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Professional Development for Instructors Interested in Student Participation in Humanitarian Free and Open Source Software


Dr. Stephen Gbenga Fashoto is a Senior Lecturer presently in the Department of Computer Science, University of Swaziland, Kwaluseni, Swaziland. I am formerly the Director of ICT in Kampala International University, Kampala, Uganda and formerly a Lecturer in Redeemer's University, Ede, Nigeria and i was formerly a Post Doctoral fellow in the Department of Decision Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa. I hold a Ph.D. in Computer Science from University of Ilorin, Nigeria, M.Sc. in Computer Science from University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria and B.Sc. (Hons.) in Computer Science and Mathematics from University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria.

My interest in Open Source software stems from the belief that most instructors and staffs in the developing countries cannot survive in software development or programming generally without the Open source community.

My interest in HFOSS project is in the OpenMRS and it is because am interested in the application of Computing and mathematical modelling to different areas of human endeavour especially Health Informatics. With my exposure in the POSSE activities so far, i will ensure that i introduced my students more to open source software that is relevant and applicable to the existing technologies used for development of OpenMRS.

From 2017/2018 academic session i will make sure i introduce my year one students to LINUX/UNIX operating system instead of to only Windows operating as usual. I will also ensure that my programming classes on C/C++ focuses on the use of Open source software with case study on HFOSS project.

POSSE Overview

POSSE is the Professor's Open Source Software Experience. POSSEs provide professional development for instructors interested in student participation in Humanitarian Free and Open Source Software (HFOSS)

Upcoming POSSEs

  • POSSE 2017-07 - Co-located with ITiCSE, Bologna, Italy
  • (tentative) POSSE 2017-11 - in November, east coast U.S.

We anticipate holding 2-3 POSSEs each year.

What is POSSE?

POSSE began as an outreach effort by Red Hat, Inc. to the higher education community. The goal was to help instructors learn about free and open source software (FOSS) so that they could incorporate FOSS into their courses. A description of the first POSSE workshops is contained here

The first workshops were held in summer, so the POSSE acronym was adopted to stand for: Professor's Open Source Summer Experience.

Later workshops have been held in other seasons, so the POSSE acronym has been re-interpreted to stand for: Professor's Open Source Software Experience.

One professor's observations on their POSSE experience from June 2016.

What is HFOSS?

HFOSS stands for Humanitarian Free and Open Source Software. It is an acronym used to refer to the large and growing collection of open source projects that have some social benefit as their primary reason for existence. This includes projects that seek to address aspects of healthcare, disaster management, accessibility assistance, economic development, education, and other areas of social need.

A growing group of faculty are exploring the learning and motivational potential of student participation in HFOSS projects.

POSSE and HFOSS Together

The current version of POSSE workshops combine an expanded version of the initial POSSE work with a focus on HFOSS projects. The effort is a collaboration between Red Hat and faculty interested in HFOSS. The current verion of POSSE also benefits from support provided by the National Science Foundation. The approach to POSSE has been revised and extended to create a more complete path for instructors. It includes technical topics related to FOSS and also pedagogical and curricular consideratoins. The approach to delivery uses online learning to extend participant interactions before and after a face-to-face workshop. Below is a brief outline of the faculty development model which underlies the approach as well as the outline for the three stages.

Faculty Development Model

Experience with POSSEs and with other NSF-funded workshops has highlighted the need for an integrated approach to faculty development that includes both the academic and FOSS perspectives. We propose a two-track, three-stage model for faculty to learn how to support student participation in HFOSS. The two tracks cover the dual HFOSS and academic content needed to support faculty.

Faculty Development Model

Stage 1

The Stage 1 Activities occur during the six weeks prior to the face-to-face meeting. Faculty members (participants) work independently and also interact with the foss2serve team and other participants in an online environment periodically. These activities are intended to prepare a faculty member to get the most out of a face-to-face workshop. The HFOSS track includes a series of activities on FOSS tools with an emphasis on communication tools as these support entance to the HFOSS communities. The goal is to get faculty familiar with the tools so that they can use them efficiently during the actual workshop. For the academic track, faculty members will be asked to identify places in their curriculum where student participation in HFOSS might be incorporated. These activities are intended to take approximately 15-20 hours in total and are divided into three two-week stages. IRC meetings will be held with groups of participants periodically to answer questions and help guide learning. Faculty members will also be introduced to an HFOSS community during stage 1.

Guidelines for the activities:

  • Activities completed according to schedule within the six weeks prior to the workshop.
  • Each activity takes 30-90 minutes requiring 12-15 hours of work in the four weeks prior to the semester.
  • Most activities will involve reporting results on a wiki.
  • IRC meetings will be used to periodically talk about the results of activities.
  • The activities are broken down into two-week segments. All activities must be completed within a day or two of the end of the deadline.
  • More "pre-work" ideas from POSSE may be found here: http://teachingopensource.org/index.php/POSSE_curriculum
  • Look at http://teachingopensource.org/index.php/POSSE_curriculum#Monday when creating the activities below as learning objectives and good ideas reside here.

Stage 2

A 2+-day face-to-face workshop comprises Stage 2. Following POSSE precedent, the workshop is lead by a team of representatives from FOSS organizations and academic POSSE alumni. Participants arrive for an evening meal and intro session on day 1, work all of day 2, work all of day 3 and end the afternoon of day 3. During this time, participants will learn how the material that they had been absorbing prior to the face-to-face event is used in actual FOSS projects. Participants will also learn ways to incorporate that material into their classes and to identify and/or create actual assignments.

Stage 3

In order to support faculty after the workshop, stage 3 consists of interactions among small groups so that participants will have support while involving students in an HFOSS project in the classroom. This approach is based on research into small-group learning. These groups will be approximately 6-10 participants and organized around a particular HFOSS project. The idea being that faculty members can work collaboratively on the same project. In addition to these small groups, faculty members will also belong to their chosen HFOSS community.

During Stage 3, POSSE participants will:

  • Join a small learning group.
  • Incorporate HFOSS into course
  • Work with other instructors and HFOSS community members to solve problems

Previous POSSEs

Information about recent POSSEs is available here:

Personal tools
Learning Resources
HFOSS Projects