A community specifically for Drupal developers and users at universities is in the formative stages, see: Forming a Drupal in Higher Edu Consortium; (groups.drupal.org).

It's long been my belief that educational institutions should make more use of Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS). Besides the obvious benefit of cost savings that should not be lost on any educational institution or department therein, FLOSS operating systems like GNU/Linux, applications like LibreOffice and Firefox, programming tools like MySQL and PHP, and web site frameworks like Drupal offer the source code to users. This has several immediate benefits, including:

  • Most free software that is included in the major distributions (such as Red Hat, Debian and Ubuntu) has been vetted by top-tier programmers in addition to the hundreds, if not thousands, of people using and contributing to them. This scrutiny not only increases the quality and security of the code - usually beyond what can be found in retail software - but also results in exemplary coding practices that can be beneficial to young programmers reading the code at universities.
  • Drupal in particular has one of the largest and most active communities supporting and contributing to the project. The opportunity to get one's feet wet - and perhaps to dive into - the technical, social and multi-cultural process of enhancing a well-known and widely used platform will benefit developers, users and students of every discipline.
  • Drupal is a top-tier content management system (CMS) that "out-of-the-box" provides for news and information editing and publication, blogging, discussion forums and much more that can be immediately useful for department web sites, knowledge management systems, intranet portals and many other applications.  And unlike proprietary systems like SharePoint and Convio, Drupal is free, which should be increasingly attractive to universities reeling from state budget cuts.

The proposed "Higher Ed" sub-community could have a far-reaching impact on our increasingly online (and decreasingly flush) educational institutions, perhaps resulting in a collection of feature sets that department heads would find useful. Check it out!

Fen Labalme joined CivicActions as an Engineer in 2005.