Sunday, January 29, 2012

Free Office Software for Education in the Cloud

Media reports indicate that the free open source LibreOffice software suite is being ported to run from an on-line server, only needing a HTML5 web browser on the client device. The software is also being ported to Android and iOS operating systems. This could be a useful alternative to Microsoft Office and GoogleDocs, particularly for educational institutions which want to provide students with word processor, spreadsheet and presentation software, but respect the privacy of the students.

For the last year I have been using LibreOffice. Previously I used OpenOffice, but when I upgraded to a new version of Linux, it came with LibreOffice and have not noticed the difference. The word processor has reasonable compatibility with Microsoft Word, the spreadsheet less so and the presentation tool is not so good (and less compatible with Powerpoint). I have been using OpenOffice/LibreOffice for several years teaching at the tertiary level and it has been adequate.

Having the option to supply the students with free office software which runs in a browser, on a tablet computer and on laptops and desktop computers would be very useful. One issue with cloud based applications is where the data is hosted. If the server is in another country, then there is less control over the data stored. If the educational institution can host the application themselves, or arrange for commercial hosting in the same country, this lessens problems.LinkLink

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