I just finished reading a great article in EDUCAUSE Review titled Open Source: Narrowing the Divides between Education, Business, and Community. Jim Whitehurst has a great explanation for why we should be teaching our students on and about open source software (so great, I wish I had come up with it first 🙂 )
We live in an increasingly global community. Gone are the days when working for a company in an office meant serving a small geographic area from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Today’s graduates will work in a matrix environment where projects cut across organizational and geographic boundaries, requiring cooperation and communication. Open source uses the power of collaboration to provide students with hands-on learning and to equip students with an expanded skill set that is very attractive to businesses.
Open source better prepares students for the business world by exposing them to real-world problems and encouraging learning through the completion of real tasks. Open source amplifies a “hands-on” approach to learning by connecting students to a community of users in an effort to solve problems. Open-source developers don’t rely on textbooks; they rely on the knowledge base of other developers with whom they connect through community forums, building off of one another’s ideas to create a solution that is eventually shared with all. To this extent, open source better prepares students for future job experiences and allows them to complete, while they’re still in school, work that’s being used by the global open-source community.
Open source also teaches students useful skills that can be applied across other coursework and classes. Students have the opportunity to work with many more code bases in open source than are found in traditional student projects. This strengthens skills in collaboration, project management, and testing and encourages a well-rounded computer science education, making students more marketable in the business world.
Make sure you read the entire article and send it on to the decision makers in your institution. Jim touches on many points that are right in line with my ideals and the ideals of libraries in general.