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Luis Angel Ortega
Luis Angel Ortega

Posted on • Originally published at

Why should we teach with Open Source Software?

Full article originally available at Aviyel.

Your 20s are a time in your life when some of your friends are still in college while others are already in the workforce. This can give you a broad perspective in transitioning from student life to a professional one, and this acquired vision helped me realize that we should be teaching primarily with open source software (OSS).

To build a career in tech these days, students have to start early as technology is rapidly evolving through innovation. This has become a challenge for the education sector to equip students with basic computer literacy. This situation has arisen because currently, every facet of human life is touched upon by computer technology.

To equip students with primary computer literacy, schools and colleges have a mandatory policy of giving lectures in basic computer programs at a very early age. These programs include – learning to operate computers or laptops, a basic understanding of MS Office, which includes MS Word, MS Powerpoint, MS Excel etc. Many of these fields have received tremendous responses from the job market, such as graphic designing, online marketing, video editing, etc.

These skillsets have become an essential part of every curriculum across the world. And since setting up a computer lab for 40 students costs a bomb to educational institutions, these institutions are forced to buy proprietary software, which adds to the recurring bill. This forces some educational institutions to use an illicit version of this software. We should not allow such pedagogy to enter our children’s curriculum.

An alternate method has to be used to cut down software invoices, i.e., using open-source software for all kinds of learning purposes. First of all, there are almost alternate sources to every type of proprietary software in the market. These open-source software have been built by open-source communities across the globe and provided for free of cost. Not only this, you can even patch your updates and share them with the whole world. This significantly reduces the software invoice for all kinds of learning purposes.

The problem

If you’re lucky, your college will give you the tools that the employers want you to learn. This can be from Maya or AutoCAD to the Adobe Suite. The schools teach this tool because they are the standard in the industry; they want you to get familiar with them. Still, not everyone has the same opportunities. These licences are expensive, and if the student needs them at their personal computer, there’s a chance that they either need to buy them or get an illegal copy of them in the most common scenario (especially during the pandemic).

Piracy is an everyday occurrence in most developing countries simply because it’s cheaper than buying a licence. Even if downloading cracked software can come with serious security risks, people use it to avoid buying software. But piracy should not be the only option. There’s a whole world of OSS that can solve this; why use Maya to learn 3D modelling if you can use Blender, why bother with the high prices of the Adobe Suite if you can find alternatives like GIMP, Audacity and OpenShot.

Skills can be translated from software to software, even if it takes effort to do it; this way, you’re giving them equal access to every one of your students since they’re not only open and accessible but multiplatform. Stop dealing with compatibility problems since everyone has a different cracked version of Maya.

After school, students could do freelance work without worrying about the limitations of student licences, which help you learn the software but not make money with it. Does a friend need Point-of-Sale Software? Just fire them an instance of FloreantPOS without worrying about licensing.

The idea is lovely, but most people stop when they encounter the problem of finding said OSS. Proprietary software can be easily found via the app stores, but you’ll often need to know what you’re looking for with OSS, but this is changing. Projects like Aviyel function like a hub for the community; you’ll find the software you need, tutorials for it, news and a community to support you if you ever get stuck.

Working with open-source software sets your skill set at a premium level in the job market as you tend to know more about the functionalities of products and output generated from those products. Employers love the guys who work using open-source projects. Since open-source is free to use for all, even large MNC’s benefit from these tools. There would have been no Facebook, IBM, Amazon without open-source.

The love for open-source is growing day-in-day-out among big MNC’s due to monetary reasons. They only have to hire a skillful employee and provide them with a laptop, and voila, they can build one of the most intuitive things this world has ever seen. Thus, if educational institutions take the route of educating their pupils from open-source resources issue of unemployability would not arise in the software job market.

This is because proprietary software has much more finishing than open-source. This leads to a gap of skill between the users. A user of Blender might know a few extra bits about designing than a user bred on Adobe products. This happens because an open-source user has to understand features in-depth, whereas proprietary tools have an excellent finish in the product, making it easier to use. However, open-source is free of cost, whereas proprietary tools might cost a bomb.

Parting note

If we want to change the abusive corporate practices of proprietary software companies, we need to do as Michael Jackson once said and “start the change with the man in the mirror”. Change is necessary if we want to give everyone the same opportunities for learning the skills of today and tomorrow. Thankfully with Aviyel, you’ll never walk alone.

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