Open Source Applications in the Education Sector

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I’m glad to read the “Open Source Options For Education” written by Mark Johnson, OSS Watch.  It’s a very useful collection of open source software.

There are many software applications titled “Open Source” in the market. I think it needs to have criteria for choosing the application in the educational context first, such as based on what LMS standard requirements. Here is an introduction to Open Source Software and Open Standards by DCC.

I list some open source tools/projects I recognised in the UK education sector.

  • eXe – a freely available authoring application that assists teachers in the publishing of web content without the need to become proficient in HTML or XML markup.
  • GIMPSHOP – a modification of the free and open source graphics program GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP), with the intent to replicate the feel of Adobe Photoshop.
  • Helix – Media delivery platform (see Cardiff University Media Library)
  • JISC – web conferencing toolkit
  • openair – open-source tools for air pollution data analysis. The project is led by the Environmental Research Group at King’s College London, supported by the University of Leeds.
  • Pencil Project – a free and open-source GUI graphics (prototyping) tool.
  • WebHuddle – fully open-source server-based web conferencing system integrating text chat, VoIP (one-to-many), PowerPoint presentation, live annotation, application sharing, polling and recording in a secure environment. (Also see wikipedia resource: A comparison of web conferencing software).
  • Udutu – a free online course authoring tool designed to integrate with social media platforms. (see e@lboro)
  • XMind– a free and open source Mind Mapping tool.

Open source geospatial resources

Leave a comment hosts a resource for users and developers in the open source mapping community. I had a quick look at the links, it has very useful web resources. For example, GRASS GIS project provides GIS software suite used for geospatial data management and analysis, image processing, graphics and map production, spatial modeling, and 3D visualisation. MapServer is an Open Source platform for publishing spatial data and interactive mapping applications to the web.


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My friend told me that her old laptop got virus and someone helped her install a strange free OS that she doesn’t know how to use. She even doesn’t know how to call it. I immediately guessed it is Ubuntu. Six years ago I came across this product as a free Ubuntu disk was in the lab. I didn’t try it but remembered it. Nowadays, it spreads quickly and its applications are all free and open source. Actually, I’d like to try the Ubuntu Edge after read the post “Ubuntu Edge: A case of mistaken identity“.

I, Librarian

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I, Librarian is a PDF manager, a free and open source web application, which enables individual researchers or a small group of researchers to create an annotated library of scientific PDF articles. It enables smart browsing and fast searching in reference data and PDF files, and includes an advanced tool for mining scientific literature from PubMed, PubMed Central, NASA ADS, arXiv, IEEE Xplore, JSTOR® and HighWire Press®.

Peer/Self Assessment tools


Aropä is a web-based system that supports peer review activities in large classes. It was designed by John Hamer and Helen Purchase.

Blackboard Self and Peer Assessment building black is a tool designed to facilitate the objective,
analytical, and learning comprehension skills of students.

CASPAR was funded and developed by Bournemouth University as an online solution for self and peer assessment with a particular emphasis on the media practice discipline.

iPeer is an open resource application for ​rubric-based peer evaluations. It is actively developed at the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology (CTLT) at the University of British Columbia.

Online Peer Assessment Software designed and developed by Dr Nathan Clarke & Dr Paul Dowland

PeerWise is an online learning tool that supports students in the creation, sharing, evaluation and discussion of assessment questions.

SPARKplus is a web-based self and peer assessment kit. It enables students to confidentially rate their own and their peers’ contributions to a team task or individual submissions.

STEAM is an open source web-based peer evaluation tool.

Turnitin PeerMark is a tool for staff to conduct electronic peer review assessments.

WebPA is an open source online peer assessment tool that enables every team member to recognise individual contributions to group work.

Workshop is an interactive activity in Moodle where students can view, grade and assess their own and peers’ work.


Authoring Tools

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Seven Top Authoring Tools” occurred in my search. The term “Authoring Tool” is somehow misleading as it’s not word processing software but a web content creation application. Also terms such as “web authoring tool”, “web page authoring tool”,”course authoring tool” and “e-learning authoring tool” do not help too.

Well, I prefer using “web content management tools” or “e-learning development tools”.

The definition provided by W3C  is clear,

“Authoring tools are software and services that people use to produce Web pages and Web content. “

An explanation in the article “A Review On Authoring Tools” written by Khademi, M., et al is clear too.

“… a program that helps you write using hypertext or multimedia applications and enable you to create a final application merely by linking together objects, such as a paragraph of text, an illustration, or a song….”

There are some sources listing useful authoring tools below. I won’t call them authoring tools, but put them under the LCMS.

Resources of data visualising

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Information visualisation is a general term that refers to using tables, graphs, maps, and even text, whether static or dynamic, to “provide some means to see what lies within, determine the answer to a question, find relations, and perhaps apprehend things which could not be seen so readily in other forms”.  Data visualisation is defined as “information which has been abstracted in some schematic form, including attributes or variables for the units of information.”  (Michael Friendly, 2009)

Andy Kirk provides a list of essential visualisation resources on his blog.

On the Improving Data Visualisation for the Public Sector Project webpage by the Department of Communities and Local Government and the Oxford Consultants for Social Inclusion (OCSI),  some useful resources also are recommended.

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