From Scott Leslie; Dokeos is a private Belgian company using the open source Claroline LMS. This company offers training, services and hosting, based on an open source system. I will be interested to see if this business and its model survive. I think that open source in a commercial education venture is not only viable, but that it’s a stronger model. With open source, the vendor can’t hide the system’s weaknesses, but will work with clients to improve the system.
I had previously written about one of my projects last year and discussed this kind of business model.
Oct 2003: I was evaluating LCMS’s for a client and it had been a few years since I’d done this. I saw how much the market had changed. I had conducted some evaluations in 1999 and 2000 for Industry Canada, while I was at Mount Allison University’s Centre for Learning Technologies. The Centre no longer exists, but one of our reports is still available on theTeleEducationNewBrunswick site. We also helped the Centre for Curriculum and Technology Transfer develop the "landonline" LMS evaluation site, which has since become Edutools.
Three years ago there were many choices, or so it seemed. Now the commercial vendors are fewer, and there are even less in the academic market. There are a lot of Open Source systems available, but my clients were uneasy about these, and I understand why. It’s hard to sell your board of directors on technology that has been "cooked-up" by a worldwide network of part-timers. They wanted some kind of insurance.
I believe the next great business model for an elearning entrepreneur is to provide high quality installation and support services for a select group of open source learning systems. Your customers will soon realize that you are not trying to sell them the next upgrade to get more cash, because the software is free. You will be selling your knowledge, experience, and customer service. Many IT departments would be more apt to use open source if they knew that it was strongly supported. Also, there is a lot less conflict of interest when you remove the vendor from the ongoing support.
Having lived through the dot com era, I believe that the marketplace is ready for this new business model.