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Traditionally one characterization of formal education has been that it is ‘closed’, resulting in the fact that learning spaces with their educational materials, and individual students’ learning processes and outcomes remain unavailable for the general public. The hybrid approach to Software Engineering piloted at Aristotle University during the winter semester 2008 / 2009 on the other hand builds upon the way learning and knowledge creation at the participatory web takes place, in particular within the Free / Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) communities. This is to say that on the hand the learning environment used at this course is open for participation of any individual interested at the subject (inviting in), and on the other hand Aristotle’s software engineering students are engaging at students driven small scale learning projects, with each of those learning projects being associated to an open source project (sending out). This combination of ‘inviting in’ and ‘sending out’ is what we like to call a hybrid approach. One objective of the hybrid approach is to provide the foundation required for an evolutionary growing learning ecosystem where learning processes and outcomes have the potential to become learning resources for future students and therefore connecting content to discourse.

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  1. 1. Towards a hybrid approach to Computer Science Software Engineering at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki - Greece The case of computer science education & open source software communities CSEDU2009, Lisbon – Portugal Meiszner, A., Moustaka, K., Stamelos, I.
  2. 2. Some basics first...
  3. 3. Learning is a silent and often invisible PROCESS Offline Reading (from ● book) ● Doing exercises ● Thinking ● etc. Reading (from ● screen) ● Doing exercises ● Thinking ● etc. Online
  4. 4. Though the PROCESS of Learning might become visible Offline Discussions ● ● Group work ● etc. Discussions ● ● Group work ● etc. Online
  5. 5. The artifacts created within the learning PROCESS might even become a LEARNING RESOURCE for others Offline Notes ● ● Commented copies ● Paper based exercises Notes ● ● Commented texts ● Exercises ● Forum or blog posts ● Full range web 2.0 tools offer Online
  6. 6. Learner generated resources might also become a part of (course) learning materials... Offline  Last year exams  Student tutorials  etc.  All types of user generated content that is linked / connected in a somewhat structured way to further (learning) Online materials
  7. 7. ... therefore contributing to a continuous improvement and evolutionary growth... materials, processes, spaces, tools, community... One cycle, many names... Kaizen, CPI, PDCA,...
  8. 8. This happens offline as well as online – with pros & cons... Offline Pro Con ● Usually more • Much remains invisible structured (e.g. • Much is lost Tutorials, learning • Not automatically Pro groups) preserved • High visibility ● Face2face • Content and context • Fast / global / open interactions usually isolated • Low (information) • Slow / local / closed loss – though need to be found Con • Automatically ● Usually less structured preserved ● Need to dig-in and • Content and context understand the usually connected environment / community ● Usually no Face2face Online interaction
  9. 9. Advantages of traditional educational structures vs. Advantages of Open Source communities as a learning space
  10. 10. Some advantages of traditional educational structures • Educator input – to provide students with guidance and support. • Structure – learners approaching a new subject area value the structure and focus offered. • Learning objectives – to set out for students what they should be able to learn through the experience. • Assessment – some form of formal assessment and the possibility to obtain a degree or certification • Face2face interaction with others – students as well as educators.
  11. 11. Some advantages of online learning communities – lessons learnt from open source • A greater range of inputs – not just from the educator, but from all contributors so the collective is the source of knowledge, not one individual • A more personalized learning experience – learners can gather the elements of knowledge they require – but skip what they know already. • Greater sharing of knowledge – in higher education much of the previous input is lost, whereas in FLOSS the dialogue, resources, and outputs remain as learning resources => CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT & EVOLUTIONARY GROWTH. • Peer production – active engagement in producing something with a set of peers is a powerful motivational and educational driving force. • Real activities – engaging in legitimate activities that are not restricted to an artificial university setting also provides valuable experience. • Peer support – a large support network provided voluntarily by peers in a collaborative manner nearly 24/7. • Open learning environment – The sum is bigger than its parts, thus there is the need of providing new educational models and scenarios that are not limited to students formally enrolled at a course.
  12. 12. Now, how to take advantage of the learning opportunities the web provides, but keeping desirable traditional characteristics? ... We first analyzed how online learning communities function on the example of open source communities ... We than had a look how some recently piloted open courses were run online – and how they worked out ... With this understanding we subsequently drew up three application scenarios for (higher) educational settings: inside, outside or hybrid approach
  13. 13. Open Educational Scenarios: ‘inside approach’ • The inside approach takes principles found in open source communities and applies them within a (higher) education context. • This involves mapping the key principles onto education, including an evolutionary growth of the course and its environment. • Current students would build upon the work of earlier students developing course and content further year by year, therefore improving content quality and richness and providing regular feedback. • Such feedback might refer to course structure, material, processes and tools. • The inside approach thus takes the sort of characteristics and tools found in open source as its inspiration. • Within the inside approach institutions might also decide to ‘open up’ their virtual learning environments to fellow universities or the general public to view what is going on within the environment. • Institution might even allow those outside groups to participate and engage at this environment, in the case doing so, this likely would be a first step towards a ‘hybrid approach’.
  14. 14. Limitations of the ‘inside approach’ • The outside world remains largely or totally disconnected, depending on the degree of openness (e.g. open to view, open to participate, etc.). • ‘Community building’ and ‘evolutionary growth’ is per-se limited within a given institution that only involves the own student population, and usually even further limited due to • (a) a 100% student turnover per semester / course and • (b) a comparatively small number of potential community member (formally enrolled students of a course). • Students are kept within the institutions learning environment preventing their ‘semi- structured’ engagement and collaboration within the wider web. • Therefore limiting the opportunities of ‘best of breed’, as the wider web might provide better technological solutions or already established and mature communities for respective study fields.
  15. 15. Open Educational Scenarios: ‘outside approach’ • The outside approach might take traditional education as the starting point by providing theoretical information and then sends the students ‘outside’ to find well established communities, such as the open source ones, to work within those communities and to apply and deepen their theoretical knowledge. • Students are sent into already well established and mature environments to engage at and collaborate within those communities on pre-defined tasks. • Students are provided with an initial academic background and then required to choose and engage within a real world project. • This gives students real experience of collaborating with others. • This approach can be realized whenever there is an external ‘real’ community that is operating on principles such as e.g. common for open source, or also Wikipedia. • The outside approach might be the least complex and almost cost neutral; and therefore relatively easy to implement.
  16. 16. Limitations of the ‘outside approach’ • The results of this collaborative learning and knowledge production remains within the outside community and… • Therefore likely will be lost for future students. • The outside approach does not provide next year students (newbies) with an easy access as no former learners, nor the resources they created, are present at the institutional level to facilitate the newbie entrance. • The outside approach does not foster an evolutionary growth and continuous improvement of the institutional / course environment.
  17. 17. Open Educational Scenarios: ‘hybrid approach’ • A hybrid approach combines components of the inside and outside approach. • Some of the principles of open source communities are adopted within the institution (inside approach), with activities occurring in a broader ecosystem consisting of various spaces that are open for everyone combining students, informal learners, tutors, experts, organizations, etc, allowing learners to engage in a real community (outside approach). • It allows a continuous evaluation (by educators, students and the wider world) of what ‘the best of both worlds’ is and how the transferred elements actually suit in their respective new environments. • A hybrid approach could also be a response to challenges such as a 100% student turnover per semester as (a) not all participating students should start at the same time and (b) free learners outside of formal education and practitioners are not bound to any course schedule. • A hybrid approach would include a number of environments where students could engage at in a ‘semi-structured’ way and where guidance and support is provided through technologies (e.g. RSS, suggested contents, etc.) and humans (e.g. educators, knowledge brokers, community support, etc.).
  18. 18. So much about the theory ... The ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ approaches have been succesfully piloted within (higher) educational settings ... The ‘hybrid’ approach promises the highest gain – BUT – also comes at the highest complexity ... Would it work out in practice within the current educational frameworks we are opperating at?
  19. 19. ... first steps ...
  20. 20. A hybrid approach to Software Engineering at Aristotle University – the NetGeners.Net pilot • We developed an experimental hybrid learning environment • Run subsequently a small scale 4 month trial with 10 volunteering students from Greece and Spain (located in 5 different countries) • That were supported on a regular base by 1 educator and 2 further less regular participating ones. • The environment provided the same type of tools as identified within the open source case • It was aimed to provide learners on the one hand with a basic ‘on-board’ set of communication and collaboration tools (Blog, Chat, Forum and Wiki) and on the other hand providing a personal space and a space for personal learning projects, including rating and commenting systems as e.g. provided by Amazon. • We also took into account open source particularities such as modularity and project based work through the concept of small students driven learning projects
  21. 21. A hybrid approach to Software Engineering at Aristotle University – the NetGeners.Net pilot Small students driven learning projects should allow learners to engage (to a certain degree) within areas of their personal interest; individually or together with other learners as a group work, therefore: • contributing to the overall development of the learning environment. • providing a potential bridge between ‘static’ content on the one hand and learning processes and activities (discourse) on the other hand that might allow a similar type of ‘re-experience’ as in open source. • allowing an open source type engagement, where content is often taken forward and backward, contextualized, adapted, translated, re-mixed, embedded into processes or feed into new products by individuals. Those individuals act as knowledge brokers allowing content to be dynamic and causing it to continuously change. • allowing learners to become an active participant in the respective study field, to acquire subject matter skills through practice, and providing the potential of gaining key and soft skills as a result of their activities and engagement.
  22. 22. ... following steps ...
  23. 23. A hybrid approach to Software Engineering at Aristotle University – the NetGeners.Net pilot Objectives:  To apply an open approach to Software Engineering that allows taking advantage of the opportunities the web provides  To bring together students from different institutions, free learner outside of formal education and open source communities in a 'semi-structured' way  To allow students and free learner to learn with practitioners of open source projects by providing an easy entrance for the first and low burdens for the later...  And therefore opening up education and combining formal with informal learning
  24. 24. A hybrid approach to Software Engineering at Aristotle University – the NetGeners.Net pilot The piloted course, some facts: • Fifth semester course ‘Introduction in Software Engineering’ • Since 2005 adopted an ‘outside approach’ • Duration of the course is 12, 5 weeks and has an average student number of 150 • One of the students’ assignments being to participate at an open source project, counting for 40% of the total grade • Students can choose between three options: (1) to test open source code, (2) to develop open source code, or (3) to write a requirement specification documentation for an open source project that still had none • Also, students can work on their assignments beyond the 12,5 weeks of the official lecturing period and submitting it at a later time at 3 pre-defined dates per year – This 'theoretically' leaves space for some type of continuity beyond semester terms
  25. 25. A hybrid approach to Software Engineering at Aristotle University – the NetGeners.Net pilot The starting challenge: • The initial cohort of students for the year 2008/2009 won’t be able to gain from earlier students’ works… • So how can we provide an added value once they would use the online environment (without ‘forcing them’ to do so)? • Apparently regular chats, prompt responses to forum posts, or initial content uploaded is not enough… • Bringing into this environment fellow university students, free learners and open source practitioners could add this extra value, since this can’t be provided ‘offline’! – So how to inform and attract fellow universities and open source projects?
  26. 26. ... and further to this ... more generally speaking ... there are a number of related questions to be taken into account ...
  27. 27. A hybrid approach to Software Engineering at Aristotle University – the NetGeners.Net pilot (Organizational) Questions: How to fit the structured learning as provided in traditional (offline) education ● into the unstructured open virtual learning environments the web provides? In which way might online learning activities be organized to provide the same ● “evolutionary growing open participatory learning ecosystem” that e.g. the open source case shows and at which learning processes and outcomes become an integrated part of this ecosystem therefore being a learning resource for future learner and leading to a continuous improvement of products and processes? How to bring the different stakeholders (my students, fellow students, free learner, ● practitioners and educators) together in such a semi-structured open environment?
  28. 28. A hybrid approach to Software Engineering at Aristotle University – the NetGeners.Net pilot (Motivation / Incentive) Questions: • Motivations to participate at open source are e.g. ‘to learn’, ‘gaining reputation’ or ‘personal enjoyment’ • Providing a clear ‘win / win scenario’ between information seeker and information provider resulting in learning benefits for both sides • Motivations to participate in formal education mainly relate to obtain a formal degree! So: • What would be the motivation for formally enrolled students to become active and assume roles as to be found in open source? • What would be the motivation for free learners and practitioners to participate at such an open learning environment? • How to create the type of win / win scenarios as can be found in open source? How to address this within the educational frameworks we are acting in ?!?
  29. 29. A hybrid approach to Software Engineering at Aristotle University – the NetGeners.Net pilot (Motivation / Incentive) Possible Answers: • To reward students who voluntarily assume positions, e.g. similar to project or community managers in open source. • To include into the curricula the obligation of more experienced students to share their knowledge with the less experienced. • Incentives for practitioners to participate would be to involve learners into concrete project works – e.g. to provide computer science students with the opportunity to take on some tasks at a respective open source project. • Allow participants to build up an online repute – analogue to open source – where informally attained skills in are provable therefore providing a positive value on the labour market. •Free learners outside of formal education might also be offered a certification of their learning outcomes against fees, or a virtual credit account that rewards them for taking on roles such as mentor, facilitator, moderator or tutor. Those virtual credits than might be used to pay for assessment and certifications.
  30. 30. … So, how did it work so far? …
  31. 31. … Slow … we are still at the beginning … still need to involve the different stakeholders: fellow universities & open source projects … 2008/2009 might not have been the best year to choose
  32. 32. … Let’s recall some benefits … WHY … Such hybrid approach could be of interest to fellow universities & open source projects
  33. 33. A hybrid approach to Software Engineering at Aristotle University – the NetGeners.Net pilot Advantages for open source projects? ● Share the burden of newbie integration to the open source world as a joint venture of higher education institutions and open source projects, and ● Therefore build up a synergy of scale ● Identify potential contributors early ● Students' contribute to the open source project, and might continue doing so beyond the course duration ● Help learners to learn by contributing to a given project at the same time
  34. 34. A hybrid approach to Software Engineering at Aristotle University – the NetGeners.Net pilot Advantages for (higher) education institutions? ● A richer learning experience for your students ● The opportunity to create a learning community, which is not possible within closed traditional educational settings ● To establish a learning ecosystem that is continuously improving and growing in a natural evolutionary way ● To assure that subjects meet actual demands, curriculum is up to date and courses are taught in the best way possible (double feedback loops) ● To work together with fellow educational institutions and open source communities and thereby sharing the burden of developing such novel educational provision ● In the long tale: To establish new revenue models, by e.g. providing free learners outside of formal education with assessment and certification options against fees (as said, the long tale)
  35. 35. A hybrid approach to Software Engineering at Aristotle University – the NetGeners.Net pilot (1/2) What’s in it for students (and free learners) ● Learn together with other students, free learners outside of formal education and enthusiasts from open source projects! ● Learn from reviewing and studying the learning project activities, outcomes and presentations from others – build upon what others did, this can be much easier than starting from scratch! ● Collaborate and get in touch with peers and practitioners within a real life situation! ● Find help! ● Socialize and experience learning within a joyful and interesting environment! ● Do something meaningful by contributing to actual open source projects, gain repute and expertise – add an extra to your CV!
  36. 36. A hybrid approach to Software Engineering at Aristotle University – the NetGeners.Net pilot (2/2) What’s in it for students (and free learners) ● Learn how to update your skills and knowledge self-dependently within a lifelong learning context ● Learn how to take full advantage of the web to support your own learning, to collaborate with others and use the tools required to do so ● Be capable to find sources at the web and to critically evaluate and analyze them ● Be aware about available free online and desktop software solutions that facilitate learning, knowledge exchange and collaboration ● Know how to find online communities, to engage in them for personal support, and to and understands the way they function ● In a nutshell: To gain today's required soft skills; like to communicate, collaborate and engage in discussions with others, defend your own work and thoughts and present them, know how to manage a project, or how to resolve conflicts
  37. 37. Oh, and just to recall: What this is about and what not!!!  It is about finding new ways on how to organize collaborative learning, sharing and knowledge production within a participatory web 2.0 world using technology for the sake of its usefulness and bringing together the various stakeholders  It is not about designing complex socio-technological systems for the sake of technology hoping that it would become a killer application to revolutionize education as we know it  The idea is to start simple, to see what works out and what not, and to develop it further step by step based on the experiences gathered
  38. 38. Thanks for your attention! Andreas Meiszner (a.meiszner@open.ac.uk) Institute of Educational Technology The Open University MK7 6BJ Walton Hall, UK Katerina Moustaka (katerinamus@yahoo.gr) Ioannis Stamelos (stamelos@csd.auth.gr) Department of Informatics Aristotle University 54124 Thessaloniki, Greece