The significant savings gained by using free and open source software in the school of the Swiss town of Villmergen are used to enhance the curriculum. Switching to free and open source has led to an increase in computers, motivating teachers to create their own courses. "Ubuntu Linux PCs are very easy to use and maintain, giving teachers more time to work with their students," says Martin Lang, the school's IT administrator.
The move to hassle-free software has created a virtuous circle, Lang says. Since most of the educational-applications created by the school are browser-based, teachers encourage students to bring their own computers. This again increases the number of PCs per classroom, making computer-aided teaching more attractive.
All teachers at the school can work with Ubuntu Linux, says Lang. "Changing their computer habits takes some effort, but they are motivated because of the increase in teaching possibilities."
Villmergen began using Ubuntu Linux in 2008, installing it first on a number of PCs used previously by the town hall. Pleased by the experience, the school decided to forego the usual proprietary software agreement, and install it on the PCs used by students at secondary school level. "We did this without any external support. The Ubuntu PCs were immediately functional, which made it our fastest installation of an operating system so far."
In 2010, the school decided to use Ubuntu for high school students, and, in 2011, added the primary level. "And every time we kept on saving money." The installation meanwhile became fully automatic, using the school network.
The school now also uses Epoptes,an open source solution that make it easy to manage school PC labs, by sharing and remotely monitoring desktops. "The programme is very easy to work with", says Lang. "That is important, since every year, the configuration is adapted to the size of the classes: 4 classes have to share around 25 laptops."
Switching to Ubuntu has let the school tick many items off its list. It allows it to stay within its IT budget. They are no longer forced to buy licences for proprietary office suites or operating systems, and no longer have to study price lists for other proprietary solutions. The Linux PCs are perfectly compatible with the two common proprietary computer systems. The school PCs are very easy to maintain, all applications are up to date and all PCs run the same versions of software solutions. Moreover the flexibility of the free software licences allows the school to install PCs whenever they want, for example when they receive a hardware donation from the local administration.
The town's politicians support the school's use of free and open source software, says IT administrator Lang. "They've been involved from the start and the town council appreciates that this type of ICT solution is saving a significant amount of money. It is making them take a good look at their own IT systems."