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November 16, 2010 No Comments


Red Hat, Inc, the world’s leading provider of open source solutions, has expanded its outreach to introduce open source into the computer science curriculum at leading colleges and universities. As a member and catalyst in the Teaching Open Source community and through its sponsorship of POSSE (Professors’ Open Source Summer Experience) workshops, Red Hat has worked with professors across the globe to teach them how to launch and incorporate open source into higher education coursework and degree programs. As the use of open source continues to expand globally, the need for graduates with open source software experience is also expected to increase.

“It’s easy for a company to donate money to fund an academic institution or research project, but Red Hat’s approach goes one step further by equipping professors to teach open source,” said Jim Whitehurst, president and CEO, Red Hat. “We’re continuing to add value to the higher education system and helping prepare professors and universities to develop coursework that will produce graduates with the skill sets necessary to compete in today’s challenging and demanding work environments.”

POSSE first launched in July 2009 at Red Hat’s global headquarters with five professors in attendance from the United States and Canada. POSSE is a week-long workshop for professors from any discipline interested in getting their students involved in free and open source software (FOSS) communities as part of their coursework. The workshops are co-taught by members of the academic and open source communities, who guide participants as they spend the week immersed as new contributors to a specific FOSS project, and learn tools and cultural practices that can be generalized to other projects in the FOSS ecosystem. Professors attending POSSE are typically looking to bring open source community participation into their classes within the subsequent school year.

In just over one year, the POSSE program has grown with sessions held at multiple colleges and universities in the United States as well as Singapore and South Africa, and with future plans for additional global locations. To date, nearly 60 professors and administrators have attended POSSE workshops.

POSSE workshops have not only expanded in size and geographic reach, they have also grown in scope to include academic disciplines outside of computer science and software code development. A POSSE held at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in June 2010 introduced open source to professors in the areas of journalism, publishing and technical writing, in addition to professors of engineering and computer science and members of the university’s IT staff. Faculty were introduced to members of the Marketing and Documentation teams for the Fedora Project, a Red Hat-sponsored and community-supported open source collaboration, and explored non-code methods of contribution such as editing release notes, interviewing developers for feature profiles, and composing and distributing live images of open source tools for students as they entered campus.

Seneca College in Toronto, Canada has been an innovator in teaching open source to its students and worked extensively with Red Hat on POSSE. Professors Chris Tyler and David Humphrey both instructed the first POSSE workshop and have played an integral part in growing the program. Seneca students are in high demand from employers looking to hire graduates with open source software experience.

“In the past, students have practised on small academic projects with no real-world impact. But when participating in open source communities, students rise to the challenge of working on established projects that have thousands or even millions of users, collaborating with other community members around the world, and having their work reviewed by some of the top technical minds,” noted Tyler. “Employers highly value these types of skills and experience, and since open source work is done in public, they are taking note of the students’ remarkable accomplishments.”

Open source has also taken a strong hold at Allegheny College after Professor Matt Jadud attended the inaugural POSSE workshop. Last spring, Jadud applied the information he learned during POSSE into his classroom by having his students actively participate in Fedora 13, a version of the Fedora Project’s free open source operating system distribution. Allegheny students played an integral role in Fedora 13′s marketing and design, contributing graphics, developer interviews, website designs, and more.

“Introducing 40 first-year students to Fedora was an ambitious project, but my collaborator, Prof. Darren Miller, and support from the Fedora community made it a powerful learning experience for the students involved,” said Jadud. “This year, first-year students are engaging with open projects through their writing and interviews with community members, while ten of our upper-division computing students are performing usability testing on graphical interfaces in open source software projects as well as contributing to the Fedora 14 web refresh.”

For more information on the POSSE workshop, please visit For more information about Red Hat, please visit For more news, more often, visit

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