Software From Universities For Schools

By Andrew Price, 2008-04-05 11:54:11 in General.

The idea is simple: computer science/software engineering departments in universities could initiate and host open source software projects to satisfy computer-based learning requirements of local schools. The flow would go something like:

  1. University and school communicate to establish the school's software requirements;
  2. Research is carried out to establish whether open source software already exists to satisfy requirements (no point in duplicating effort, right?);
  3. University sets up infrastructure and recruits interested staff and students to take on the project in their spare time or as part of an assessed course;
  4. The project is publicised to attract wider attention from potential developers and other schools;
  5. The software is developed and releases made, allowing teachers to evaluate it and report bugs and request features until it is good enough for use;
  6. The project hits 'maintenance mode' allowing the university to take on a new project;
  7. The school kids become computer geeks, end up in university and contribute software back to their old schools (ok, maybe just a few).

The obvious benefits here are financial and educational and it would help schools to improve their community ties with local universities while the open source software is distributed freely to benefit schools in other parts of the world. The kids could also take the software home with them. The lack of restrictions means that the possibilities are abundant.

Perhaps it could attract financial backing from local industry, motivated by the possibility of employing graduates with more experience of collaborating and working on useful software projects.

This is one of those spur-of-the-moment brainstorms which I haven't really thought through and it's probably not an original idea, but I'd like to see something like this happening in my local area. No doubt there is a bit of red tape and apathy to cut through to get projects like this established but it makes sense to me.


Aeternus writes:

Sounds good to me :)

2008-04-05 13:33:33

Corey Shields writes:

A good example of this is the Condor clustering software project, developed and maintained by the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in their CS department:

It is a clustering package that makes use of cross platform ephemeril resources (think of a lab of desktop computers and seti@home). A lot of institutions and organizations use this package.

Also worth looking at (though not totally in line with your idea) is the CS419 course at Oregon State University (home of the Open Source Lab - This course is a "special topics in open source" where assignments throughout the course focus on contributions to an existing open source project. Previous contributions went to about 30 projects including the linux kernel and firefox.

thanks for the post, more universities need to drop the simulated programming environments that end up going no farther than the refrigerator and adopt open source contributions that will be used in the real world.



2008-04-05 13:35:33