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Educational use of free and open source software (FOSS): international development and its implications for higher education

Chenggui Duan (South China Normal University, Guangzhou, China and Chu Hai College of Higher Education, New Territories, Hong Kong)
Tracy K. Lee (Department of Journalism and Communication, Chu Hai College of Higher Education, New Territories, Hong Kong)

Interactive Technology and Smart Education

ISSN: 1741-5659

Article publication date: 18 November 2021

Issue publication date: 10 February 2022




Free and open-source software (FOSS) has been used worldwide because of the advantages of user control, cost-saving, flexibility, openness, freedom, more security and better stability. The purpose of this study is to explore the status quo of educational application of FOSS and the trends from international perspectives and its implications for higher education in Hong Kong.


The method of cluster analysis was used in this study. The Web of Science database was used as the data source and all relevant literature for the year 2010–2020 on the theme of “FOSS” was collected for analysis. The information visualization software CiteSpace was used for citation visualization analysis, revealing the research results of FOSS worldwide, including hot spots and development trends.


This paper found that FOSS has become an important research area and is playing an important role in the reform and development of education. Meanwhile, the development and application of FOSS have regional imbalances and strong differentiation, including the educational sector. The paper also found that although FOSS has entered the stage of interdisciplinary development, the research and development of FOSS in the field of education is insufficient, which poses a huge challenge to decision-makers, teachers and students.


Implications for higher education in Hong Kong including: attach importance to and vigorously promote FOSS research and practice to benefit more teachers and students; teachers and students need to be trained for acquiring the awareness and skills of FOSS applications and formulate different strategies; the government should provide greater support to formulate and implement a short and middle-term development plan to facilitate the application of FOSS; and Hong Kong higher education institutions may strengthen exchanges and cooperation with counterparts around the world to jointly promote the development of FOSS. It is hoped that the findings will provide a reference for the study and application of FOSS in higher education in Hong Kong.



This work was supported by the Quality Enhancement Support Scheme from Education Bureau, Hong Kong SAR Government [grant number: 01/QESS/2018]. We are immensely grateful to Professor Zhang Weiyuan of Beijing Normal University for his comments and suggestions on an earlier version of the manuscript.


Duan, C. and Lee, T.K. (2022), "Educational use of free and open source software (FOSS): international development and its implications for higher education", Interactive Technology and Smart Education, Vol. 19 No. 1, pp. 39-57.



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