In this article, we award 42 medals to superb open source educational software. We identify free software ideally suited for young people, parents, teachers, academics, and administrators – basically anyone involved in education.
Even though the UK economy is fairly strong, many of its educational establishments are in a perilous financial position. For example, a high achieving West Midlands school faces a £350,000 shortfall in its budget for next year, with another £5m repair bill to fix the building; it’s roof has 300 holes alone. The biggest outlay for the school is, of course, its staff, and it’s having to let 14 staff go. While IT costs pale in comparison to staffing and building maintenance costs, more and more schools are scrutinizing every single penny of their expenditure. And this doesn’t just apply to schools. Universities, colleges, parents, and students are all under increasing financial pressures.
Every single application featured in this article is available to download without payment. This, in itself, helps to keep IT costs within a tight budget. And cost can be a very important driver when making decisions for educational establishments, particularly universities, colleges and schools. But also for parents too. Naturally, organizations will have some sort of IT budget. And open source educational software won’t necessarily be zero cost. Using unfamiliar software entails training costs for staff — the costs are not limited to time itself. And then there’s the expense of obtaining support for the software, or even hiring development time to customize certain aspects of the software to add additional functionality. But if a proprietary solution is sought, it’s likely that this development will be more expensive.
Linux’s strength doesn’t just derive from a financial aspect. Other considerations such as flexibility, stability, security, cutting-edge technology, and ease of use are just as important. Additionally, the virtues of open source software are invaluable to educational establishments whatever their size. With full access to source code, larger educational establishments can easily develop extensions to the software, tailor made to their own specific needs and requirements, as well as having access to a huge raft of open source code to help their students learn how to use computers. Moreover educational establishments are not reliant on the goodwill of a single vendor in order to teach: Linux is about freedom and choice and that is just as important to an educational establishment as to an individual.
This round-up covers a wide range of software essential for anyone involved in education. Given the amount of open source software available, it can be difficult for educational establishments to keep up with the latest developments. From study aids, to writing papers, to managing classes, to running an entire institution, Linux covers all bases. We offer three recommendations for each category. Some of the selections were difficult, as there’s a wide range of high quality open source software in many categories.
|Best Free Education Apps|
|Classroom Management||Keep students focused and academically productive|
|Learning Management Systems||Develop and realize web-based e-learning|
|Learning Environments||Support teaching, learning and research|
|Assessment Management||Reliable e-assessment management systems|
|Reference Management||Record and use bibliographic citations|
|Library Management Systems||Automated resource planning systems|
|Visual Programming||Programming software designed for young people|
|Interactive Whiteboards||Provide learning stimuli for a whole classroom|
|Language Tools||Learn a new language today|
|Educational Games||Combine education and entertainment|
|Mind Mapping||Capture your thoughts in a structured way|
|Writing Aids / Notetaking||Keep track of information|
|Typing Tutors||Faster typing speed increases productivity|
|Interactive geometry||Software for young people to explore geometry|
We plan to award more medals. If you’re looking for a desktop environment designed for interactive learning by young people, you must check out Sugar, an excellent learning platform.
Linux used to blessed with a good range of distributions focused specifically on educational software. These distributions cherry-picked the best open source educational software. Unfortunately, over the years, almost all of them have been mothballed. A few are still under active development such as Ubermix. But the development of high quality open source educational software remains unabated. If you work in education, you’ll know there’s a huge number of open source applications focused on functions in education.
This is the second article we’ve awarded medals to best-of-breed open source software. In our first article, Best Open Source Business Apps, we awarded 45 medals.
The open source software featured in both articles are just the tip of the iceberg. We curate a software directory with more than 20,000 open source applications. “Open source” means that the source code of the software is freely available, so that anyone can download, use, modify, and redistribute it.