Over the years, open source software (OSS) projects have been launched among higher education institutions with the aim of meeting the community’s needs more effectively and at less cost than do commercial options presently available. However, many in the community believe that uncertainty about future support and improvements hinders the widespread adoption of open source software. The creation of a new organization, which we refer to with the generic term “OOSS” (Organization for Open Source Software), has been proposed to address this need. This concept has received significant interest from the community and from a group of senior college and university administrators.

In order to test the OOSS concept, Paul Courant, professor of economics and former provost at the University of Michigan, led a study in collaboration with our team. Michael Carter, an expert in academic computing and instructional technologies, also assisted in this effort.

We interviewed more than 60 stakeholders, including many open-source thought leaders. Based on this research, we defined several potential forms for OOSS and identified the critical factors that could make such an organization succeed.