Estonia has published its online classroom software, Schoolaby, as free and open source software under the EUPL licence. While this category of software attracted a lot of interest during the COVID lockdowns, the developers highlight that it can also assist with schooling for children who are absent due to illness or for other reasons.
Maybe the authors haven’t thought that online learning is here to stay. Not in the sense that it will replace the classroom or the teacher but rather to be of extra help – student who would like to investigate more; others who would need more time to understand; others who didn’t understand because in the class some students were unruly, or they had interruptions…
In August, Philippe Latombe, a member of the French National Assembly, advised Pap Ndiaye, the minister of national education, that the free version of Microsoft Office 365, while appealing, amounts to a form of illegal dumping. He asked the education minister what he intends to do, given the data sovereignty issues involved with storing personal data in an American cloud service.
German data protection authorities came to a similar conclusion in 2019 when they disallowed Microsoft Office 365 in classrooms in the state of Hessen.
Germany’s federal and state data protection authorities (DSK) have raised concerns about the compatibility of Microsoft 365 with data protection laws in Germany and the wider European Union.
Under the GDPR, children below the age of 13 are incapable of consenting to their data being collected, while consent may be given by those with parental responsibility for those under 16 but not younger than 13. When platforms do store data on adults, those customers are meant to be able to request the deletion of their records.
Microsoft has denied that its assessment : “We ensure that our M365 products not only meet, but often exceed, the strict EU data protection laws. Our customers in Germany and throughout the EU can continue to use M365 products without hesitation and in a legally secure manner.”
That statement is not actually a categorical and clear denial of what Germany alleges. But actually my opinion is, if there is concern about any age group using this software for educational purposes, all the concepts (and use) can also be taught using open source LibreOffice and then there is no issue like this. Schools should anyway be teaching concepts and principles, that there are options out there, and to innovate around experimentation, adapting software, etc.
In doing so, the state wants to reduce its dependence on proprietary software, and eventually end it altogether. By the end of 2026, Microsoft Office is to be replaced by LibreOffice on all 25,000 computers used by civil servants and employees (including teachers), and the Windows operating system is to be replaced by GNU/Linux.