25 June 2010

Let's Make "The Open University" Truly Open


The Open University (OU) is now a certified Microsoft IT Academy adding to its fast-growing suite of IT vendor certifications.

The first course in the OU's Microsoft IT Academy programme TM128 Microsoft server technologies launches in October 2010. The course, purpose-designed by the OU, covers both the fundamentals of computer networks and the specifics of how Windows server technologies can be used practically. Registration is now open for the 30-credit Level 1 module.

Microsoft server technologies will form part of the requirement for both Microsoft Certified System Engineer (MCSE) and Microsoft Certified System Administrator (MCSA) programmes, and forms part of the pathway to MCITP (Microsoft Certified IT Professional) certification. The course can also be counted towards an Open University modular degree.

Naturally, offering such courses about closed-source software is an important part of providing a wide range information and training. And I'm sure there will be similarly courses and qualifications for open source programs.

After all, free software not only already totally dominates areas like supercomputers, the Internet and embedded systems, but is also rapidly gaining market share in key sectors like mobile, so it would obviously make sense to offer plenty of opportunities for students to study and work with the operating system of the future, as well as that of the past.

That's true for all academic establishments offering courses in computing, but in the case of the Open University, even-handedness assumes a particular importance because of the context:

The Open University has appointed a Microsoft boss to be its fifth vice-chancellor.

Martin Bean is currently general manager of product management, marketing and business development for Microsoft's worldwide education products group.

I look forward to hearing about all the exciting new courses and certifications - Red Hat and Ubuntu, maybe? (Via @deburca.)

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Teraknor said...

Hi, I think the open university course you are looking for is T155, it is currently running, uses Ubuntu and seems to be getting to be getting excellent press in Linux Format

Glyn Moody said...

@Teraknor: alas no. From the course page (http://www3.open.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/course/t155.htm)

T155 - Linux: an introduction:

"In this ten-week course – designed for absolute beginners – you’ll examine the many similarities that exist between Linux and operating systems such as Microsoft Windows. You’ll also explore the diverse technology available in the Linux community. You’ll be provided with tools to access free versions of Linux and software to install this on your computer."

not quite what I had in mind...

Teraknor said...

It is linked to CompTIA (and soon LPI 101) certification, these are widely understood to be Linux platform neutral.

Do you have any suggestions?

Glyn Moody said...

@Teraknor: it may be platform neutral, but it's aimed at "absolute beginners", and so won't be much use as a professional qualification. That's why I suggested the Red Hat and Ubuntu certifications.

Will Watts said...

I have been working through OU postgrad courses in software development. I would say that the current emphasis has tended to be anti-Microsoft and pro OSS.

(I should admit that this is a position of which I broadly approve, but objectively it is still the case.)

For example, in the more techie courses M885 and M887 the 'reference' programming language where one is cited is generally Java and never C#. The courses have rarely featured Microsoft software in any capacity. Windows is admitted to exist, and gets a little ribbing on the M873 User Interface course, but its dominance is barely acknowledged. The SQL course M876 recently revamped, switching from Sybase SQL Anywhere (which I suspect is Windows-only) to MySQL as the recommended SQL engine. The M882 software management course contains heavy coverage of OSS in (what seems to me) a generally approving tone. And sometimes its text very nearly editorialises in a most un-academic non-neutral way:
'...the material for this course has been written using an industry-standard proprietary word processor. While this word processor contains lots of features that are very useful to us as authors, it also has features that make it more difficult, and also things which just don't work. We considered changing to an XML-based authoring system. Our basic measurement would be our speed of writing and amending our document, and this is quite explicit and tangible - we could measure it. But we also have some concerns about continuing to use software from a supplier that has an effective monopoly and want other suppliers to benefit from our trade, and because we don't like the policy of planned obsolescence that this company practises.'

You know, I feel I could almost name the products under discussion. Mr Bean has his work cut out.

Glyn Moody said...

@Will: thanks for that feedback: that's interesting.

What you describe is a more subtle (but welcome) support for open source than I was asking for - perhaps driven more by the individual lecturers. Given that the OU is offering a formal MS certification, it would be nice if it did the same for open source alternatives too.

Good luck with the course.

Teraknor said...

Glyn i would say that this is fair commment, with Linux, we are having to work in a domain that is not an established certification community as the Microsoft and Cisco certifications of this world have been around for considerably longer.

We do have the ambition to extend our Linux offering once T155 becomes established.

It was placed in a 'experimental' mode to explore the market potential, we are very pleased to see that the first and soon second presentations prove there is considerable market interest.

We were also keen to raise the profile of the subject, to develop any professional certification community, you need a larger set of beginners with enthusiasm and personal interest. In fact if T155 serves to simply raise the profile of Linux as an alternative, then the course team considers this a success.

Therefore if T155 continues on its current trend, we hope to reach the higher LPI certifications and deliver a 'sys admin' course. But, from acorns, this opportunity must grow.

Glyn Moody said...

@Teraknor: I accept that MS certifications are better established, but it's a chicken and egg situation: if you don't offer the certifications, people can't get them, and so the certification remains marginal.

And I'm not knocking the good work that you're doing with T155, just trying to encourage OU's management to support you in extending it...