FOSS Field Trip (Activity)

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FOSS Field Trip - Browsing for FOSS Projects


Learners will explore the breadth of available FOSS projects as well as differences between GitHub and OpenHub.



After successfully completing this activity, the learner should be able to:
  1. Search for FOSS projects on both GitHub and OpenHub.
  2. Use and describe different features of GitHub and OpenHub.
Process Skills
  1. Critical Thinking
  2. Information Processing


FOSS predates the web, but the web is now essential for most FOSS projects. People locate and access FOSS projects on the web, and FOSS communities collaborate on the web. A FOSS project has a set of files (including source code, documentation, etc), usually organized into folders. Most FOSS projects keep the complete history of every file, to know what changes were made, by who, and when. The set of files and their history is a repository, or a repo for short.

Most FOSS projects also use web-based collaborative tools to develop and share code and documentation, track who does what, and discuss questions, problems, and suggestions. A software platform with these tools is a forge. Some forges support one FOSS project (usually a large project), and other forges host many independent FOSS projects. Well known forges include GitHub, SourceForge, and Bitbucket. Note that the software used by such sites is also called a forge; for example, GitLab, RedMine, and Trac are FOSS forges that anyone can install and modify, unlike GitHub.

This activity also uses OpenHub (formerly Ohloh), which is not a forge, but mines data from forges to analyze project activity.


  • POSSE Attendees: Post your answers on your foss2serve wiki page.
  • Students: Ask your instructor how to report your answers.

Part 1 - GitHub

In Part 1 you will search GitHub for projects. Do the following:

  1. Open a new browser tab and go to:
  2. Find the search box near the top of the page, type "education", and press enter or click on the search icon.
    1. How many repositories are found for "education"?
    2. How many of these repos use the JavaScript language? (Hint: Find a summary table.)
    3. In the first page of results, which repo was updated most recently? Which was updated least recently?
  3. Many repos are small and inactive. To see the most active repos, find Sort and pick most stars.
    1. Which education repo has the most stars? How many?
  4. Click on this repo to see its overview page. Scroll down past the list of files to see a project description.
  5. In GitHub, each reported problem or suggestion is an issue, the code and documentation to fix an issue is a pull request, and a pull request that is accepted and added to a repo is a commit. Each issue and pull request is either open (in progress) or closed (done). (You will learn more about all of this later.)
    1. At the top of the overview page, click on the Issues tab. You should see a list. How many issues are open? closed?
    2. Click on the Pull requests tab. You should see a list. How many pull requests are open? closed?
    3. Click on the Insights tab. What do you see?
    4. Within Insights, go to the left menu and click on Commits. What do you see?
  6. Go back to the main GitHub page.
    1. Search for "humanitarian" projects. How many repos are found?
    2. Find HTBox/crisischeckin. How many stars does it have? What language(s) does it use? When was the last update?
    3. Search for "disaster management", or terms that interest you. How many repos are found?

Keep the GitHub browser tab open as you move on to Part 2.

Part 2 - OpenHub

In Part 2, you will search OpenHub for projects. Do the following:

  1. Open a new browser tab and go to:
  2. In the search box, type "education".
    1. The listing shows the number of pages, not the number of projects. By default, each page shows 10 projects. How many projects were found?
  3. Many projects are small and inactive. To see the most active projects, find Sort by and pick Activity Level.
    1. Which (if any) of the most active projects do you recognize?
  4. In the Sort by text box pick Relevance. If necessary, go to the bottom of the screen and advance to pages 2, 3, ... in the listing until you find KDE Education, and click on it.
    1. From the KDE Education page, click on Code Locations (on the right side). Are any of the repo locations on GitHub?
    2. Go back to KDE Education, and click on Similar Projects (below Code Locations). How many similar projects are listed?
    3. This page contains general information for the similar projects. What info is shown for each?
  5. Repeat your OpenHub search for both "humanitarian" and "disaster management", or terms that interest you.
    1. How many projects did each search return?
  6. Some projects show "Activity Not Available". Click on the pyramid icon and read the page shown. Why is "activity not available"?
  7. Click on Organizations (near the top of the main OpenHub page).
    1. What info is shown?
  8. From Organizations, search for "OpenMRS".
    1. Do the search results show projects or organizations?
    2. Find the project "OpenMRS Core". When was the last commit?
  9. Go back to GitHub and search for the project "OpenMRS Core". When was the last commit?
    1. Why do you think these sites have different info?
  10. What are some benefits & drawbacks of searching for a project in both GitHub & OpenHub?


  • POSSE Attendees: Please post the answers to these questions on your foss2serve user wiki page.
  • Students: Wiki posting describing your explorations of GitHub and OpenHub.

Notes for Instructors

The remaining sections of this document are intended for the instructor. They are not part of the learning activity that would be given to students.


  • How will the activity be graded?
  • How will learning will be measured?
  • Include sample assessment questions/rubrics.
Criteria Level 1 (fail) Level 2 (pass) Level 3 (good) Level 4 (exceptional)
The purpose of the project
Why the project is open source


  • What should the instructor know before using this activity?
  • What are some likely difficulties that an instructor might encounter using this activity?

Variants and Adaptations:

POGIL-style combined FOSS Field Trip and Project Evaluation used by Chris Murphy in his FOSS Course, UPenn, Murphy.

Area & Unit(s)
Estimated Time
to Complete

30-60 minutes

Environment /

Access to Internet/Web and web browser.


Detailed FOSS Field Trip


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

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Suggestions for Open Source Community

Suggestions for an open source community member who is working in conjunction with the instructor.

Personal tools
Learning Resources
HFOSS Projects