This one-day symposium, held as SIGCSE-2009 pre-conference activity, aims to bring together educators, FOSS practitioners, and curriculum designers to discuss successful strategies for incorporating FOSS, as an object of study, into the undergraduate curriculum. The symposium will be designed to be highly interactive, taking place entirely in plenary session. In addition to paper presentations, it will include invited speakers from industry and academia, an open-ended round-table discussion, and a panel of CS curriculum experts.


Beginning with the GNU software products in the early 1980s and launched into the mainstream software culture by the advent of Linux in the early 1990s, the free and open source software (FOSS) movement has become a staple of the modern software industry. The current Internet infrastructure is supported in large and growing measure by FOSS products such as GNU/Linux, Apache, and MySQL. Today, Sourceforge lists more than 180,000 registered projects with nearly 2 million registered users worldwide.

But the impact of FOSS on the software industry includes not only its many successful software projects but also its revolutionary methodology, which promotes a cooperative, non-hierarchical, user-driven, and communitarian development approach.

Moreover, the success of the open development methodology and free and open licensing standards in the software domain has spawned a rapidly growing openness movement throughout modern culture, leading to Wikipedia, YouTube, open source blogging, citizen news sites and a wealth of software products that promote openness, freedom, and grass roots community involvement.

However, despite the growing importance of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) in the software industry, and despite the fact that many computing programs use FOSS in their labs and courses, and despite the incredible cultural shifts taking place among the current cohort of college students, relatively little attention is paid to FOSS as an object of study or as a methodology in the undergraduate computing curriculum. The goal of this symposium is to identify ways that the FOSS movement can be better integrated into the undergraduate computing curriculum.


Can FOSS be used to motivate greater student participation in computer science by getting students involved in engaging and intellectually challenging real-world development projects? Does student interest in Wikipedia, YouTube, and other aspects of today’s “openness culture” provide a way to connect the computing discipline with the interests of undergraduates? How does the FOSS culture of openness and cooperation affect the traditional classroom culture where doing one’s own work is the rule and sharing one’s code is regarded as cheating?


Some specific topics that contributors are invited to address include (but are not limited to):

  • Examples of introductory or advanced courses that use FOSS as a main topic or organizing principle.
  • Examples of curriculum initiatives that incorporate a significant FOSS component.
  • Uses of FOSS for humanitarian and community service applications.
  • Proposals describing how FOSS should relate to the rest of the CS curriculum.
  • FOSS assignments in introductory and advanced courses.
  • FOSS pedagogical resources for introductory and advanced courses.
  • Examples or proposals for how FOSS development methodology affects software engineering and other software development courses.
  • Examples or proposals for how interest in the broader “open culture” movement can be used to generate interest in the computing discipline.
  • Other planned or deployed educational initiatives involving FOSS.


www.nsf.gov www.hfoss.org

The organizers would like to acknowledge the support of the ACM Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education (SIGCSE), with special thanks to Sue Fitzgerald and Mark Guzdial. We thank Alan Apt of CRC Press–Chapman & Hall for sponsoring the reception.

Our appreciation also goes to the many invited participants who helped make the symposium a success: Burce Perens, Owen Astrachan, Greg Dekoenigsberg, Leslie Hawthorn, Frank Hecker, Timothy Huang, Charles Kelemen, Stormy Peters, Anita Verno and Laurie Williams.

Acknowledgment and Disclaimer: This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Nos. CCF-0722137, CCF-0722134, and CCF-0722199 Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.