Open-source software provider Red Hat is expanding its outreach efforts at universities and colleges. The company is a member of the Teaching Open Source community, and via its sponsorship of POSSE (Professors’ Open Source Summer Experience) workshops, it has facilitated the education of professors in how to best launch and incorporate open source into degree programs.

POSSE was launched in July 2009 by five professors from the United States and Canada as a weeklong workshop for professors interested in involving their students in open-source software communities as part of their curriculum. The workshops guide participants and immerse them as new contributors to a specific open-source project. They learn tools and practices that can be used in other open-source projects.

The POSSE program has expanded its reach in the United States as well as to Singapore and South Africa in a little over a year, with plans for more expansion. According to Red Hat, nearly 60 professors and administrators have attended POSSE workshops. The workshops have also grown in scope and now include disciplines outside of computer science and software code development.

A Rochester Institute of Technology POSSE in June 2010 introduced open source to professors in the areas of journalism, publishing and technical writing, in addition to professors of engineering and members of the university’s IT staff. It utilized the Fedora Project to explore non-code methods of contribution, such as editing release notes, interviewing developers for feature profiles, and composing and distributing live images of open-source tools for students. It also gave participants real-world experience on an established project.

“It’s easy for a company to donate money to fund an academic institution or research project, but Red Hat’s approach goes one step further by equipping professors to teach open source,” said Jim Whitehurst, president and CEO of Red Hat.