Open source education – ensuring students develop the skills they need

When I first became involved with Mozilla through working on a Mozilla Foundation accessibility grant, I quickly discovered the impressive open source educational work at Seneca College in Toronto, lead by David Humphry and Chris Tyler. Students on the computer science course get the enviable opportunity to work on projects that immerse them directly in some of the most successful open source development communities, contributing to programs such as Firefox, Thunderbird, Open Office and Fedora (Linux).  These projects are not just academic exercises, rather they are strategic for the open source projects, and students contributions are accepted into the projects. As a result students get incomparable experience working on large code bases and in the process acquire the open source software and community development skills that are highly sought by companies all over the world.This work started with Seneca introducing Mozilla technology in their courses and soon Mozilla joined in, with key people giving lectures and making themselves available to the students. If you visit Seneca’s Mozilla IRC channel you will find a vibrant community where students, faculty staff, Mozilla staff and volunteers are busy discussing issues, working on projects and having fun.This morning I spotted a tweet from Mark Surman, Mozilla Foundation’s executive director,  that linked to this excellent paper by Chris Tyler explaining how Seneca approach open source education.OSS Watch, like Seneca and Mozilla are serious about open source education as the way to address the skills shortage. Along with the others members of the Teaching Open Source collaboration we are working to ensure students, educational institutions and industry alike acquire the open development skills that are so critical for much modern software development.

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