The idea of running cross-country projects was inspired by the work of many other people. Looking at what they’ve done might help students and faculty understand what we’re likely to accomplish, and why we’re doing things the way we are.
First up is Google Summer of Code, “…a global program that offers student developers stipends to write code for various open source software projects.” 2500 students have done GSoC since its inception in 2005; each student is matched with an existing open source project and a mentor, and works full-time for 12 weeks on something specific. The big differences between GSoC and what we’re doing is that we’re putting students into teams, and that our students are doing this as one course among several.
Second is the software engineering course that Dragutin Petkovic and colleagues teach at San Francisco State University. Each team is split 50/50 between SFSU and Fulda University in Germany, so that students have to deal with language, culture, and time zone issues right from day one. They have found that this gets students using collaboration tools earlier and more effectively; we’re hoping the same will be true for our projects.
The third main inspiration is David Humphrey‘s work at Seneca College. In the two-course sequence he has created, students effectively join the Mozilla project: they work on its code, talk on its IRC channels, use its bug tracker, and so on. It’s a wonderful experience, but given Mozilla’s size, students really do need two terms to get up to speed and move something forward. Since we only have one, our projects are smaller in scope.
Many other people are experimenting with ways of enriching the student experience. If you have any favorites, we’d welcome pointers.