Facebook Launches Open Academy To Give Kids College Credit For Open Source Contributions

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A perfect GPA isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? Advancing an open source project. To help computer science students prepare for jobs (and boost its own recruiting efforts) Facebook today publicly launched Open Academy. The partnership with premier CS universities sets up a special class where students get college credit for contributing to open source projects.

After a successful pilot at Stanford last year, Open Academy is expanding to a total of 22 universities. 

Open Academy students get paired with mentors and an open source project to which they’ll add code. At the start of the semester, all the mentors and students come to Facebook’s Menlo Park HQ for an intensive kick-off weekend. Then they work in virtual teams from their schools. Mentors teach students about open source, review students’ code and may give lectures too. The winter 2014 session will begin in February.

1236089_214958308673370_1048735892_nThrough the pilot and ‘private beta’ with other universities including Waterloo and MIT, students worked on MongoDB, Mozilla Open Badge, Ruby On Rails and more Open Source projects. The expansion brings the program to schools including UPenn, UC Berkeley, and Carnegie Mellon.

The program could turn kids from theoretical students working on canned classroom coding challenges into real-world engineers building systems people actually use.

“Software development as a profession has many features that are distinct from computer science as an academic subject,” Facebook explains. “Projects are often larger than the people who participate in them; project management and interpersonal relationships can have as much impact on software design as technical issues; and systems are ultimately evaluated by user satisfaction rather than technical merit.”

To be clear, Open Academy isn’t entirely altruistic. Surely, the top-tier computer science students admitted to the program will be given a nudge towards working at Facebook after college. Facebook is in a constant battle with other tech giants for top engineering talent, and programs from computer science grants to college hackathons to the Open Academy seek to seduce young code ninjas as well as aid them.