A Case Study: Software Engineering at Aristotle University
Andreas Meiszner, Katerina Moustaka
Institute of Educational Technology, The Open University, MK7 6BJ Walton Hall, U.K.
Department of Informatics, Aristotle University, 54124 Thessaloniki, Greece
Ioannis Stamelos
Department of Informatics, Aristotle University, 54124 Thessaloniki, Greece
Keywords: Open source, Software engineering, Open learning environment, Participatory learning, Open participatory
learning ecosystem.
Abstract: Traditionally one characterization of formal education has been that it is ‘closed’, resulting in the fact that
learning spaces with their educational materials, and individual students’ learning processes and outcomes
remain unavailable for the general public. The hybrid approach to Software Engineering piloted at Aristotle
University during the winter semester 2008 / 2009 on the other hand builds upon the way learning and
knowledge creation at the participatory web takes place, in particular within the Free / Libre Open Source
Software (FLOSS) communities. This is to say that on the hand the learning environment used at this course
is open for participation of any individual interested at the subject (inviting in), and on the other hand
Aristotle’s software engineering students are engaging at students driven small scale learning projects, with
each of those learning projects being associated to an open source project (sending out). This combination
of ‘inviting in’ and ‘sending out’ is what we like to call a hybrid approach. One objective of the hybrid
approach is to provide the foundation required for an evolutionary growing learning ecosystem where
learning processes and outcomes have the potential to become learning resources for future students and
therefore connecting content to discourse.
There are a number of challenges for formal
education to fully explore the benefits the
participatory web provides for education. With
regards to collaborative learning and knowledge
production the main challenges might relate to the
traditional ‘closed’ and ‘semester based’ structures
of educational systems.
Closed structures on the one hand prevent that
students at one institution could engage and
collaborate at the web in a ‘semi-structured’ way
with peers from fellow universities or the wider
world. This closedness also prevents that the
learning resources of the institution might be
improved by the outside world, or enhanced through
external sources that are brought in by individuals or
through technology.
Semester based structures on the other hand
provide a challenge to establish a learning ecosystem
that would allow for continuous and evolutionary
growth; as well on a community level, including the
full spectrum of participants ranging from newbies
over advanced learners to old foxes, as on a learning
resource level. Such a learning ecosystem would on
the other hand be desirable as it connects learning
resources to learning processes (and related
discourse) or the possibility to establish peer
support, correction, development or even assessment
A third challenge to education, though not
necessarily related to ‘closed’ or ‘semester based’
structures, is the question how to provide students
with meaningful and motivational learning
opportunities that would allow them to develop their
professional skills within a real world scenario and
impart them as well subject matter skills as also key
Meiszner A., Moustaka K. and Stamelos I. (2009).
A HYBRID APPROACH TO COMPUTER SCIENCE EDUCATION - A Case Study: Software Engineering at Aristotle University.
In Proceedings of the First International Conference on Computer Supported Education, pages 39-46
DOI: 10.5220/0001969000390046
and soft skills, such as ICT literacy, critical and
analytical thinking skills, project and time
management skills, or presentation, negotiation and
conflict management skills. To respond to this third
challenge web based communities in general, and
FLOSS communities for computer science education
in particular, might be an adequate equivalent to
traditional physical internships, placements or
So how to address those challenges that prevents
education within its traditional structures to fully
take advantage of the collaborative learning and
knowledge production opportunities the web and the
FLOSS paradigm provides?
To deepen our understanding how collaborative
learning and knowledge production takes place at
the web we first reviewed at the EU funded
FLOSSCom project (FLOSSCom, 2008) one of the
likely most mature open participatory learning
ecosystems: the FLOSS communities.
Surprisingly the underlying technology used by
most FLOSS projects is relatively simple, yet
mature, usually including versioning systems,
mailing lists, chats, forums, wikis or similar
knowledge bases. Additionally free web based
services such as Sourceforge provide each FLOSS
project with an initial working and community
environment therefore facilitating the take off of
new projects (Meiszner, 2007).
The way learning takes place in FLOSS is
usually a mixture of more than one approach and
unlike in formal education learning materials are
usually selected by the learner and not the educator.
But more importantly, those learning materials are
commonly generated by the community itself and
also include the code and dialogues between
contributors. Further on students are not acting in
isolation from previous cohorts of students, but the
history of other learners and contributors, and their
remaining availability for follow up contacts,
constitutes a vital element of the learning materials
(Weller & Meiszner, 2008). FLOSS participants also
take on tasks such as knowledge brokering (Sowe et
al., 2006) therefore taking information and
knowledge forward and backward between groups,
communities or even language domains.
From a pedagogical perspective learning in
FLOSS is characterized by self-studying, project-
based learning, problem-based learning, inquiry-
based learning, collaborative learning, reflective
practice or social learning. It is not assumed that
those pedagogies were deliberately set out, but
rather that due to the structure, approach and
governance of FLOSS communities certain
pedagogies have emerged (Glott et al., 2007; Weller
& Meiszner, 2008).
Although institutional education might be seen
today as the prevalent way of learning, self-
education and practical knowledge have their
historical foundations long before the institutional
formal knowledge. Therefore, communities of
common interest like the FLOSS communities, show
how exchange and creation of knowledge can be
supported by the web in a not institutional way.
As described by Glott et al. (2007) one of the
FLOSS characteristic is usually known as
‘openness’ or ‘inclusivity’ of the FLOSS
community. FLOSS communities, like any other
social formation, have established specific cultural
and social patterns and norms that require from
anyone who wants to join a certain degree of
assimilation. Openness and inclusivity does
therefore only mean that those who want to join the
community do not have to pass enrolment
procedures or have to pass formal performance
assessments. Openness also fosters transparent
structures as the FLOSS ecosystem is openly
accessible, including not only code and
documentations, but also communications,
discussions and interactions of any kind, e.g.
through forums, mailing lists or chats sessions.
A second characteristic relates to ‘volunteering’
and ‘volatility’ since FLOSS participants voluntarily
decide which role(s) they want to play or which
responsibilities to take on. As a consequence, roles
and responsibilities (or capacities) of community
members can change over time but also at the very
same time depending on the different contexts. This
results in a very vivid and volatile internal structure
and dynamics of the community (Glott et al., 2007).
A third characteristic is the ‘use of large-scale
networks’ and the way they are established and
maintained. Besides the individual motivational
aspects that must be addressed to attract participants,
and to which we will refer later, FLOSS
communities enable ‘re-experience’, which is a
fundamental mechanism for online learning and
knowledge-building (Hemetsberger & Reinhardt,
2006) and also facilitates new member integration.
Enabling re-experience and the availability of large-
scale networks are also pre-conditions for the
FLOSS volunteering support model.
CSEDU 2009 - International Conference on Computer Supported Education
The fourth characteristics relates to ‘content-
richness’ and ‘specialisation’. FLOSS communities,
though revolving on software development, offer a
range of opportunities to participate that by far
exceed the scope that is closely related to software
(Glott et al., 2007). Content in FLOSS communities
provides users with various types of learning
resources including manuals, tutorials, or wikis, but
also resources that might not be at first recognized as
learning resources like e.g. communications,
discussions or interactions at mailing lists, forums or
chats. One common aspect of the different types of
content is that they are jointly generated by users
and developers and after generation are overall
continuously updated and improved. This however is
not limited to a given FLOSS community, but also
includes the re-use of artifacts that were produced by
other FLOSS communities, or artifacts that are in
general freely available through the web. Those
external sources are usually brought in to the
community by individuals that act as information
and knowledge brokers (Sowe et al., 2006).
A fifth characteristic is the aspect of
‘modularity’, which for the FLOSS case reduces
systemic interdependencies between different files
of the same product, allowing a higher level of task
partitioning and a lower level of explicit
coordination and interaction among programmers.
Modularity might be achieved through a clear
division of labour between the core product and
more ‘external’ features such as modules, add-ons or
plug-ins (Mockus et al., 2000). Within an
educational context modularity might be translated
to organizational aspects of learning, e.g. to allow
participation at a lower entrance barrier, at lower
initial skills, or with less time commitment or more
efficient usage of time available, or to organizational
aspects with regards to modular course design,
including resources created by educators and
Learning in FLOSS appears to be comparable
with traditional educational settings regarding the
underlying technology and pedagogical approaches
applied, with one of the main differences residing
perhaps on the conceptual and organizational side.
We suggest three different scenarios on the adoption
of FLOSS approaches within educational settings
(Weller & Meiszner 2008; Meiszner et al., 2008),
with each of them having a different level of
complexity and a different degree of benefits:
1. The ‘inside approach’ refers to the practice of
taking the principles found in FLOSS communities
and applying them within the higher education
context. In line with Fischer’s work (2007), this
approach involves mapping the key principles onto
education, including an evolutionary growth of the
course and its environment. This is to say that
current students would build upon the work of
earlier students developing course and content
further year by year, therefore improving content
quality and richness and providing regular feedback.
Such feedback might refer to course structure,
material, processes and tools. The inside approach
thus takes the sort of characteristics and tools found
in FLOSS as its inspiration. The ‘meta-design’
framework and ‘courses as seeds’ process model is
one example for a structured attempt of the inside
approach aimed at supporting self-directed learners
within virtual learning communities by creating
socio-technical environments that support new forms
of collaborative design (Fischer, 2007). Fischer
(2007) talks of users creating socio-technical
environments and has a continuum of participation
ranging from passive consumer to meta-designer.
This mirrors some of the roles of engagement in
FLOSS communities which range from passive
users to core developers.
Within the ‘inside approach’ institutions might
also decide to ‘open up’ their virtual learning
environments to fellow universities or the general
public to view what is going on within the
environment. Within the inside scenario an
institution might even allow those outside groups to
participate and engage at this environment, in the
case doing so, this likely would be a first step
towards a hybrid approach.
A general limitation of the inside approach is
that the outside world remains largely or totally
disconnected, depending on the degree of openness
(e.g. open to view, open to participate, etc.). An
example for a semi-open environment is MIT’s
Open Course Ware project that is partially open for
outside observers, but participation is limited to
formally enrolled students only. Another limitation
relates to ‘community building’ and ‘evolutionary
growth’, since this is per-se limited within a given
institution that only involves the own student
population, and usually even further limited due to
(a) a 100% student turnover per semester / course
and (b) a comparatively small number of potential
community member (formally enrolled students of a
A HYBRID APPROACH TO COMPUTER SCIENCE EDUCATION - A Case Study: Software Engineering at Aristotle
The inside approach might be relatively
moderate to implement since the technology should
be already in place at most higher education
institutions, although admittedly modifications very
likely would be necessary. On the down side this
approach still would keep the students of the
institution within this learning environment
preventing their semi-structured engagement and
collaboration within the wider web. It would also
limit the opportunities of ‘best of breed’, as the
wider web might provide better technological
solutions or already established and mature
communities for respective study fields.
2. The ‘outside approach’ at which institutions
would send out their students into already well
established and mature environments to engage at
and collaborate within those communities on pre-
defined tasks. In contrast to the inside approach, the
outside approach might take traditional education as
the starting point by providing theoretical
information and then sends the students ‘outside’ to
find well established communities, such as the
FLOSS ones, to work within those communities and
to apply and deepen their theoretical knowledge.
In particular for the area of software engineering
this approach might be suitable due to the existence
of a large number of mature FLOSS projects and a
myriad of educational resources. This is seen in the
work of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in
Greece, where undergraduate students are sent out
into real FLOSS communities as part of their degree
in software engineering. Students are provided with
an initial academic background in principles of
software engineering, testing software and the tools
and approach in FLOSS communities and then are
required to choose and engage with a real project.
This clearly has benefits in computer science as it
gives students real experience of collaborating with
other developers and also of the different types of
roles and work required in software development.
The outside approach, however, is not restricted to
computer programming. It can be realized whenever
there is an external, ‘real’ community that is
operating on FLOSS type principles. The case of
Washington Bothell University (Groom &
Brockhaus, 2007) is a good example for this where
students were required to contribute to actual
Wikipedia articles as part of their assignment work,
thus gaining much of the practical experience of
collaboration and authenticity experienced by the
software programmers at Thessaloniki.
The outside approach might be the least complex
and almost cost neutral; and therefore relatively easy
to implement. The benefits of this approach are that
it responds to the third challenge as mentioned at the
introduction and also would allow for collaborative
learning and knowledge production. However, the
results of this collaborative learning and knowledge
production would remain within this outside
community and therefore likely be lost for future
students. This scenario would also not provide next
year students (newbies) with an easy entrance as no
former learners, nor the resources they created, are
present at the institutional level to facilitate the
newbie entrance.
3. If we view the inside and the outside
approaches as opposite ends of a spectrum, then
there is clearly a range of blended, hybrid
approaches in the middle, which take components of
both elements. Such a ‘hybrid’ approach might be
seen as the best option as it allows a continuous
evaluation (by educators, students and the wider
world) of what ‘the best of both worlds’ is and how
the transferred elements actually suit in their
respective new environments. One of the underlying
assumptions is that using a hybrid approach, as
maybe also partly valid for the inside approach,
could be a response to challenges such as a 100%
student turnover per semester as (a) not all
participating students (and educators) should start at
the same time and (b) free learners outside of formal
education and practitioners are not bound to any
course schedule at all.
Perhaps one such model for this hybrid approach
is that of an open participatory learning ecosystem,
as outlined Brown & Adler (2008). The concept here
is that some of the principles of FLOSS
communities are adopted in education (thus it is an
inside approach), such as collaboration, use of
technologies, or peer production. People learn by
doing, for example by remixing or remashing
content that is viewed by others. However these
activities occur in a broader ecosystem that is open
for everyone combining students, informal learners,
tutors, experts, organizations, etc, and in this manner
it is an outside approach since learners are engaged
in a real global community consisting of a range of
different spaces. Such a hybrid approach likely
would include a number of environments where
students could engage at in a semi-structured way
and where guidance and support is provided through
the use of technologies (e.g. RSS, suggested
contents, etc.) and the use of the human factor (e.g.
knowledge brokers, community support, etc.).
The hybrid approach also has the potential to
open new doors for e.g. (a) new revenue models that
could be based in assessment of learners outside of
formal education against fees and formal recognition
CSEDU 2009 - International Conference on Computer Supported Education
of informally acquired skills, (b) the provision of
niche courses and faster identification of potential
new courses, (c) up to date learning resources and
continuous improvement of processes and products,
or (d) an evolutionary growing community including
the inherent peer support system.
The drawback of the hybrid approach might be
that it probably requires the most drastic overhaul of
higher educational practices and might be the most
complex to implement.
There are a number of cases within formal
education (dePaula, 2001; Groom & Brockhaus,
2007; Wilkoff, 2007; Weller & Meiszner, 2008) that
suggest that the ‘inside approach’ and the ‘outside-
approach’ are viable. Those cases indicate that
FLOSS principles can be successfully leveraged to
educational settings to provide students with similar
learning resources, or allowing them to become
content creators. The hybrid model potentially offers
the highest benefits but remains to be explored.
There are a number of general challenges such as
quality assurance, students’ assessment or cultural
restraints (Schmidt, 2007) that might prevent the
take up of FLOSS approaches within educational
settings. As the outside approach has been already
applied at Aristotle’s Software Engineering course
since the academic year 2005/2006, we would like
instead to address at this section questions that
appeared to us more challenging with regard to the
hybrid approach and to which we might not be able
to respond within the educational framework we are
acting in.
1. The availability of a large number of
(volunteering) participants, which is in the case of
FLOSS communities characterized by volunteering
and volatility, is probably one of the cornerstones of
the efficiency of the FLOSS community as a
learning environment. A crucial question for
transferring FLOSS principles to formal education is
how similar networks can be created within formal
environments, which usually have small classes. On
the other hand, FLOSS community members have
regular contacts to only 1 to 5 other community
members (Glott et al., 2007) and therefore a question
is how to reap similar network effects from small
networks in formal education. Meanwhile the
‘outside approach’ is taking advantage of existing
online communities, the ‘inside approach’ and the
‘hybrid approach’ will need to establish structures,
incentives and motivations to bring together the
different involved stakeholders and to establish such
a community.
2. How to allow re-experience? Within FLOSS
much of the learning processes and outcomes are
made visible and therefore allow future learners to
learn from what others did and to build upon those
experiences – how should this be translated to an
educational setting? A project based approach,
analogue to development processes in FLOSS, might
provide an answer to this as collaboration and
discussions could emerge around those project
3. The motivational aspect: Motivations to
participate at FLOSS are e.g. ‘to learn’, ‘gaining
reputation’ or ‘personal enjoyment’, but also a clear
‘win / win scenario’ between information seeker and
information provider resulting in learning benefits
for both sides (Demaziere, 2006). Those
motivational aspects might be difficult to transfer to
and apply in formal educational settings, where the
main motivation relates to obtaining a formal
degree. While learning in the FLOSS community is
efficient because ‘project managers’ and
‘community managers’ (and many more roles)
voluntarily assume responsibility for organising
work, tasks, content, and communication, in formal
educational settings roles, tasks, and responsibilities
are more pre-determined and rigid (Glott et al.,
2007). And even if allowing for such roles within an
educational setting, what would be the motivation to
assume such roles?
There are a number of possibilities to provide
incentives within formal educational settings such as
rewards for students who voluntarily assume
positions, similar to project or community managers
in FLOSS, or to include into the curricula the
obligation of more experienced students to share
their knowledge with the less experienced. Free
learners outside of formal education might also be
offered a certification of their learning outcomes
against fees, or a virtual credit account that rewards
them for taking on roles such as mentor, facilitator,
moderator or tutor. Those virtual credits than might
be used to pay for assessment and certifications.
With regards to incentives for practitioners to
participate one possibility would be to involve
learner into concrete project works – e.g. to provide
computer science students with the opportunity to
take on some tasks at a respective open source
project. Participants of FLOSS communities are also
A HYBRID APPROACH TO COMPUTER SCIENCE EDUCATION - A Case Study: Software Engineering at Aristotle
aware that the skills they learn have a positive value
on the labour market and are able to judge this value
realistically. Precondition for competing with others
that have a comparable formal degree is that
informally attained skills in the FLOSS community
must be provable (Glott et al., 2007). Peer-reviewing
and recognition within the community is very
important in this regard to build up a repute that can
be shown to possible employers. Similar
opportunities, as well for students as for free
learners, therefore might be required within an
educational setting.
But even if addressing all the points above it
might still be a challenge to provide an easy entrance
strategy for own and fellow students, or free learners
outside of formal education. This challenge relates
to questions such as ‘what are learners supposed to
do’ or ‘how to get involved’.
As a suitable supportive framework for a hybrid
approach we identified Meta-design (Fischer, 2007)
with its underlying courses as seed process model
(dePaula et al., 2001).
Meta-design aims at “defining and creating
socio-technical environments as living entities. It
extends existing design methodologies focused on
the development of a system at design time by
allowing users to become co-designers at use time”
(Fischer, 2007). Meta-design is aimed to support
self-directed learners within virtual learning
communities by creating socio-technical
environments that support new forms of
collaborative design. Meta-design pays tribute to the
fact that future uses and problems of socio-technical
systems can not be totally anticipated by the design
time and must be flexible to changes during use time
and allow an evolution through changed or identified
user needs. Meta-design pays also attribution to the
fact that users might become active participants
within a socio-technical environment that bring in
their ideas and help shaping and forming the
environment and contribute to it. Meta-design is thus
describing relatively precisely what can be observed
within the FLOSS sphere and was therefore seen to
be a suitable supportive framework for the
development of a hybrid learning environment.
6.1 Initial Experiences with the Outside
Since the academic year 2005/2006 the 5
course ‘Introduction in Software Engineering’ at
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki follows what
we have been described as an ‘outside approach’.
The duration of the course is 12, 5 weeks and has
an average student number of 150 with one of the
students’ assignments being to participate at a
FLOSS project or a proprietary software exercise. In
the case selected, the assignment counts for 40% of
the total grade. Also, students can work on their
assignments beyond the 12,5 weeks of the official
lecturing period and submit it at a later time at 3 pre-
defined dates per year – by the end of the course in
February, or alternatively in June and September.
At the year 2005/2006 15 students volunteered
for the FLOSS assignment with the objective of
testing FLOSS and to identify bugs.
In the second academic year of the course
(2006/2007), which had 24 students opting for a
FLOSS assignment, the framework remained the
same with the main difference being that students
now had two options: to test FLOSS or to develop
At the third academic year (2007/2008) the
framework of conducting the course was modified,
with the only remaining possible assignment option
for students being FLOSS projects, but no
proprietary software exercises. Further to this
students now had three options: to test FLOSS, to
develop FLOSS, or to write a requirement
specification documentation for a FLOSS project
that still had none. For that academic year 55
students have accomplished their assignment by
June 2008.
Motivated by those results, and backed by the
theoretical work of the FLOSSCom project, we
decided to experiment during the semester
2008/2009 with a hybrid approach.
6.2 Design & Trial of the Hybrid
Learning Environment
As part of the FLOSSCom project we developed an
experimental hybrid learning environment
(www.netgeners.net) and run subsequently a small
scale 4 month trial with 10 volunteering students
from Greece and Spain, which were located in 5
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different countries and supported on a regular base
by 1 educator and 2 further less regular participating
This experimental learning environment
provided the same type of tools as identified within
the FLOSS case and tried to take into account
FLOSS particularities such as modularity and
project based work. It was aimed to provide learners
on the one hand with a basic ‘on-board’ set of
communication and collaboration tools (Blog, Chat,
Forum and Wiki) and on the other hand providing a
personal space and a space for personal learning
projects, including rating and commenting systems
as e.g. provided by Amazon.
We than tried to transfer the principle of
modularity and project based work through the
concept of small students driven learning projects
that would allow learners to engage (to a certain
degree) within areas of their personal interest;
individually or together with other learners as a
group work; therefore contributing with their
learning projects to the overall development of the
learning environment and enhancing its richness up
to the point where it might culminates into a very
diverse and rich learning ecosystem.
The concept of project based learning projects
was also seen as a potential bridge between ‘static’
content on the one hand and learning processes and
activities (discourse) on the other hand that might
allow a similar type of ‘re-experience’ as in FLOSS.
Learning projects therefore might allow a FLOSS
type engagement, where content is often taken
forward and backward, contextualized, adapted,
translated, re-mixed, embedded into processes or
feed into new products by individuals. Those
individuals act as knowledge brokers allowing
content to be dynamic and causing it to continuously
This approach did not intend to provide the
learner with a finished set of expert developed
‘static’ content to be consumed, but instead expects
the learner to become an active participant in the
respective study field, to acquire subject matter
skills through practice, and providing the potential
of gaining key and soft skills as a result of their
activities and engagement. An underlying believe is
that for many ‘questions’ or ‘needs’ the answer, or
an approximate to it, is already ‘somewhere out
there at the web’ and therefore, instead of
‘reinventing the wheel’ each time, learners need to
learn how to find, analyse, evaluate and use what
already exists at the web and to incorporate it into
their own work.
Additionally two key aspects of Meta-Design
were considered during the design time:
“A system should be open to change during
use time and involves all stakeholders in the
design process during design time and use
time“ (Fischer, 2007).
Though the initial core environment has been
largely designed without stakeholders’ participation,
it allowed for stakeholder modifications from day
one of its use time
“A system should be underdesigned at
design time to allow learners (‘owner of
problems’) to create solutions at use time”
(Fischer, 2007).
This was taken into consideration by allowing
learners to:
Make use of the communication and
collaboration spaces provided ‘on-board’ or to
use any other space at the web that they felt
more comfortable with and to link those
spaces to the existing learning environment.
Decide on the objectives, tasks and activities,
roadmap of their learning projects and to
define its outcomes.
Provide learners with support and assistance
through e.g. regular chats.
6.2.1 Experiences from the Initial Trial
Despite the small group size of participants this
initial trial provided a number of valuable
information through participants responses to an
initial set of questions and two subsequent face 2
face round table discussions.
The obtained feedback suggested that from the
technological perspective the learning environment,
albeit very simple, responds to the initial needs with
the main issues to be addressed being of an
organizational nature. Organizational aspects
included: more activities that foster community
building (e.g. through regular community chats),
increased availability of virtual guidance and subject
matter support in particular at the beginning, or
supportive face 2 face meetings within a class
Some of those aspects should be addressed at our
hybrid pilot, which will provide – at least for
formally enrolled students – face 2 face meetings
and subject matter support. Other aspects, such as
community building actions, still need to be taken
into account.
6.3 A Hybrid Approach to Computer
Science Education – Software
Engineering Course 2008 / 2009
Based upon the experiences and work as described
above we have been modifying the hybrid learning
A HYBRID APPROACH TO COMPUTER SCIENCE EDUCATION - A Case Study: Software Engineering at Aristotle
environment for the 2008/2009 course ‘Introduction
to software engineering’. The three options students
might choose from remained unchanged to the
previous year, namely: to test FLOSS, to develop
FLOSS, or to write a requirement specification
documentation for a FLOSS project.
Besides the potential benefits of such hybrid
learning environment that we outlined above, we do
hope that this type of learning environment will
provide students with an informal collaboration and
cooperation space that is of a practical value to
them. This is to say that the initial cohort of students
for the year 2008/2009 won’t be able to gain from
earlier students’ works, and therefore we must
assure to provide by other means, like e.g. regular
chats, prompt responses to forum posts, or initial
content uploaded by us, that this online environment
is of an added student value. Within this, we will
also encourage our past year students, which already
worked and accomplished their assignments, to
participate within this environment and to offer their
help to this years students. Such help, as we
observed, very often happens on campus and we
hope to be able to take part of this discussion online.
Following the hybrid approach our learning
environment is open to fellow universities, learners
outside of formal education and also open source
practitioners, which we hope find some interest in it
and join our effort to develop the space further over
time in size and scope.
During this paper we have outlined the rationale
behind the hybrid approach to computer science
education at Aristotle University, the design
approach taken and the initial experiences we
gained. We explained which principles of FLOSS
and their communities we consider being desirable
for educational settings and which might be some of
the key challenges to be addressed.
At such an early point it is not possible to predict
the applicability of a hybrid approach within the
educational structures we are operating at, or what
still needs to change. However, having chosen an
open design approach, both in terms of
methodological framework as well as open in terms
of underlying open source solutions, one of the
advantages is that we can respond relatively flexible
to identified student needs, or the needs of external
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