Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) has transformed the software industry. The collaboration of passionate "hackers" has resulted in the availability of high quality software applications for all. The benefits of FOSS include free or reduced cost, no user restrictions, and a consistency with the academic values of openness and sharing. However, as it relates to free and open source courseware, the greatest benefit is providing a successful model capable of harnessing IT to improve learning.
One of the keys to the success of many FOSS projects is that they are embedded within a community that supports the project, one another, and continually improves the product. Similarly, for free and open source courseware to improve it must be supported by an active community to collaborate, help one another, improve the products, and to spread the word about courseware applications. This community must include teachers, students, administrators and instructional developers. Robert Stevenson, a community manager for curriki.org, believes that for open course communities to thrive they must:
-Achieve active community collaboration and participation.
-Include students in the communities.
-Have the ability to modify and improve resources.
-Incorporate assessment to drive improvement.
-Provide easy ways for communities to make contributions.
When all of these are accomplished, communities supporting open course software will become stronger, and it will transform education, much like FOSS is transforming the software industry.