This is a review of what happened in 2009 with the Mozilla Education program, as measured against our goals and plans at the beginning of the year.
The following were the main Mozilla Education activities originally planned for 2009, as found in the Mozilla Education planning document:
- Seneca Expansion / Virtual Seneca offering Mozilla learning resources and support to students everywhere.
- Madrid Summer Course at URJC, establishing the first formal Mozilla course beyond Seneca and establishing an educational foundation in Europe.
- Online Mozilla Courses that provide learning and engagement opportunities directly to potential Mozilla contributors.
- education.mozilla.org where all Mozilla courseware and learning information can be found.
These activities have all progressed to one degree or another. Below we address progress related to these activities in the context of the questions posed in the above planning document. We also discuss an additional positive outcome we didn't anticipate, as well other initiatives related to Mozilla Education.
Review against goals
The questions we asked here were:
- Can we replicate something roughly similar to our Seneca experience, getting another college or university to run community-based Mozilla courses, or is Seneca a unique case?
- If we can, how much time and resources are required?
The answers here are, yes, we have indeed now had success in replicating the Seneca model in other places, with the resources required basically amounting to a fraction of Dave Humphrey's time plus some minor funding in one case (a grant to URJC). Some institutions have done full-blown courses on Mozilla-related topics, while others have students working on Mozilla-related projects as part of senior "capstone" projects and other types of independent study.
The following schools are doing courses that are wholly or partially devoted to instruction in Mozilla-related technologies and have students working on Mozilla-related projects as part of the courses:
- Seneca College is continuing the original Mozilla course taught by Dave, with a total of 20 students. Projects include Mozilla GCC optimizations, documentation, Thunderbird improvements, Processing for the Web, and packaging Dehydra and other Mozilla tools. Note that this course is also being made available to students at other institutions who want to participate (on an unofficial basis).
- Université Evry Val d'Essonne in France is hosting a "Course on Mozilla Education and Technologies @ Evry" (CoMETE), with a total of 20 students. Projects include Processing for the Web (in cooperation with Seneca students) and Gecko.
- Sri Jayachamarajendra College of Engineering (SJCE) in India is hosting an initial "beta" version of a Mozilla course that will added to the official curriculum for 2010-2011, with 6 students. Projects are Firefox-related.
- The German University in Cairo (GUC) in Egypt is doing a Mozilla course with 25 students. Projects are related to Thunderbird, Calendar, and Firefox.
- Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Spain recently completed its Madrid Mozilla Technology Course (MMTC), with 20+ students.
In addition, the following institutions each have one or more students working on a Mozilla-related project: The University of British Columbia, University of Alberta, Michigan State University, The University of the Virgin Islands, Queens College in Flushing NY, Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, and BITS (Pilani Goa Campus) and IME-USP in Brazil.
In total we have Mozilla-related courses and projects involving about a hundred students at 13 schools with 10 professors. According to Dave Humphrey there are also a dozen other random students from around the world working on things, but we don't know which school they are from, they've just shown up in IRC from time to time. There are also three other institutions that are good candidates for additional Mozilla-related projects and courses.
The success in replicating the Seneca model is in our opinion due to the following factors:
- Dave Humphrey's long-time evangelism efforts are finally beginning to pay off, particularly now that he's been able to do Mozilla Education outreach almost full-time.
- Other institutions have been able to leverage the Mozilla-related course material created at Seneca and other resources (e.g., the "student project" bug list, the Mozilla Education IRC channel, etc.).
- Efforts like teachingopensource.org, the Humanitarian FOSS project, etc., are raising the profile of open source-related courses in general, and building interest among more and more faculty members. As one of the highest-profile open source projects Mozilla is reaping the benefits of that.
Leveraging Seneca skills, knowledge, etc., to create a sustainable platform
The questions here (related to the previous ones) were
- Can we leverage skills, knowledge and other resources at Seneca to create a sustainable platform that students everywhere can use to learn with and contribute to Mozilla?
- If yes, will students use it?"
The answer here is that most of the leverage of Seneca has occurred through the following:
- Other institutions are using Seneca course materials for their own courses, typically adapting them for their own use as opposed to using them unchanged.
- Faculty members at other institutions are using Dave Humphrey as a resource for helping them structure and plan courses.
- Students at other institutions are to some extent piggybacking on projects in which Seneca students are playing (or have previously played) a leading role. Processing for the Web is a good example, since some of the key pieces like the Canvas 3D support were originally done at Seneca.
It's not clear to what extent this constitutes a "sustainable platform", but in general we feel good about the extent to which other institutions are adopting a Seneca-like model.
Mozilla online courses
- Can we accelerate our efforts in education by setting up our own online courses for Mozilla volunteers and others?
- If so, do we get good participation and learning outcomes?
The answer: In general we have relied on existing education institutions as opposed to setting up our own courses, for two reasons:
- Such institutions have existing groups of students already "pre-qualified" for Mozilla-related courses, i.e., they have the necessary programming background and are motivated to work on Mozilla. This saves us the trouble of recruiting independent students and getting them to a point where they can benefit from Mozilla training.
- Such institutions also already have faculty whose job it is to teach courses, saving us the trouble of finding qualified instructors.
The one major exception to our policy of leaving instruction to others is the Jetpack for Learning Design Challenge. In that case we were able to obtain funding sufficient to allow us to hire independent instructors. In the absence of such funding it would be hard to justify putting on our own classes, especially given that the current model of relying on other institutions is working well.
As for learning outcomes, the Jetpack for Learning Design Challenge is just getting under way, so we don't have any good information on that yet.
- Will more students and professors use Mozilla educational materials if we create and promote a single place where they can be found (education.mozilla.org)?
- What if we promote these materials on other courseware portals?"
As with doing our own online courses, this is another area where our more ambitious plans were not fulfilled, to a large degree because they weren't needed. As noted above, most institutions have relied on existing course materials but have adapted them for local use, with the help of advice from Dave Humphrey. Having that material available on education.mozilla.org has been useful but not critical, since in practice institutions haven't simply been downloading it and using it as is.
We also had thoughts of making the education.mozilla.org site be a hub for Mozilla-based online courses, perhaps with a learning management system like Moodle as a component. Again, this didn't happen, both because we didn't have any online courses other than those planned for the Jetpack for Learning project, and also because we found that we didn't need a lot of online technologies for typical course activities: Basically a wiki plus IRC channel plus discussion forum covers the vast majority of needed functionality.
To the extent we've been creating new material for education.mozilla.org, it's probably best to see such material migrated to other Mozilla sites such as developer.mozilla.org, where students will find it along with anything else they might need to do Mozilla development. We could then consider retaining the current education.mozilla.org site in two forms: a small static site serving principally as an advertisement for the program (similar to the current Jetpack for Learning home page), and a wiki that can be used for planning documents, project spaces (like that for Processing for the Web), and so on.
An unanticipated positive outcome
One positive outcome we did not anticipate was the extent to which Mozilla Education would be useful as a vehicle through which to pursue low-cost but potentially high-impact Mozilla-related projects in a "strategically opportunistic" manner. The best example of that to date is the Processing for the Web project, which is helping to drive functionality improvements in the area of 3D Canvas support (WebGL) and Bespin (embeddable Bespin).
Pursuing such projects in the context of Mozilla Education makes sense for the following reasons:
- For people within the Mozilla project, Mozilla Education offers a way by which they can leverage their own efforts by drawing upon a pool of relatively enthusiastic and knowledgeable potential contributors.
- For people outside the Mozilla project, having a project under the Mozilla Education "umbrella" raises the profile of the project by providing an implied Mozilla endorsement of it, and makes it easier to attract people to work on it.
Because projects like Processing for the Web are simply special cases of general Mozilla-related student projects they're very inexpensive to run. In the csse of Processing of the Web the only incremental expense thus far has been for travel sponsorship for the project lead to attend FSOSS to meet with Seneca students.
We're currently discussing doing two more special projects under Mozilla Education auspices. The first (for which the project lead would be Jinghua Zhang) is to solicit student help with analysis of Test Pilot data; this might grow into a more general effort to have academic researchers work with Mozilla project data. The second would be to recruit students to work with Taras Glek to enhance, package and promote his tools for automated analysis and refactoring of Mozilla code.
One of the high-level goals for the Mozilla Education initiative was to "help to drive a new wave of participatory, student-led learning", in essence linking our efforts in the Mozilla context to larger trends around online learning, open educational content, etc. Some of the ideas discussed in relation to Mozilla Education, including having our own Mozilla online courses, were intended to position Mozilla as an innovator in this space.
In the time since the Mozilla Education initiative began we've seen the creation of the Teaching Open Source (TOS) project, in which Mozilla has participated, along with the Professors Open Source Summer Experience (POSSE) workshops. TOS, POSSE, and related initiatives have organizational and financial support from Red Hat and in future may receive institutional endorsement by the Open Source Initiative and/or other organizations serving the broader free software and open source communities.
Our proposed strategy for Mozilla Education in 2010 is therefore to focus our own efforts on the primary goal of "[creating] learning opportunities for a new generation of Mozilla community members", and to promote the secondary goal of "[driving] a new wave of participatory, student-led learning" by working within the context of TOS, POSSE, etc., where it makes sense for us to do so.