February 29, 2012 By Tanya Roscorla
Ten years ago, the vice president of IT at Indiana University told Brad Wheeler — then the associate dean for teaching and learning — that they needed to update their homegrown teaching and learning systems.
Wheeler’s business school bias kicked in — he wanted to buy a new system rather than build another one in-house. “I absolutely thought this was nuts.”
But after some research, building a system didn’t seem like such a bad idea, especially if he could partner with other universities. In 2003, Indiana University launched its Sakai project to collaboratively create open source teaching and learning systems. And the university worked again with multiple institutions to build an open source suite of administrative applications, saving $17 million.
“This isn’t just hobbies and chess,” said Wheeler, now the university’s CIO. “This is the real deal.”
Multiple collaborative projects now have pooled more than $60 million in investments from 50 institutions and 22 firms — and Wheeler sees this pooled investment as the way for universities to get more value for their money.
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