How much demand is there for Linux training? Enough to make the Linux Foundation's inaugural MOOC online training course, "Introduction to Linux," the most popular offering on the edX platform. So the open source advocacy group has pointed out in a memo that reveals much about the present and future of open source education.
The Linux Foundation, a non-profit consortium that supports the development of Linux and related open source platforms, launched the Introduction to Linux massively open online course (MOOC) last summer. Since then, 300,000 people from a truly diverse range of countries—the United States tops the list, but only accounts for 30 percent of all participants—have taken the free class, Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin noted Nov. 18 in a blog post.
He added that what is "even more overwhelming is that among classes offered by the world's leading education institutions like Harvard, MIT, UC Berkeley and more, our Intro to Linux course saw the highest enrollment of any class in the edX portfolio this year." Moreover, he wrote, "while MOOCs have a reputation for low completion rates among registrants, the Linux course is ranking well above the industry average."
Going further, Zemlin outlined his organization's goals for continuing to promote education in open source software development and administration. The Introduction to Linux MOOC is just an early component of the Linux Foundation's goal of "making Linux learning materials more accessible to more people," he wrote, noting that the organization is now also offering a certification program for sysadmins and engineers which, launched in August, already has "thousands" of enrollees.
So far, the training initiatives launched by the Linux Foundation and its partners remains relatively small in scope. edX has yet to launch MOOCs dealing with aspects of Linux beyond a basic introduction (although there is no shorter of other free, online resources, like this one, for self-instruction in more advanced Linux topics), and the Linux Foundation's certification program caters only to a specific group of professionals, for now.
Still, extrapolating on what the Linux Foundation has done so far in the realm of free education and training, it's a safe bet that the organization, and the open source ecosystem that it helps to lead, will continue focusing its efforts globally. Open source training won't be just for select countries.
The organization also appears committed to making formal training in Linux—an operating system that many professionals typically don't learn to administer in an official, deliberate way, in contrast to Microsoft Windows—a more common part of the career paths of open source developers and admins. Soon, classes like the Introduction to Linux MOOC, and related certifications, may be a necessary prerequisite to careers in open source software, even though acquiring Linux expertise has traditionally been a DIY affair.