Free software used commonly in education would an amazing future - how do we make it happen?

Many people, most notably members of the FSF, have been pushing for free software in the field of education.

As a student who has to deal with proprietary edtech software (most notably Schoology), this is something that actually affects me too.

Personally, I’ve been working on librekit/librekit: [WIP] A free as in freedom re-implementation of Gimkit, written in TypeScript and Go. -, which has been around for about a month. I’ve also been thinking about making an LMS. (yes, I know, Moodle already exists, but I tried it and found that it was somehow even worse than Schoology in terms of UI & UX)

There are definitely ways to make this bright future happen, and I’m doing what I can to push it in that direction, but it’s not an easy task. I figured I’d share this here for obvious reasons.


I would be thrilled to see more free software in education, particularly given that there’s a huge opportunity for it to be (at least in part) student maintained.

One opportunity that occurs to me with respect to this topic is that there’s probably pretty good odds of securing some real funding for educational software from the governments that would make use of it.

Feedback: I didn’t know what Gimkit is and it wasn’t clear what this software did until I looked up Gimkit elsewhere – maybe you can elaborate on that in your README?


Feedback: I didn’t know what Gimkit is and it wasn’t clear what this software did until I looked up Gimkit elsewhere – maybe you can elaborate on that in your README?

Yeah, good point, I completely missed that. :sweat_smile:

Gimkit is an amazing educational browser game (they call it a “live learning game show”) which I enjoy and use in class, although it’s unfortunately proprietary software. I made librekit as an alternate frontend (and now also backend) for Gimkit, and it actually does work to some extent!

1 Like

as someone that works with moodle on my day job, maintaining moodle on the back end is painful (it’s almost like every installation is a soft-fork)

having an alternative that not only improves the ui/ux for users, but is also more easily maintainable for the sysadmins, would be great and i think would help a lot with adoption as well…

1 Like

Agreed! And that’s exactly why I want to try making my own free LMS software. I know how to make something that at the VERY least would be lacking in features but really easy to set up.


Is there an alternative to Duo Auth that’s both free software AND works on Firefox, or does someone have to make that too?

I mean, free 2FA already exists, all this would need to be is a wrapper for multiple services to have the same login with the same 2FA code. Then again, a robust LMS (or an LMS with great plugin support to make it robust) could eliminate the need to use multiple services at all…

1 Like

Honestly, I’m not sure. There’s probably some auth management free software, but I’m not aware of any specific examples.

I’m not sure that this could be done well in a manner compatible with the spirit of free software. Though I wonder, if we depart from these design constraints, wouldn’t something like u2f or the coming work on passkeys be suitable in this context?

1 Like

In Argentina there’s been an initiative for higher education to move to FLOSS software for the past 15 years.

English fluency rates are lower than in Europe, so collaboration with abroad might be a bit tricker (links below are in Spanish).

The software used for students to sign up to courses (and other student-management functionality) used to be developed independently by each university (which meant duplication of effort and no collaboration). The SIU (which, IIRC, is an initiative of the ministry of education) has since pushed for their own open source implementation of this kind of software, where individual institutions can maintain their own locally customised instances with their specific needs. For public universities (which receive state funding), migrating to of public open source systems like this was compulsory.

The software used for students to sign up to courses (and all the related management) is (I don’t see a public link to the source tho).

Anecdotally, I used to work at the IT department of my university and we had an initiative to move away from proprietary software entirely. Replacing MS Office with OnlyOffice for internal staff had a lot of resistance since “the open and save icons were different” and this seemed to “confuse people” (I honestly think that a lot of it was simply resistance to change). I did manage to replace a lot of other proprietary software on our base installation with alternatives like VLC, Firefox, SumatraPDF, ImgBurn, etc.

I do believe that the way this was addressed is a good example: receivers of public funds must make their software publicly available. This is the general mindset of Public Money, Public Code

1 Like

I wish the United States did this :frowning:

Proprietary edtech software is common here…

I use Kanidm for IDM stuff at home. I think it would be an excellent replacement for Duo, especially since it has HA. Trusts (issue 149, new users are limited to two links on discourse) are pretty deep in the backlog, but would allow universities to host their own IDM while still cooperating with each other.
Isn’t Canvas LMS open source? You wouldn’t guess it from their product page but the repo is listed as AGPLv3.
As a student I used GNU Octave quite a bit in place of MatLab, I highly recommend it. I wrote a lot of my small papers in libre office and larger ones in LaTeX.
I had a few professors who required papers to be submitted as .docx files, but after talking to them about the benefits of PDF as a lingua franca, especially in regards to accessibility (e.g. letting students use workflows better suited for themselves), most professors relented. I think in general professors are very open and sympathetic to the idea of open source in education; many of them just don’t think about it very much in their day-to-day. So talking about open source to your professors is certainly a viable strategy (just don’t be an asshole about it).
One particular thing I’ve been thinking about recently are online collaborative IDE’s. I volunteer for a code teaching program at work and we’ve been jumping between free and educational plans for online IDEs like replit and they all inevitably hit scaling issues, run out of vc money, and discontinue their free educational tiers as a result. We get a little bit of money for one off purchases but unfortunately a recurring subscription is not in the cards. Guiding students through IDE setup over video isn’t really practical for us either, especially when they use a variety of operating systems. It would be great to have a p2p collaborative online IDE that runs interpreted languages locally with web assembly (pyodide, for example). I’ve been toying with the idea and thinking about the requirements but don’t have the bandwidth to make it a reality.