Introducing the problem
Free Software, also known as open source or libre software, allows the code to be used freely, which means that it can be used, copied, studied, modified and redistributed without restrictions. Free Software, as opposed to proprietary software, offers the freedom to learn and to teach without engaging in dependencies on any single technology provider. This freedom of choice is considered a basic condition for an autonomous person in the information society.
The expansion of Free Software has brought together a continually growing global community of developers, by offering solid quality products which have not gone unnoticed in business, government and academic circles. Big players such as Novell, IBM and SUN have brought Free Software into their business models, and many more SMEs provide professional services around Free Software. The European Commission and many national, regional and local governments have started adopting open standards and show a preference for Free Software to cover their IT needs.
Although there is a growing interest in free technologies (Free Software and Open Standards), still a limited number of IT professionals, teachers and decision makers have sufficient knowledge and expertise in these fields. This is particularly problematic since these are crucial actors in promoting and implementing free technologies.
Solving the problem
In order to tackle this problem, the Free Technology Academy (FTA) is being set up as a distance learning programme. This distance learning programme consists of specific modules to enable IT professionals, students, teachers and decision makers to upgrade knowledge and acquire relevant skills on free technologies. Those users interested in getting a master degree could complete their study and get a master degree at one of the participating universities.
Defining the FTA
The FTA's main goals are twofold. First, to set up a virtual campus offering course modules on Free Software and Open Standards with teaching staff from the participating institutions; and second, to become a showcase of a virtual campus based on FS, OS and the use of Open Educational Resources, in order to promote its use in other institutions. The programme will acquire its shape through close cooperation between higher education institutions and social and private organisations.
- the Introduction to Free Software and Open Standards;
- the GNU/Linux Operating System;
- Network Technologies;
- Web Applications development;
- Economical models;
- Legal aspects of the Information Society;
- Software development and
- Case studies.
Educational materials in the FTA are released under free licenses in line with the philosophy of the free knowledge and open educational resources movement. The educational materials comply with dominant open standards such as SCORM and IMS, thus enabling the seamless exchange with other educational platforms.
Organising the FTA
The Free Knowledge Institute coordinates the Academy while the universities bring in their teaching experience (distance learning, educational materials and teachers) and technical support for setting up the virtual campus. While the FTA benefits from the experience of these universities, the universities benefit from the FTA by jointly developing and translating materials and attracting new students for their master programmes.
Other educational institutions (including vocational education and higher education) have been invited to participate as well as industry partners specialised in the area of training in free technologies. The final goal is to include partners at different levels of education and training, and in different fields.
The start up of the FTA was cofunded by the EC Lifelong Learning Programme. Additionally, we seek national and local partners to expand and fortify the initial programme. In the medium and long run, the FTA should be self sustainable by the income generated from the courses.