Introduction: What is the purpose of this project?
In august 2012, a google search with keywords “best free survey tools” generated about 53,700,000 results in 0.28 seconds. It is easy to find lists such as “10 top free survey tools” or “Best…tools” on the Internet. Such lists could be considered as Generally Recognized as Mature" (GRAM) lists. GRAM list is a term used to describe the distribution of Open Source Software / Free Software (OSS/FS) programs (Wheeler, 2004). The purpose of this project is to 1) evaluate, summarize, and share the use of open source technologies and free tools in educational research processes; 2) save education graduate students or emerging educational researchers’ time, energy, and money in searching and finding appropriate tools for their research processes; 3) reflect on and invite thoughts and discussions around the use of open source technology (OST) and the impact of open source principles and culture on research processes.
This site reports the results from an OST evaluation project. It also serves as a comprehensive GRAM list of OSTs and free tools that can be used by educational researchers who may have different needs and preferences. In this project, OST is defined as software, tools, or services that are either Open Source Software (OSS), or Free Software (FS), or a free tool or service listed as public. This means that the OSTs discussed in this project has either a free software license by the Free Software Foundation (FSF), or an open source license by the Open Source Initiative (OSI), or free for public use.
- List of free software licenses by the Free Software Foundation (FSF) is available at http://www.gnu.org/licenses/license-list.html
- List of open source licenses by the Open Source Initiative (OSI) is available at http://opensource.org/licenses/index.html
Strictly speaking, a more accurate term might be Open Source/Free Software (OSS/FS technologies) technologies as they are often referred to in open source literature. However, theoretically, FSF and OSI are two different organizations and may have different philosophical focuses, but they are very similar in terms of leading the open and sharing culture (Bonk, 2009 ). Also, some software, tools, or services are not marked as open source, but they are free services or tools listed in the public domain (such as CiteULike or Web Scrapbook). Therefore, software, tools, or services from these three territories are considered in this project, and for simplicity reasons, the term Open Source Technology (OST) will be used consistently in this project. Almost all proprietary software have a free 30-day trial version (such as Nvivo) or a free basic account (such as Mendeley, 1GB basic account), and they could be great for short-term projects or if the basic accounts can help you get the job done, but they are not the main focus of this project. As suggested in many open source works, Open Source Software / Free Software (OSS/FS) programs allow the users to run, to modify, or to redistribute the program freely (Wheeler, 2008). The word “free” refers to “freedom” rather than its economical connotation so not all open source technologies (OST) are free so some may have a fee for complete or advanced features.
Structure of the Site
This site is organized by the major steps in common educational research processes and the OSTs are categorized by their major founctionality for the research steps listed below:
- Applicable Research Stage: Literature Review (search and research, reference management, notes tools,…
- Applicable Research Stage: Data Collection & Management (file storage & sharing tools, survey tools, interview tools, video annotation tools, virtual environments…
- Applicable Research Stage: Data Analysis (Quantitative, Qualitative, Data Visualization Tools...
- Applicable Research Stage: Writing (Concept mapping, notes tools, reference management tools, collaborative writing tools...
- Reflection on the impact of OST on educational research processes
Generally Recognized as Mature (GRAM) Lists
Types of Licenses
Software, tools, or services considered in this project have the following types of licenses:
- Licenses approved by the Open Source Initiative (OSI) or the Free Software Foundation (FSF), for example,
- GNU GPL General Public License as the first copyleft license for general use, or
- AGPL Affero General Public License as one license that refers to two distinct but also historically related free software licenses:
- Freemium (such as Evernote, charge a fee for advanced features). These are not open source technologies.
- Services or tools listed as free for the public use(such as CiteULike, or Web Scrapbook). These are not open source technologies.
- Proprietary software but have a free basic account (such as Mendeley, 1GB basic account). This is not the focus of this project but will be mentioned in this site because almost all proprietary software provide a free basic account or 30-day free trial period, which may help with the research processes as well.
- Wheeler, D. A. (2011). How to evaluate open source software / free software (OSS/FS) programs. Retrieved from http://www.dwheeler.com/oss_fs_eval.html#analyze
- Bonk, C. J. (2009). The world is open: How Web technology is revolutionizing education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass