Facebook launched an educational program called Open Academy for 22 universities around the world today. The scheme gives students practical assignments about software engineering that are tied to real open source projects managed by mentors who are already involved in the industry.

The course for Winter 2014 will begin in February with an education-focused, three-day hackathon at one of Facebook’s headquarters. Here, students will meet their mentors and be introduced to the codebase and open source projects that they’ll be working on, as well as discuss new approaches for improving the computer science curriculum in their area.

The learners will then return to their universities and work on the project remotely with their other team members. The project managers will be available to help the students understand tasks and review their code along the way. Course instructors at each university will also chime in to check on their progress and provide a series of lectures about further learning opportunities.

Open Academy started as a collaboration between Facebook and Jay Borenstein, a professor of computer science at Stanford University, in Spring 2012. Following a successful pilot, the scheme was rolled out to a further 11 universities around the globe:

MIT, University of Texas at Austin, Cornell Univeristy, University of Toronto, Waterloo University, University of Singapore, University of Tokyo, Imperial College of London, Jagiellonian University, University of Helsinki, and Tampere University of Technology.

In the past, students have worked on open source projects such as Freeseer, Kotlin, MongoDB, Mozilla Open Badge, Phabricator, Pouch DB, Socket IO, Review Board, and Ruby on Rails.

As part of the expansion, Open Academy will now also be available at the following educational institutions:

University of Pennsylvania, UC San Diego, Columbia University, Carnegie Mellon University, UC Berkeley, Purdue, University of Warsaw, UIUC, UCLA, and University of Washington.

Students are always more motivated and interested in practical assignments when they know their work will be implemented in a product or technology that’s being used in the real world.

Linking the program to existing open source projects, with the backing of a huge technology powerhouse such as Facebook, makes the Open Academy an incredibly unique and exciting prospect.

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