To help bridge this gap between school and industry, last spring Facebook teamed up with Jay Borenstein, a computer science professor at Stanford, to launch Open Academy. Open Academy is a program designed to provide a practical, applied software engineering experience as part of a university student’s CS education. The program works closely with key faculty members at top CS universities to launch a course that matches students with active open source projects and mentors and allows them to receive academic credit for their contributions to the open source code base
In a nutshell, the program works like this:
- A student team of 3-8 students, potentially spanning multiple universities, is formed
- A matching process is run that puts a student team with an open source project
- The team and a “mentor” from the open source project are flown to a location for a weekend ramp up hackathon (the location is Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, CA).
- The students can work on improving the project in two ways: by knocking out low hanging fruit issues that already exist or by identifying and pursuing new functionality
- The students will work on projects for between 8-20 weeks depending upon the schedules of the universities involved University faculty will be closely involved and consult with the mentor when determining final student grades. Expectations will be set with the students that states the coding contributions they make – the quality and ambition of them – will be the main factor determining their grade
- Start date: January-Feb depending on university
- Feb 7-9 Hackathon at Facebook Headquarters in Menlo Park, CA
- End date: Mar – Jun depending on university
Here are the 2014 university partners with Facebook and some of the open source projects they will be working on in the winter and spring.
Carnegie Mellon University
University of California, Berkeley
University of California, San Diego
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
University of Pennsylvania
University of Texas at Austin
University of Washington
Universidade Estadual de Campinas
University of Warsaw
University of Helsinki
University of Singapore
University of Tokyo
Tampere University of Technology
University of Sichuan
Imperial College of London
University of Toronto
University of British Columbia
Open Source Projects
Mozilla Firefox O/S
Ruby on Rails
There are larger issues at work here that relate to the boosterist careerism rampant in universities these days. I mean, really, with that much debt, you better have a way to shovel out from underneath or you are doomed to official membership in the underclass. But, as usual, our farmer-in-chief, Wendell Berry has some choice words for this emerging Facebook/University X ecosystem.
If the proper work of the university is only to equip people to fulfill private ambitions, then how do we justify public support? If it is only to prepare citizens to fulfill public responsibilities, then how do we justify the teaching of arts and sciences? The common denominator has to be larger than either career preparation or preparation for citizenship. Underlying the idea of a university—the bringing together, the combining into one, of all the disciplines—is the idea that good work and good citizenship are the inevitable by-products of the making of a good—that is, a fully developed—human being. This, as I understand it, is the definition of the name university.
Wendell Berry, Home Economics (San Francisco: Northpoint, 1987), 77.
The question remains. Does this Facebook partnership have as its partnership the making of a humane being? I doubt it. I think it has as its direct, if not sole purpose, the making of money for Facebook and all hail Zuckerberg in the process.
To summarize Berry in his moneychangers-in-the-temple mode, the university model has become that of creating Visigoths 4.0, the next iteration of open source as defined by the quarterly bottom line and not the 1000 year one that is the institutional imperative of the university. It doesn’t have to be this way.