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CampusSource - Open Source Software for Educational Institutions

CampusSource provides research and development results - in this case the software developments of the participating state universities relating to the technical infrastructure to develop and operate virtual educational facilities which are vital as a basis for the use of new media in the area of education - free and at no cost to third parties under the defined conditions of an open source licence.

Within the scope of the state research innovation programme, processes were put in motion which, among other things, include the development and expansion as well as the operation of an infrastructure for computer and network-based teaching and learning. They also bundle and coordinate their efforts in this area to prevent duplicate developments and expand and optimise their development resources through the open source approach. The core idea, which is based on the successful Linux idea, is regarded as a continuation of the university tradition and duty to publish research and development results in a suitable manner and to have these verified by third parties.

The software offering from CampusSource is aimed at national and international users in all educational facilities. Within the scope of an internet portal, besides references to the initiative and its activities, CampusSource also provides information about, among other things, "open source" and "software infrastructures for educational facilities" as well as "e-learning". An exchange is integrated into this internet portal, in which the following university developments on software platforms and modules are available for download.

Since the CampusSource Exchange opened on 1 April 2001 more than 7.500 developers and users of the CampusSource systems have registered with CampusSource. Through this network, based on the open source idea, communities have been created for the individual systems, which complete and optimise the software. Consequently, in these strained financial times the sparse resources can be invested in further developing existing systems rather than in parallel developments.

The universities themselves and various companies - which have evolved in the CampusSource environment - provide support for the CampusSource systems if required. These support services range from hotline advice and turnkey installations with subsequent training to commissioned programming.

CampusSource provides consultancy and assistance organises events and offers information and documentation. There is a developer forum for all products available in the CampusSource Exchange. Thesis papers, reports, studies, etc. are created, discussed and prepared in rotation in the forum.

The CampusSource Coregroup (2001 - 2009)

CampusSource is headed by a Coregroup made up of professors/experts from various fields and organisations of the University Köln, Münster, Paderborn, Duisburg/Essen, Dortmund, a member of the Ministry of Innovation, Science, Research, Technologie of North Rhine-Westphalia as well as a member of the branch office located at the FernUniversität in Hagen.

Chairman of the Coregroup

Prof. Dr.-Ing. F. Kaderali
FernUniversität in Hagen

Coregroup members:

Member Depute Organisation
Herr J. Hüvelmeyer Herr A. von Irmer University Dortmund (EWS)
Herr S. Praetorius Herr F. L├╝tzenkirchen University Duisburg-Essen (MILESS)
Herr Prof. Dr.-Ing. F. Kaderali - FernUiversität in Hagen (Uni Open Platform)
Herr Prof. Dr. G. Schlageter Frau Dr. B. Bomsdorf FernUniversität in Hagen (VU)
Herr Prof. Dr. H.-W. Six - FernUniversität in Hagen (WebAssign)
Herr Prof. Dr. W. Leidhold Herr M. Kunkel University of Köln (ILIAS)
Herr Prof. Dr. H. L. Grob Herr Dr. F. Bensberg Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster (OpenUSS)
Herr Prof. Dr. W. Schäfer Herr Dr. M. Gehrke Universitity Paderborn (Referenzarchitektur)
Herr Dr. R. Michael Herr R. Schroeer Ministry of Innovation, Science, Research,
Technology of North Rhine Westphalia
Herr Prof. Dr.-Ing. H. Hoyer Herr M. Postel Administration of branch office
Herr M. Postel - CampusSource Management

Presentation of the CampusSource Initiative by the vice-chancellor of the FernUniversität in Hagen Mr. Univ. Prof. Dr.-Ing. Helmut Hoyer (20.08.2001)

CampusSource - an Open Source Initiative of the MWF, NRW

The Ministry of Science and Research (MWF) of the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) is supporting the development of a virtual university system NRW, which consists of multimedia contents and technical infrastructure. With the project "Software-Technologies for Teaching and Learning" within the framework of the innovative program research, the state initiates a process which includes the constructing and developing as well as operating of an infrastructure for computer and web-based learning and teaching. This project also promotes the progress in quality of teaching and learning at universities. The project supports, and welcomes the set up of cooperative networks in universities and with industrial partners.

The Initiative

CampusSource is an Open Source initiative supported by the state which brings the results of research and development of a technical infrastructure for the set up and operation of virtual universities to broad use. The aim of the Open Source initiative is to unite the efforts of the individual university projects and to make the platform as a requirement of a virtual university freely available for use and further development to those who are interested. The use of the platform will be freely available under a defined license agreement of an Open Source license.

The Open Source license intended to be used, enforces the publication of all source code and allows every licensee to modify the code as long as every modification is returned into the public software pool. There is no license fee for the use of the software inside the license agreement, which is pointed out by the original term "free software".

The Open Source Approach

The MWF Ministery deliberately supports the Open Source approach as a technique for dissemination, use and development of projects subsidized by the state. With the Open Source strategy the Ministery takes up the academic tradition of presenting results of latest research in a suitable form. Within the academic tradition, test conditions of scientific experiments are described as exact as possible, to allow for the verification and backing up the relevance of experiments by third parties.

Regarding software development as scientific work the publishing of source code allows the verification of complex software through a third party. The revalidation of source code allows not only validation and verification of the results by a third party, but it also facilitates further development based on previous results.

The internet itself has its origins in the spirit of free access to information within the public education and science realm. The Open Source licensing has various advantages for users and developers. While users have to pay high license fees for proprietary software, there is no license fee at all for Open Source software which leads to wide distribution of these programs. Due to a wide user community, bugs can be found faster and be fixed by knowledgeable users who are able to modify the source code. This leads to a faster quality improvement compared to proprietary software where users reporting bugs to the company can only hope and wait for a new update.

Another advantage of the availability of source code is the adaptability of the program to the user's individual needs including functional extensions and adjustments to new technologies. Users of proprietary software have to live with all limitations imposed on them by the software because they only have very little influence on further develoments. Users of Open Source software can modify the source code at any time, making them independent from hardware or software manufacturers. The Open Source community profits from every user's efforts because under a suitable Open Source license with the "copy left" paradigm a user is obliged to pass any bug fixes and developments back to the community under the same license agreement and without any license fee. Such a license guarantees the return of developments made by any third party.

Aims of the Initiative

The goal of the initiative CampusSource is to start a cooperative process for developing software technology, to support the development of using new media with regard to training and furthering education in general. A central aspect of the educational institution is the focus on software infrastructure and the promotion of synergies with respect to distributing own developments, experiences with implementating and standardization of developments.

CampusSource is aiming to create a forum, which includes establishing a software exchange market, where software developments can be downloaded and uploaded. By using platforms at low cost, educational institutions are able to divert funds into the development of existing software, rather than into research and re-development of already existing programs and hence, re-creating what has already been developed elsewhere.

The Open Source approach allows software maintenance and development even in financially tight times. Third parties can provide resources which the original developers of the software lack. This ensures an economical and sensible use of public funds. Individual software projects can only succeed in global competition when software maintenance and development becomes a united effort of all interested parties.

A second aim of our initiative is to document the efforts and achievements of universities developments and to prove competence in developing software technology for support and use of multimedia in education and further education as well as retaining and expanding this pre-eminence in the future. The initiative will take a main role in the discussion of further development not leaving the development of this software to various trends and aims at building up an active and dedicated professional community.

Target Groups

CampusSource addresses its bilingual offer to national and international users in universities, as well as to users in public and private educational institutions who want to provide online contents and online communication between teachers and students over the internet. The offer directs towards users interested in using the software as well as users interested in working with the software.

The first group of users which has its main interest in low cost software supports the initiative by testing and providing critical feedback on the functionality of the software. In addition to that this group can, if it lacks competence in software development itself, supply necessary financial resources to other developer groups.

The second group consists of users who have competence and resources to modify the software by themselves. This group supports CampusSource by increasing stability, security and functionality of the software to the benefit of the public. The larger the group of motivated people is who discuss further software developments the better the quality and the faster bug fixes, new developments and adaptations to new technology can be made. An Open Source license values that the worth of a software lies in the professional expertise of its developers. Code development in a community of ones own choice is cost effective and allows an efficient use of resources and intellectual potential of the experts.

Organization

CampusSource consists of an academic core group with 8 university professors of the state universities and members of the Ministry of Science and Research of the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia as well as a main office located at the FernUniversität in Hagen.

Leader of the project is the vice-chancellor of the FernUniversität in Hagen, Prof. Hoyer.

The prototypes for running a virtual University which are available at CampusSource are in use at the developing sides and above that. Software:

Projects

Development of a reference architecture (University of Paderborn, Prof. Schäfer, FernUniversität Hagen, Prof. Six)

Purpose of CampusSource

Criteria for success for CampusSource are a wide distribution of the software and acquiring dedicated and competent developers to improve the software.Therefore CampusSource will publish its software products and invite competent developers to improve and enhance the software nation wide as well as internationally. Directions of software development have to be put forward through discussion with all engaged users and developers.

This includes development and use of a decent reference architecture for infrastructure-software in educational institutions. In addition to that a quality standard has to be defined and achieved. CampusSource has to prove itself as a morally responsible organization which supports and leads the development of technical platforms for operating virtual universities.

To achieve these aims the initiative created an internet portal at www.campussource.de / www.campussource.de/org. The portal offers information about the initiative and its activities as well as information about the Open Source software and software infrastructure for educational institutions. Integrated into the portal is the "software exchange market". This is an area where software is available for downloading including all documents, demos, installation scripts, documentation and test cases. Here, developers and users share experience and discuss requests, technical problems and further development. CampusSource organizes workshops where users come together with developers to discuss further development. Finally, it has to be considered that the software although successfully in use is only a prototype and not made for commercial purposes which can cause problems especially to non-programmers. This is the reason why the portal also includes support services. The support will reach from hotline consulting over ready to use installation including training to hired programming.