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6 colleges turning out open source talent

Sandra Gittlen | May 3, 2016
Most IT departments have project roadmaps that will require open-source skills, but finding recent college grads with open source talent can be challenging.

Most IT departments have project road maps that will require open-source skills, but finding recent college grads with open source talent can be challenging.

Whether your company is planning an open-source-based big data implementation, installing an open-platform file manager, or adopting an open approach to customer relationship management, experts say traditional computer science departments might not be turning out students you need.

“We still see that the status quo in computer science is very much missing an open-source component,” says Tom Callaway, team lead for Red Hat’s University Outreach program. Therefore, hiring managers and recruiters should look to non-traditional schools that have committed coursework and even degree programs to open source.

“Colleges and universities need to be doing more than just having students use open-source applications or platforms; they need to be teaching them about the culture of open source and how to collaborate within the open-source community,” he says.

Here are six academic institutions – and instructors – immersing students in the open-source community.

1. New York Institute of Technology

In his three years at New York Institute of Technology, Richard Simpson has relied heavily on open-source as a key engineering and computer sciences teaching tool. “The thing we always struggle with at a university level is having the latest and greatest version of an application,” he says.

Proprietary applications such as computer-aided design software require time to gain purchasing approval and to integrate with classwork. And students can quickly fall behind the industry standard. “Our priority has always been graduating students ready for work,” he says.

Open-source applications and platforms provide students instant access to the updated versions and new features. “Open source helps us prepare students for the cutting edge and can demonstrate to employers they are familiar with the latest technology,” he says.

He adds that open source offers students a comprehensive package vs. the “lite” version of applications universities usually license. “This allows students to do things in class that are more realistic and ambitious than before,” he says.

For instance, a recent class developed a job search application with open-source tools such as the Eclipse and NetBeans integrated development environments and managed and synchronized their code development using GitHub.

“The students used real open-source tools to build a real open-source application with the same open-source process they’ll use when they step into a job,” he says. “With those fundamentals, they can learn anything.”

2. Rochester Institute of Technology

In the fall of 2014, Rochester Institute of Technology introduced its minor in free and open-source software and free culture, teaching students the intricacies of the open-source movement.

The minor’s required courses focus on history, becoming a member of a community and contributing, and the impacts of different licenses and FOSS and free culture business practices, according to Jacobs. “The electives come from degree programs across campus to allow students to bring what they’ve learned back to their specialty and to the other students and faculty in their major community,” he says.


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