Open Source Heads Off to School

by Ostatic Staff - Oct. 28, 2008

Today brings a couple of new announcements on how open source software tools are pushing forward in the online education and educational collaboration markets. Fresh on the heels of news of its hookup with Dimdim, a maker of open source conferencing software, Zimbra has announced a new hosted set of services focused on schools. In other news, Wimba, which makes collaboration tools for education, is in a partnership involving the popular open source e-learning platform Moodle. Here are the details.

A few days ago, we covered the fact that the CEO of Zimbra, a division of Yahoo focused on open source groupware tools such as e-mail and calendars, has invested in the popular open source online conferencing company Dimdim. As we wrote there, a hookup between Zimbra and Dimdim could usher in ways to integrate Zimbra's groupware tools with online conferencing.

Today, Zimbra has announced Zimbra Hosted for Education, which will offer the Zimbra Collaboration Suite in the cloud, for educational institutions to take advantage of. According to the announcement:

"Zimbra Hosted leverages the global cloud computing power of Yahoo! to bring world-class collaboration to educational institutions, which can now choose which delivery method -- on-site, Zimbra hosting, or hosting through local partners -- will best meet the needs for collaboration within their community."

Zimbra Hosted will offer students, alumni and faculty access--including mobile access--to its cloud-based collaboration tools.  Group scheduling, e-mail and other individual tools will be customizable for schools. Pricing is per mailbox, and will vary according to what individual schools want to implement. (There is a 60-day free trial.) There isn't any news on what involvement there may be for Dimdim here, but I'm guessing that conferencing will be wrapped in as one of the services in Zimbra Hosted for Education.

In related news, Wimba, a provider of collaborative learning software applications and services to the education industry, has also announced a new partnership with Moodle. Moodle is an open source course management system (CMS) used by thousands of people and institutions such as U.C. Berkeley and the London School of Economics to deliver webinars and classes online. We wrote about it here.

According to Wimba's announcement: "Through this new integration, teachers and professors can more easily incorporate the Wimba Collaboration Suite into the Moodle platform to facilitate the use of online video, voice, text, application sharing, polling and white boarding." For example, Wimba Voice--which allows for voice e- mails, voice podcasts and more--can be added to the content within online Moodle courses.

While fees are implied by both Zimbra's and Wimba's services, it's good to see open source components going into these educational offerings. Some of these tools are getting lots of recognition. For example, Moodle was a finalist in SourceForge's most recent Community Choice Awards for the best open source software. Hopefully, these applications can keep the costs to schools low so that online collaboration and classes can continue to grow.