How to engage students in real open source projects

I gave a talk at FOSSA 2012 earlier this week sharing some experiences with teaching students using open source projects in a module at the University of Bolton.

Basically, there are 5 tips:

  1. Start with soft skills, not code
  2. Let students pick their own projects
  3. Teach how to “read” a project
  4. Get students interacting with the project community – not the lecturer
  5. Assess public interactions

Here’s the slides:

Hopefully I’ll be working with the teaching team to develop Year 2 & 3 modules building on this work.

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11 Responses to How to engage students in real open source projects

  1. Pingback: How to engage students in real open source projects | Keynote Speakers at The PLE Conference | Scoop.it

  2. Joss says:

    This is great, Scott. Thanks very much for sharing it. We’ve just started to get more involved with undergraduate Computing Students and lots of this is very relevant and familiar. So far, we’ve been acting as clients/mentors for final year dissertation projects and most recently have started giving guest lectures/workshops to 2nd years about tools for collaboration on projects. I think that a lecture/workshop on the stuff you highlight would also be very helpful to them.

  3. paulbradshaw says:

    This is really interesting – and not just applicable to computing. I tried a similar approach earlier this year with journalism students (http://onlinejournalismblog.com/2012/09/14/stories-and-streams-teaching-collaborative-journalism-with-peer-to-peer-learning/) and found the same results with student motivation.

    More specifically, I’ve also found that I have to explicitly make students engage with wider communities as part of their learning (http://onlinejournalismblog.com/2011/02/16/assessing-community/) – and not all of them like it!

    Would also welcome your thoughts on when the two worlds (computing and journalism) collide. Here’s my take from the point of view of someone coming from a journalism, not computing, background: http://onlinejournalismblog.com/2012/08/29/how-to-teach-a-journalist-programming/

    • scottbw says:

      Thanks Paul – I think engagement with the wider community is a key ingredient. From the student’s perspective that often means overcoming lack of confidence, and from a lecturer viewpoint its also difficult to deliberately not answer student questions in order to get them interacting with the community.

      Interesting we ended up using a similar assessment model. Focussing on assessment of process and reflection was the only way to support a model of all the students working on different projects without creating a nightmare for the teachers.

      I also like your idea of providing optional workshops rather than a lecture series – that could also work in the computing context as well. For example, some students were more interested in things like localisation, others needed more help understanding issue trackers etc. Signing up for a workshop because you’ve identified the need yourself as part of your work seems much less passive than attending all the lectures in the series. Maybe thats something we can incorporate into our year2/3 course.

  4. Pingback: How to engage students in real open source projects | Open Education News | Scoop.it

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  8. Samprit says:

    Hi,
    My name is Samprit. I am a sophomore student and I want to start working on an open source project. I havegood experience in C/C++ and Java. Can you please mentor and help me in working on an open source project.
    Thank You

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