cohort of U.S. college graduates who
come into the work force with FOSS
experience will enrich the computing
industry, along with the various FOSS
Given the relative youth and scale of
the HFOSS Project, it would be premature to make sweeping claims on its
behalf. However, its ongoing objective
is to systematically monitor its effects
on undergraduate education to determine what would happen if students
see computing as a discipline that develops software to help their friends
and neighbors in need. Toward this
end, the Project employs instruments
and metrics, including student and
faculty questionnaires, presentations
at computing-education venues, and
outside consultants from academic
institutions and industry.
Though this evaluation is still preliminary, a number of promising signs
First, HFOSS as a concept and
methodology can indeed be introduced into the undergraduate computing curriculum. Our pedagogical
experiments suggest that positive
results are achievable through several approaches. For example, a gen-eral-education course can provide
a coherent one-semester introduction to HFOSS techniques and to the
broader cultural and societal effect of
the HFOSS movement. Independent-study projects and internships provide a flexible venue through which
students and faculty contribute to
specific HFOSS projects in both the
academic year and the summer. Upper-level software-engineering courses can be used to engage students in
real-world HFOSS projects as part of
their course work.
Second, feedback from faculty outreach activities, including the 2008
SIGCSE and CCSCNE workshops and
the 2009 symposium, suggest there
is significant faculty interest in integrating FOSS into the computing curriculum in many undergraduate institutions. Despite ongoing questions
involving where, when, and how best
to do it, the FOSS model is flexible
enough to allow different institutions
to answer these questions in ways that
best suit their own programs.
Third, the students engaged thus
far are attracted to the HFOSS concept
for the opportunity to learn concepts,
languages, and skills they don’t see in
other courses and for their interest in
community service. Over the long run,
these motivations promise to attract
a wider range of capable students to
computing, including more women
and members of other underrepresented groups.
Fourth, student feedback suggests
that engaging students in HFOSS
projects helps foster a more constructive perception of the craft of programming and problem solving while
generally reducing the computing-is-coding misconception. The ongoing
HFOSS challenge is to spread this
more positive perception across the
entire undergraduate landscape. To
some degree it will happen through
word of mouth, as students share
their positive HFOSS experiences with
one another. But, as noted earlier, truly changing perceptions of computer
science requires a concerted and sustained effort with broad support from
the computing industry, the FOSS
communities, primary and secondary
schools, and society at large.
Finally, the HFOSS Project has expanded from its three initial schools,
single corporate partner, and single
software project into a vibrant community that today includes active
faculty participants from eight U.S.
colleges and universities (and expressed interest from many more),
industry representatives from five IT
corporations, and ongoing software-development projects with two local
nonprofit organizations and five international FOSS communities. This
growth—largely unplanned at the beginning of the Project—is indicative
of a latent (inter)national interest in
the HFOSS concept. If such expansion
is sustained, it will help demonstrate
that HFOSS can significantly affect
the undergraduate computing curriculum, culture, and enrollment demographics.
HFOSS is supported by the National
Science Foundation under grants
#0722137, #0722134, and #0722199
and by the Mellon Foundation. Any
opinions, findings, and conclusions
or recommendations expressed here
are those of the authors and do not
necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation or the Mellon Foundation.
1. benkler, y. and nissenbaum, h. Commons-based peer
production and virtue. Journal of Political Philosophy
14, 4 (nov. 2006), 394–419.
2. Chopra, s. and Dexter, s. Decoding Liberation:
A Philosophical Investigation of Free Software.
routledge, new york, 2007.
3. ellis, h., Morelli, r., de lanerolle, t., Damon,
J., and raye, J. Can humanitarian open source
software development draw new students to Cs?
In Proceedings of the 38th ACM SIGCSE Technical
Symposium on Computer Science Education
(Covington, ky, Mar. 7–11), aCM Press, new york,
4. Morelli, r. and de lanerolle, t. foss 101: engaging
introductory students in the open source movement.
In Proceedings of the 40th ACM SIGSCE Technical
Symposium on Computer Science Education
(Chattanooga, tn, Mar. 4–7), aCM Press, new york,
5. Patterson, D. rescuing our families, our neighbors,
and ourselves. Commun. ACM 48, 11 (nov. 2005),
6. Patterson, D. President’s letter: Computer science
education in the 21st century. Commun. ACM 49, 3
(Mar. 2006), 27–30.
7. raymond, e.s. the Cathedral and the bazaar. o’reilly
Media, sebastopol, Ca, 2001; see also http://www.
8. stallman, r. Viewpoint: Why ‘open source’ misses the
point of free software. Commun. ACM 52, 6 (June
9. standish Group International. free open source
software is costing vendors $60 billion, new standish
Group International study finds. standish Group
International Press release (apr. 2008); http://www.
10. tucker, a. teaching client-driven software
development. The Journal of Computing Sciences in
College 24, 4 (apr. 2009), 29–39.
Ralph Morelli ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is a professor
of computer science at trinity College, hartford, Ct.
Norman Danner ( email@example.com) is an associate
professor in the Department of Mathematics and
Computer science at Wesleyan university, Middletown,
Allen Tucker ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is the anne t. and
robert M. bass Professor emeritus in the Computer
science Department at bowdoin College, brunswick, Me.
Heidi Ellis ( email@example.com) was a visiting professor
at trinity College at the time of this work and is now an
associate professor and chair of Computer science and
Information technology at Western new england College,
Gary Parker ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is an associate
professor and chair of the Computer science Department
at Connecticut College, new london, Ct.
Danny Krizanc ( email@example.com) is a professor of
computer science at Wesleyan university in Middletown,
Trishan R. de Lanerolle ( trishan.delanerolle@trincoll.
edu) is project director of the humanitarian foss project
based at trinity College, hartford, Ct.
Ozgur Izmirli ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is an associate
professor of computer science at Connecticut College,
new london, Ct.