The first time I came across the open source course management software Moodle, .LRN and Sakai, I thought, "This is what K-12 schools should be looking to use." I can't imagine widespread adoption of commercial software like Blackboard in our public schools.
We use Moodle at NJIT, as well as the commercial WebCT/Blackboard. And I know that the nearby private Montclair Kimberley Academy (preK-12) has all of its teachers in Moodle.
And .LRN is supposedly the "most widely adopted enterprise-class open source software for supporting e-learning and digital communities. It was originally developed at MIT, and claims to have a million users in higher education, government, non-profit, and K-12. I don't know what portion of that number is K-12, but I could only find the Los Angeles Unified School District as a North American K-12 user.
It's not just the cost, although that's a huge factor, that makes me think that commercial CMS products will not make deep inroads into K-12. It's also IT support, or rather the lack of it, in the majority of districts I have worked in or observed.
It's also that very few K-12 teachers or administrators I have talked with see online course management software as suited for their school. "We don't teach online courses," they have told me. I hear that from my own university teachers too. Since WebCT and the others were first used most heavily to support distance learning, CMS use still has that attachment to many people as being for DL, not for face-to-face teaching.
K-12 districts should be looking to use CMS to support and supplement F2F classes in the same way that colleges are using it there as well as in hybrid and fully online courses.
Still, Moodle & Sakai require IT support, probably more support than a commercial product which comes with at least some built-in/paid for support. Yes, there are now appearing companies that support open source CMS for schools. That scenario brings new misconceptions - "You mean we have to PAY to use that FREE software?" Yes, you do. It's probably a whole lot cheaper than the alternative where you pay big money for the software licensing AND for the support. If you don't pay some outside IT vendor, you'll need to devote/pay internal staff to support it.
One application I came across a few months ago is Digication, a new online learning site whose main product is Digication Campus which the creator describes as:
â€¦ a web-based classroom for teachers and students. You can post assignments. Share ideas. Talk. Listen. Learn collaboratively. Get and give help. Post articles. Record grades. Collaborate online. And digitally archive the entire educational experience.
More basic than Moodle, but their â€œsimple by designâ€ motto might make Digication a good thing for teachers & schools without IT staff that is less willing or able to install & maintain a CMS. The site is free for the first 1,000 users at any one school.
** I'm not talking here about the other CMS - content management systems - like Drupal of webEdition, that help schools maintain their websites and web resources.)