Institutional Best Practices

Best Practice 1: Open Source Culture and In-house Software Development


  1. Title of the Practice

Open Source Culture and In-house Software Development


  1. Objectives of the Practice

Proprietary commercial software involves significant cost, annual expenses, restrictions on usages and licensing terms. Sometimes learning outcomes are limited or administrative work suffer due to restricted modifications to be done in commercial software as per the need. College identified that solution is creating an ecosystem for promoting use of open source tools and also in-house development of software’s for academics and administrative purposes. Even though open source tool provides cost saving but it is a matter of liberty. The freedom to run the program, the freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs. 


  1. The Context

One of the most important benefit of using open source tools and in-house development of tools is that one can make more transparent decision-making processes creating more sense of ownership in the stakeholders. Hence processes need to be clearly defined before development and subsequent deployment of the software. Feedback from every stakeholder is required to be taken often. 

Special training programs are required to be organized before using open source software’s in the laboratory e.g. training on Scilab need to be given before using Scilab in mathematics course.

Open source culture is geared toward transparency, openness, and encouraging participation from diverse contributors. Many organizations are currently transforming their infrastructure by moving into open cloud platforms such as OpenStack. In many cases it is because of good ROI. Hence culture of collaboration and team work is essential for use and development of institute level software modules.


  1. The Practice

Fr. CRCE is having an infrastructure of 600+ computers. Most of the computers have open source Linux operating system installed on them. College encourage students to use open source software and tools for their laboratory work and projects. 

Open source software’s such as Libreoffice, OpenCV, PyTorch, OpenNN, TensorFlow, LaTeX, Octave, Scilab, GCC compiler, JDK, Eclipse, Umbrello, GNU plot, python compiler, packet tracer, NS2, Apache Hadoop ecosystem etc. are available to perform laboratory experiments. College also has a cloud set-up on the Linux operating system. The list of open source software on campus is still growing. Faculty are trained on using Latex for writing and publishing research papers. While developing projects as academic requirement or to take part in project competitions, such as e-yantra (IIT, Bombay) project groups are mentored to use open source Technologies.

Open source technologies allows the developers to modify the code as per the need without any restrictions. Open source technologies are also OS platform independent. Software’s could be tailor made as per the necessity of institution or department. Open source has a great chance of success that can deliver a great value. Open source technologies are reliable and virus free. Hence there are many applications which institution require are developed in-house using open source tools. Following are the examples of applications developed:

  1. Application for Admission (Application, merit-list generation etc.)
  2. Application for Biometric marking of official timings
  3. Application for Leave Application
  4. Application for Service Records
  5. Application for Student Attendance marking 
  6. Application for Payment of Fees
  7. Application for Examination e.g. Marksheet Printing 
  8. Application for maintenance of stores
  9. Moodle Server for Teaching Learning
  10. Application for Allotment of Invigilation Slots
  11. Application for International Conference Review Process

Most of the commercial software’s available in the market for academic engagement and also governance in higher education institutions are developed by multinational companies. This culture of open source will create confidence among students to develop in-house applications. 

Fr. CRCE has signed MoU with Linux Professional Institute (LPI) which is the global certification standard and career support organization for open source professionals. Students and faculty are given courseware for self-learning and then they can get themselves certified as Linux Professionals. 

Entire life cycle of the project can be experienced in the closed loop environment in an institution during development and deployment of the project.


  1. Evidence of Success

Software’s developed are used in day-to-day administration of the college. Open source tools are used in many laboratory courses. Apart from cost saving there are following benefits by use of this practice:

  1.  Ability to innovate and customize the code based on institutions requirement.
  2.  It encourages curiosity and develop culture of innovation
  3.  Encourages developing new features, replacing or improving existing features 
  4.  Creates an environment of collaboration by attracting 3rd party developers/contributors
  5.  In-house applications developed are found to be reliable, open and trustworthy 
  6.  Open source tools give freedom to learn without restrictions.
  7.  High flexibility in modifying source code
  8.  Create virus free environment eliminating the need to procure antivirus software’s
  9.  Students are getting professional courseware along with access to code, APIs, documentation, experts advice because of MoU with    LPI and opportunity for certification. 
  10.  It has eliminated the issue of systems getting affected by viruses
  11.  All the applications developed are used by faculty and students for academic, research and administrative purposes.
  12. Sometimes the team struggle to track changes in the open source code. It also create security issues and other problems in system operation if not developed by considering such issues.


  1. Problems Encountered and Resources Required

Regular Maintenance: Teams need to manage, maintain, upgrade and innovate the code throughout its life. Need to create a streamlined workflow that a new person could easily adopt to the tool in shortest time.

Governance: Requires thoroughly thought after strategy for deployment and maintenance of open-source software. 

Absence of vendor support: You have to navigate on your own to solve the issues particularly during lab sessions or take help of open-source communities.

Interoperability of Tools Creating Silos: Some of these open-source tools are so independent of the other tools that they don't provide uniformity and they don't connect and integrate easily. This is problematic when data comes from multiple departments or sources. Integration of different applications is an issue.

Deployment to a larger scale: Many times software’s are developed as pilot projects without big challenges, but they encounter many issues when tried to deploy on larger scale. 


  1. Notes (Optional)

Any other institution can adopt this best practice provided they need to create culture of open source in an institute. Fr. CRCE celebrated Software Freedom Day on 17th Nov 2022 to create awareness among students and faculty about open source tool. Also workshop on Latex for all the faculty members and workshop on Scilab for all the newly admitted First Year students was organized.


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