The Emergence of Open-Source Software in North America


  • Guohua Pan MacEwan College
  • Curtis J. Bonk Indiana University



Open source, Bazaar model, redistribution, untapped resources, gift culture


Unlike conventional models of software development, the open source model is based on the collaborative efforts of users who are also co-developers of the software. Interest in open source software has grown exponentially in recent years. A Google search for the phrase open source in early 2005 returned 28.8 million webpage hits, while less than two years later that number had jumped to 376 million. This paper discusses the origin of the term open source and the key tenets of the open source software development model. In addition, it analyzes the merits and drawbacks of using this model and discusses the advantages and disadvantages of applying the model in higher education. Importantly, examples are provided of computer software, and course management systems in particular, developed using the open source model. Also included are brief analyses of the Linux operating system, and two open source course management systems, Sakai and Moodle, as well as the uPortal. A timeline of major open source projects of significance in North America is provided. The paper concludes with a discussion of the potential for applying the open source software development model to open and distance education.

Author Biographies

Guohua Pan, 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 J. 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 North America. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 8(3).



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