Understanding the Open in OpenSource Activity

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Title Understanding the 'Open' in Open Source
Overview The student will explore the meaning of 'openness' from a broad perspective and be introduced to the idea of a humanitarian free and open source project (HFOSS).
Prerequisite Knowledge None
Learning Objectives
  1. Students state the difference between open source and proprietary software.
  2. Students identify how open source principles apply to other groups.
  3. Students summarize the difference between FOSS and HFOSS projects.


This activity works nicely as a first introduction to openness and open source software. It is intended to be a homework assignment and will provide the necessary background for an in-class discussion on basic open source concepts.


Use the Web resources provided (and links from these pages) to answer the following questions. Your answers must be typed and can be in MS Word, pdf or rtf format. All answers should be formed using complete sentences and should be in your own words (do not copy and paste answers from the websites provided).

Go to http://opensource.com/resources/what-open-source to find answers the following questions:
  1. What is meant by the open source way?
  2. How do open source licenses differ from proprietary licenses?
  3. Open source software is important to everyone, even if you are not a programmer. Give two examples that show how open source software benefits someone other than a programmer.
  4. Give two examples that explain why programmers prefer using open source software.
  5. The ‘free’ in free and open source software doesn’t mean free of charge. This is only one of the misconceptions many have about free and open source software. Briefly describe the 6 misconceptions (click the common misconception link).
  6. How do open source software principles apply “beyond software”?
    Go to http://hechingerreport.org/content/computer-coding-can-increase-engagement-provide-purpose-learning_17457 to find answers to the following questions
  7. How do FOSS and HFOSS differ?
  8. Provide a response to the author’s stance that HFOSS “can increase engagement, provide a purpose for learning.” Do you agree or disagree? Please provide a compelling argument as to why you agree or disagree.


The document containing the answers to the questions.

Notes for Instructors


This activity is expected to be a homework assignment, which may or may not be graded.

Student learning can be measured via quiz/exam questions that elicit the students understanding of the specified objectives.

Additional Information:

ACM Knowledge Area/Knowledge Unit Social Issues and Professional Practice - SP/Intellectual Property
ACM Topic Foundations of the Open Source Movement
Level of Difficulty Easy
Estimated Time to Completion 1 hour
Materials/Environment Internet access
Author(s) Darci Burdge
Source Darci Burdge
License CC-BY-SA


Feedback to the author(s) of the activity regarding usage or suggestions for enhancements can be included via the Discussion tab (upper left of the page).

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

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