Open Vs Proprietary Mock Debate

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Title Open Vs Proprietary Mock Debate
Overview A teacher holds a mock debate in-class around which software paradigm is superior, Open Source, Proprietary, or It Depends. Initially the students prepare for it through research and argument structuring. Afterwards, they hold the in-class debate, allowing each side to talk and rebut. The event could also beneficially take place on IRC chat.
Prerequisite Knowledge Basic software and source code contextual knowledge is needed in order to hasten the research into open and proprietary.
Learning Objectives The student should be able to tell the differences, pro's, and con's of open and proprietary software and development methods. They should understand it well enough to discuss the topic freely amongst others.

Debate Overview:

 Which is superior "Open Source", "Proprietary", or "It Depends"?
 Each side says "Mine is better, here's why".
 The others rebut.


How to Conduct a Class Debate

Both students and teachers should familiarize themselves with debate formats and how it transcribes to the classroom. The teacher will choose a style, and/or define their own format and rules clearly to the class.

Below is a selection of resources that explain how you might hold a classroom debate. Read and use the top item if none-other.

(from Best to Worst)

Is there background reading material? Are there other activities the student should have done first? What is the rational for this activity? Include helpful hints to faculty here.


  1. Divide class into groups
  2. Research your topic and side
  3. Fill out "Look it up! Researching the Arguments"

Divide Class Into Groups

Each group will argue for a particular side that answers the question:

 Which is superior:
  * Open Source
  * Proprietary
  * It Depends

Research Your Topic

Pro's and Con's from all sides, so that you can not only support and defend your own, but rebut others arguments

Open source VS Proprietary

Students taking part in the debate should be given ample time to RESEARCH the topic.

What topics might be raised?

How might students structure their arguments

What arguments? How should teachers help students think through the issues?

For Open Source

As Software Design

 The design methodology and practices that many open source projects use is very different both in structure and in culture. 
 The structure is more agile (able to change), free-flowing, and distributed.
 The culture is meritocratic, egalitarian and communal. More power can be given to the individual, and there is a pervasive sharing culture.
 Each of these aspects can be studied and defined and looked into as to their traits and differences and benefits over proprietarty software creation.

As Software Consumption

 When a person or company decides to use a new piece of software, they will have different factors at play working for them  in open source.
 Support can work differently - instead of paying a company, you often support it yourself with help from the community.
 This is changing though, as vendors are starting to formally support open source software, so its a doubly good point for open source. Both communities and vendors support OSS. You have a choice, whereas proprietary may not offer this choice, or not as in-depth on the community side.
 Customization of the software to fit business and person needs or desires is increased drastically. You have the source code, so you can understand how it works, and add to it. 
 More often, open source is created in Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) type structures, so that modular design is a goal. This means that pieces can be swapped in and out easier, and that software components can be reused and/or called by another part of a seperate system. 
 Integration into a customized and very competitively differentiated (it will beat out your competitors, because it is different than them) functionality is enabled because you can tweak the code to talk to other systems in unique ways. For example, you might modify what your customer see's by adding in a new field showing recommended items of interest based on their latest purchases. With a proprietary piece of software owned by another entity, that did not have that functionality, it would be very hard to convince them to add this complex functionality. They have dozens of hundreds of customers that they balance changes on. If its your #1 priority, you can take your own resources, modify the source, send it back upstream (to the open source project) and "tada", you get customers to shift their purchases to you, which helps you beat out your competition.

For Proprietary


What will the student hand in?


How will the activity be graded? How will learning will be measured? Include sample assessment questions/rubrics.


What should the instructor know before using this activity?

What are some likely difficulties that an instructor may encounter using this activity?

Additional Information:

Knowledge Area/Knowledge Unit What ACM Computing Curricula 2013 knowledge area and units does this activity cover? ACM_Body_of_Knowledge
Topic What specific topics are addressed? The Computing Curriucula 2013 provides a list of topics -
Level of Difficulty Is this activity easy, medium or challenging?
Estimated Time to Completion How long should it take for the student to complete the activity?
Materials/Environment What does the student need? Internet access, IRC client, Git Hub account, LINUX machine, etc.?
Author Who wrote this activity?
Source Is there another activity on which this activity is based? If so, please provide a link to the original resource.
License Under which license is this material made available? (

Suggestions for the Open Source Project:

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

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

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