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Report on the learning environment of Free / Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) communities

Report on the learning environment of Free / Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) communities

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Published by Andreas Meiszner
In recent times, Free / Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) is making inroads not only in business and software industries but in colleges and universities as well. There is increased interest in the FLOSS learning environment (Sowe, et al., 2004; Bacon and Dillion, 2006) and in FLOSS projects as bazaars of learning (Sowe, et al., 2006). As Faber (2002) noted, FLOSS is both an alternative teaching methodology and an educational model. The main objective of FLOSSCom is using the principles of informal learning environments of FLOSS communities to improve Information and Communication Technology (ICT) supported formal education. Despite the influence and popularity of FLOSS and the benefit inherent in its methodology, educational institutions have been slow to adapt. This can partly due to the fact that the FLOSS environment is fundamentally different from the formal learning environment in most institutions. The focus of this report is collate and report on the learning activities of individuals in various FLOSS communities. The report benefits from the experiences and expositions of various authors in order to provide a synergy and a fresh look into the learning environment of FLOSS communities. FLOSS communities, like other online communities (e.g. Community of Practice (CoPs)) have many interrelated elements that define the dynamics of the community. As such, this report is divided into 5 major sections, each focusing on a specific aspect of the learning environment of FLOSS communities with a 6th section summarizing the main findings.
In recent times, Free / Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) is making inroads not only in business and software industries but in colleges and universities as well. There is increased interest in the FLOSS learning environment (Sowe, et al., 2004; Bacon and Dillion, 2006) and in FLOSS projects as bazaars of learning (Sowe, et al., 2006). As Faber (2002) noted, FLOSS is both an alternative teaching methodology and an educational model. The main objective of FLOSSCom is using the principles of informal learning environments of FLOSS communities to improve Information and Communication Technology (ICT) supported formal education. Despite the influence and popularity of FLOSS and the benefit inherent in its methodology, educational institutions have been slow to adapt. This can partly due to the fact that the FLOSS environment is fundamentally different from the formal learning environment in most institutions. The focus of this report is collate and report on the learning activities of individuals in various FLOSS communities. The report benefits from the experiences and expositions of various authors in order to provide a synergy and a fresh look into the learning environment of FLOSS communities. FLOSS communities, like other online communities (e.g. Community of Practice (CoPs)) have many interrelated elements that define the dynamics of the community. As such, this report is divided into 5 major sections, each focusing on a specific aspect of the learning environment of FLOSS communities with a 6th section summarizing the main findings.

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Published by: Andreas Meiszner on Jan 29, 2008
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FLOSSCom - Using the Principles of Informal Learning Environments of FLOSSCommunities to Improve ICT Supported Formal EducationPhase 1: Analysis of the Informal Learning Environment of FLOSS Communities
Work Package Number:
02
Work Package Title:
Report on the Learning Environment of FLOSS Communities
Deliverable Number:
01
 
(Nr. 18 of the Interims Report at Table 3.3)
Coordinator: AUTH/MERITAuthors:Rüdiger Glott (MERIT)Andreas Meiszner (SPI)Sulayman K. Sowe (AUTH)Contributors:Thomas Conolly (University of Paisley)Ashley Healy (University of Paisley)Rishab Ghosh (MERIT)Athanasis Karoulis (AUTH)Hugo Magalhães (SPI)Ioannis Stamelos (AUTH)Martin J. Weller (The Open University)Daune West (University of Paisley)Due Date: 31-07-2007Draft Date: 09-07-2007Availability: General Public as a Work in Progress DocumentLicense: Creative Commons, Attribution + Noncommercial + ShareAlike (by-nc-sa)Document Id: FLOSSCOM_WP2_PHASE1_REPORT_v070709_1
 
 
TABLE OF CONTENTS
LIST OF TABLES i
 
LIST OF FIGURES ii
 
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 1
 
1.
 
INTRODUCTION 4
 
1.1.
 
Characteristics of FLOSS and its community 4
 
1.2.
 
Demography 8
 
2.
 
THE ROLE OF LEARNING AND KNOWLEDGE EXCHANGEWITHIN THE FLOSS COMMUNITY 13
 
2.1.
 
Roles and responsibilities of FLOSS community members 13
 
2.2.
 
Motivations of FLOSS community members 16
 
3.
 
FLOSS AS A LEARNING ENVIRONMENT 24
 
3.1.
 
Skills learnt in FLOSS 24
 
3.2.
 
The value of FLOSS skills 29
 
4.
 
HOW LEARNING IN FLOSS IS ORGANIZED 33
 
4.1.
 
Interaction and activities 35
 
4.2.
 
Learning Resources (non-technical) 44
 
4.3.
 
Knowledge creation in FLOSS communities 48
 
4.4.
 
Knowledge exchange in FLOSS communities 52
 
5.
 
TECHNOLOGICAL LEARNING RESOURCES 59
 
6.
 
CONCLUSION: FLOSS LEARNING PRINCIPLES 67
 
6.1.
 
Openness and inclusivity 67
 
6.2.
 
Volunteering and volatility 68
 
6.3.
 
Using large-scale networks 68
 
6.4.
 
Content-richness and specialisation 69
 
REFERENCES 71
 
 
i
 
LIST OF TABLES
Table 1: Age of new members when joining the FLOSS community
...............................9
Table 2: Age structure of the FLOSS community, 1991 to 2002
.....................................10
Table 3: Initial motivational groups and continuing motivational groups within theFLOSS community
..............................................................................................21
Table 4: Skills that are learnt a lot within the FLOSS community
.................................26
Table 5: Skills learned in the FLOSS community - by expertise cohorts
.......................29
Table 6: Performance of different age and experience cohorts in the FLOSScommunity
............................................................................................................30
Table 7: Activity fields and activity groups in the FLOSS community
..........................40
Table 8: Providers’ views regarding their motives for providing answers to helpinformation seekers on Apache Usenet
.............................................................57
Table 9: Providers’ reasons for reading or scanning questions on Usenet.
....................58
Table 10: Tools for knowledge development and sharing
................................................60
Table 11: Tools for relationship and trust building
..........................................................61
Table 12: Learning Processes Initiated and Displayed Through Technological Tools
.63
Table 13: Ways to learn in the FLOSS community
..........................................................64

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