CUNY’s Open Source “Commons in a Box” A Big Win For Open Source in Academia

With a $107,500 grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, CUNY has announced that it will now begin work on the “Commons in a Box” project, assembling its software into a single installation package. This means that other colleges and universities will be able to easily create their own academic platforms. News of the project came with the announcement that the Modern Language Association will take part in its development and will use the platform to create an MLA Commons for its members.

The project has been built using open-source tools, including WordPress (which enables multisite blogs), BuddyPress (a WordPress plugin that turns the blog into a social network), and MediaWiki (the Wikimedia Foundation’s wiki software). As a proponent of open-source technologies in education, that makes the Commons in a Box project a win in my book. It isn’t simply that the project will put the tools to create their own academic networks into the hands of schools; it’s that the Academic Commons development team has been sharing its coding back with the open source community, with WordPress plugins for example that have been downloaded over 100,000 times.

Inside Higher Ed: “Commons in a Box” & the Importance of Open Academic Networks

CUNY’s project joins a number of other major university projects including Open.Michigan, ELMS @ Penn State, and Open Scholar @ Harvard that are using open source software and licensing to develop sophisticated collaborative learning and research spaces. Given the collaborative nature of legal practice, law schools should be at the forefront of these sorts of projects.