The Emergence of Open-Source Software in China


  • Guohua Pan Grant MacEwan College
  • Curtis Jay Bonk Indiana University



online learning, open-source software, online communities, China


The open-source software movement is gaining increasing momentum in China. Of the limited numbers of open-source software in China, Red Flag Linux stands out most strikingly, commanding 30 percent share of Chinese software market. Unlike the spontaneity of open-source movement in North America, open-source software development in China, such as Red Flag Linux, is an orchestrated activity wherein different levels of government play a vital role in sponsoring, incubating, and using open-source software, most conspicuously, Red Flag Linux. While there are no reports on open-source course management system in China, there are reports on the study and use of Western open-source course management systems for instruction and learning in Chinese higher education institutions. This paper discusses the current status of open-source software in China, including open-source course management software and associated tools and resources. Importantly, it describes the development model of Red Flag Linux, the most successful open-source software initiative in China. In addition, it explores the possibility of Chinese higher education institutions joining efforts to develop China’s own open-source course management system using the open-source development model established in North America. A timeline of major open-source projects of significance underway in China is provided. The paper concludes with a discussion of the potential for applying the open-source software development model to open and distance education in China.

Author Biographies

Guohua Pan, Grant MacEwan College

Dr. Guohua Pan is a Lead Instructional Designer at Grant MacEwan College in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Developing technology-delivered courses in collaboration with faculty, Dr. Pan is exploring innovative and pedagogical use of technology for effective instructional environment. Before coming to Canada, he was a college instructor in China. Dr. Pan's email address is:

Curtis Jay Bonk, Indiana University

Dr. Curt Bonk is a former accountant and CPA who is now Professor of Instructional Systems Technology at Indiana University. Dr. Bonk is also a Senior Research Fellow with the Department of Defense’s Advanced Distributed Learning Lab. Curt is President of CourseShare and SurveyShare (see Dr. Bonk's email address is: cjbonk@indiana



How to Cite

Pan, G., & Bonk, C. J. (2007). The Emergence of Open-Source Software in China. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 8(1).