Open source gets training boost

The biggest IT literacy course gets a Star Office module, and OpenOffice could be next

The European Computer Driving Licence, the most popular training course for basic IT literacy, which has for so long been a Microsoft stranglehold, is to offer a non-Microsoft course for the first time.

The ECDL Foundation will now include a module on the use of Sun's Star Office Writer, Calc and Base applications for word processing, spreadsheets and database work.

Although the Star Office course is intended for users running Windows XP, the company behind the new course, Ireland-based OpenApp, is preparing to expand into open source ECDL modules.

"This is the first non-Microsoft ECDL certified material in the UK and Ireland," said OpenApp's Feargal Duignan. "I'd like to think we will prove the value of this and develop further open source projects: OpenOffice on Ubuntu for instance."

Users training needs are often considered to be a significant barrier to the deployment of open source in enterprises.

In a report on best practices in open source, Forrester, the analyst group, said businesses found a number of hurdles, including the fact that Linux training was relatively scarce, and also expensive.

But others disagreed. Mark Taylor, chief executive officer of Sirius, an open source consultancy, said training was not an inhibitor.

"Training is a perceived barrier in my opinion," said Taylor. "There is as much support as you want."

Further courses are in development at the National Computing Centre and the UK Unix Users' Group. And a high-level technical course aimed at IT professionals has been launched by the University of London's Birkbeck College. The Diploma in open source IT applications seeks to develop skills in OpenOffice, mySQL and PHP, among others.

The ECDL is administered in the UK by the British Computer Society (BCS) but the BCS was unavailable for comment at the time of writing.

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