michael is the Executive Director of the Sakai Foundation – open source Course/Learning Management System focused in education space (a “competitor” to Moodle). In the open source world, these projects tend to be friendlier than Google vs. Microsoft :)

Sakai started in 2004 – collaboration of universities (Michigan, Indiana, Stanford, MIT, Berkeley). – 5 schools with homegrown systems. Inefficient to build 5 systems; figured they were already experts in learning. Now used in over 200 institutions around the world. Used by some companies. Primary market is higher ed, k-12.


Is it really free? Free beer you can enjoy in moderation without long term costs. But a free puppy – requires care and feeding. Long terms costs to maintain that are much higher than any initial purpose costs.

Open source isn’t free. No license costs. You can direct that savings to other areas.

But it’s free as in freedom! No one tells you what you can do with the software. Or that you can’t keep running it or that you have to upgrade or customize with this fee. Freedom to do what you want to do with the software.


Who you gonna call? There’s no “one throat to choke”.

Is support going to be better in a proprietary company or an open source support?

If you hire someone like Kineo – they survive only on the quality of their support. You can always take your business somewhere else! This pressure on support vendors works in the customers favor. Support providers know who butters their bread.


Perception of risk associated with open source -- “it’s not as safe” “there may be more bugs”…”security”

There is really no fundamental difference between os and proprietary.

Open source code is open from the first moment – see bugs earlier, fix before goes into production – lots of eyes! Look at the track record of the orgs behind the development of the project.

Your comfort needs to come from who’s using the product in production? If there aren’t a lot of reported bugs and security concerns – that should give you great comfort.


How do these projects get developed? Where do innovation and ideas come from?

At Sakai – all of the 200 institutions help determine what the future of Sakai is going to be. Programmers are all over the place.

Moodle has a central team that works out of Moodle HQ – works more like a proprietary software vendor in that sense. Moodle does get contributions from all over the world – but those get inspected by Moodle core team who control the direction.

Who else is using the product? Has their experience been good? Can you find a robust set of users who are doing the same things you want to do with the platform? If you find them, you can be sure there will be effort and innovations going on in that direction. You can have confidence that investment in the platform will support customers like you.


Where does the money come from? Why are people working on open source projects? Some work out of respect; some because institutions want to cooperate. Very few open source projects succeed just because people like the respect they get – most need a solid source of funding. (Moodle gets a fee that Moodle commercial affiliates pay back to Moodle HQ to ensure money for future development).

Need to understand how the money flows. And that the revenue stream is stable. Moodle stream is safe – given # of users and # of businesses. Moodle is a solid bet and a stable org. (Same is true of Sakai – because of institutional commitment). Sustainability of Moodle shouldn’t be a concern for anyone!


Does Sakai or Moodle have restrictions on # of users and # of admins? No.

Is Sakai only used in education or is it also used in industry? Sakai is used a bit in industry, although Moodle has more of a base.

How is Sakai different from Moodle?

  • Both are open source.
  • They do have different licensing. The Sakai license enables commercial entities to build custom additions on top of Sakai and sell the resulting product. Moodle license says if you want to modify Moodle and redistribute that modification, that modification must also be open source.
  • Sakai is java; Moodle is PHP.
  • Sakai more education; Moodle more focus on corporate training world.
  • Sakai was considered more enterprise adaptable; but Moodle has caught up around that.
  • Moodle focused on teaching and learning use case; Sakai has built in ePortfolio system.

Where is Sakai going in the next few years? Sakai is building a new version from the ground up right now. Michael continues to see the education feature set being what’s attended to rather than the corporate training feature set.

Sakai doesn’t have an ecommerce module, but Moodle has that.

You can access Part 2 of the webinar here: Our Journey: Harnessing Moodle to Deliver Customer Training – A case study with Kronos.

Join us for our next Kineo Insights webinar:

March 11, 2010: eLearning Insider: Challenges and Best Practices for Internal Development Teams

8:00 AM Pacific/10:00 AM Central/11:00 AM Eastern/4:00 PM UK

  • Rory Lawson, Instructional Design, Manager Learning Design, Learning HSBC Group Management Training College (UK)
  • Anne Marie Laures, Principal at Laures Consulting, former Director Learning Services at Walgreens
  • Ellen Wagner, Partner Sage Road Solutions, former Sr. Director Worldwide eLearning Adobe Systems

Click here to register.


Anonymous said...

higher -> hire (someone like Kineo)

Cammy Bean said...

Thank you! The dangers of live blogging :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Cammy,

Great article. Short format, easy to read and very interesting content.