How do we nurture and sustain our open source projects? That’s one of the key questions that emerged from a workshop showcasing three JISC Capital Programme projects working on eassessment held recently at the University of Cambridge. The projects – AQuRate, Minibix and ASDEL – demonstrated the end-to-end assessment process which interoperability can support, with items authored in AQuRate, uploaded to and extracted from the Minibix item bank and successfully delivered in ASDEL. All three tools implement the QTI v2.1 specification, building where possible on earlier open source work funded by JISC. Code will be added to the projects’ SourceForge space, and it’s hoped that the quality of these tools combined with the collaborative tools provided by SourceForge will help to sustain them after the end of the funding period in March.
It’s that funding period that raises issues around the survival of so many of these tools. Both Sheila MacNeill and RenÃ© Meijer offer thoughtful analyses of the workshop and discussion sessions, and both highlight the fact that even open source communities need and can be motivated by funding. There’s a real desire to move from such projects being little more than proof of concept to the focus of a strong, self-sustaining community of developers and, ultimately, educators, but developing and supporting such a community is not a simple task. If you build it, they may well come; but you might need to pay their train fare first.