Students Learning OSS vs PS

Module 6 Blog Question: There is an argument that students should use proprietary software (like Microsoft Office) in schools as they will most likley have to use it in the work environment. Opponents of OSS in schools feel that using applications like to teach students office productivity applications would put them at a disadvantage in the workplace. Do you feel that the skills students would learn on OSS applications can transfer to proprietary applications? Take a look at, or other applications that could be used in schoools, and then post your ideas to the course blog.

 I’m not sure that it would put them at a disadvantage. Skills learned using OSS applications such as OpenOffice can be transferable should the student get a job in an organization using Microsoft Office. For example, in OpenOffice Writer, there is a toolbar with similar functions to MS Word and drop down menus. What I think is more critical is that in school the student learn to write effectively (grammar, sentence structure, expression of an opinion/thought, analytical writing). The application used to write with would be a secondary concern, with the thought that if you can use OpenOffice Writer than you possess computer skills and that the individual would likely be able to make the transition/leap to MS Word with a bit of assistance from the Help Function or tutorial.


1 Barrie Carter { 10.25.09 at 9:39 am }

Hello Cathy:

You raise a good point. Skills are transferable from one identical software to another, especially if each software shares similar tools, functions, and features.

Perhaps businesses want individuals who are not only proficient in language skills, but also in *specific* software programs so that there is minimum initial training. After all, any kind of training costs the business time and money, which are valuable commodities, if you will. Here, the opportunity cost is time and money.


2 Eveline Yu { 10.25.09 at 2:26 pm }

Hi Cathy,

I agree with you that learning to write effectively is more important…perhaps this is because I’m coming from an English teacher point of view.

I think learning the tools and the functions of a software are definitely secondary as programs tend to change over time. Even if you taught them certain skills using certain programs during their high school years, after they graduate from post-secondary, that program might be already very outdated.

However, it seems the format and the layout of how one writes and how information is presented has changed very little (although with variations in presentation such as PPT or prezi). We are still looking for content and the ability of individuals to think critically.

So, to sum it up, I agree that writing skills are transferable across different programs – and for people to adapt to these programs will just increase their ability to be a little more flexible. I’m also sure that the core functions (bold, italics, underline, margins, lists and bullets, tables, etc.) would pretty much be available if we continue to find a need for them.


3 Ernest Pao { 10.25.09 at 7:57 pm }


You make a great point about using word processors to improve writing proficiency. I mean, what difference does it really make if a student used MS Word or Open Office to write an essay? The writing skills they learn are still the same.

In my mind, and I mentioned this somewhere else too, is that OSS levels the playing field among students. Those who may not be able to afford high price PS can use OSS as very reasonable alternatives.

4 Amy Frank { 11.02.09 at 9:07 pm }

Honestly, I think having experience with a number of different programs is better than being limited. It seems like each time MS Office products change, I am lost at first. Having the ability to transfer skills and act on intuition instead of relying on one exact version of a program is more valuable, especially to companies that are often upgrading systems. I would prefer to hire the person who had diverse technological skills instead of being an expert in one system.

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