Everything open source
May 16–17, 2016: Training & Tutorials
May 18–19, 2016: Conference
Austin, TX

Want students who are ready to contribute? Here's what they should know

Gina Likins (Red Hat), Heidi Ellis (Western New England University), Gregory Hislop (Drexel University)
5:10pm–5:50pm Thursday, 05/19/2016
Open Source 101
Location: Meeting Room 9C Level: Intermediate

Prerequisite knowledge

Attendees should have an understanding of how open source projects work and a general knowledge of open source tools and techniques.


In an ideal world, students would graduate from college ready to contribute to an open source community in some significant way. Unfortunately, few schools teach even basic open source tools such as version control, issue trackers, IRC communication, and more, and almost no schools cover open source culture or communities. How can educators better incorporate these necessary skills and information into undergraduate programs to prepare students for open source?

Gina Likins, Heidi Ellis, and Gregory Hislop outline their efforts to advance FOSS learning in undergraduate computing programs. With funding from the National Science Foundation, Gina, Heidi, and Gregory have been working to enable student participation in humanitarian FOSS projects. This effort has included the development and delivery of the Professors’ Open Source Software Experience, a professional development workshop conducted in collaboration with Red Hat, Inc., that has reached over 60 instructors at more than 50 colleges and universities.

Gina, Heidi, and Gregory also describe the inventory of learning paths they are building to educate students about open source and define a pathway to becoming contributors. This pathway includes a sequence of activities that prepares students for successful humanitarian FOSS participation. The activities cover a variety of aspects of open source participation including technical, process, and cultural knowledge.

Gina, Heidi, and Gregory conclude by soliciting input about the FOSS skills and abilities community members would like to see addressed.

Photo of Gina Likins

Gina Likins

Red Hat

Gina Likins is part of the University Outreach team at Red Hat, which exists to help universities incorporate open source into their curriculum. Currently, she is driving a project that she hopes will make it easier for instructors to find open source projects to work with and has spent the past two years talking to and working with instructors who are interested in open source. Gina has guest lectured for numerous university classes as part of her university outreach role, led sessions at two CCSC conferences, presented at SCALE13x, OSCON 2015, and LinuxCon 2015 in Seattle and Europe, and keynoted at ApacheCon 2015. She’s a frenetic crafter and is sometimes a backup singer.

Photo of Heidi Ellis

Heidi Ellis

Western New England University

Heidi Ellis is a professor at Western New England University and has been active in software engineering education for the past 20 years. Heidi has been involving students in humanitarian free and open source software (HFOSS) since 2006 and has been co-PI on four different NSF grants to support this effort. She is part of a group of academics who are working with Red Hat to support Professor’s Open Source Software Experience (POSSE) workshops, which bring professors up to speed on student involvement in HFOSS projects. Heidi has multiple publications and presentations related to student participation in HFOSS.

Photo of Gregory Hislop

Gregory Hislop

Drexel University

Gregory Hislop is a professor of software engineering and senior associate dean at Drexel University’s College of Computing and Informatics. Gregory has been working on student involvement in open source through a series of NSF grants in partnership with Red Hat. He also spent about 20 years working in the industry, primarily in enterprise systems management products and services. Gregory is a frequent presenter at conferences and workshops.