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Vendor vs. Open Source Software

Part of planning your online learning program is selecting various administrative systems. In making these decisions, you will be presented with both vendor and open source solutions (open source course content is typically referred to as Open Educational Resources or OER), both of which have positives and negatives.

It is important to remember as you make these decisions your primary focus should be on finding the solution that best meets the needs of your program. As is the case with selecting any software system, you should start with identifying and prioritizing your requirements so that you can select the administrative systems and course content that are the best overall fit for your online learning program; examining the pros and cons of vendor and open source solutions are only part of the decision process.

The following table shows some of the pluses (+) and minuses () of Vendor and Open Source solutions:

Vendor Solution Open Source Solution

+   Professionally Developed

+   Vendor is accountable for correct functioning of system

+   Initial start-up may be easier

+   Technical Support available from vendor, in some cases 24×7 support

   In some cases, technical support, especially 24×7 support has extra costs

   Ability to make changes to systems and content is more limited

   Ongoing licensing cost

+   Software is developed by a community with common needs

+   Vendors may exist to provide technical support for open source solution (at a cost)

+   Are able to customize and modify systems and content as desired

+   Little or no cost to obtain system, low risk to trying out system

   May not have formal technical support available

   Sufficient technical expertise required to make modifications to systems and content

   Ongoing human resource cost to maintain and update

The following article5 by Jeff Walpole, CEO of Phase2 Technology, provides a balanced and more detailed discussion about selecting and comparing Open Source and Vendor-Provided software. While the article is specifically geared for non-profit organizations, it is applicable to other organizations as well.