The Linux Foundation will offer a Linux development course on edX, the massive open online course (MOOC) platform developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. The move is part of an edX effort, announced Thursday, to expand its course offerings to include content from nonacademic institutions. All edX content previously came from the nonprofit's 32 member schools, which include the University of California, Berkeley; Dartmouth College and McGill University.
The foundation's MOOC will offer the same material taught in its introduction to Linux class, which is designed for people with little to no experience with the open-source OS. People can start taking the MOOC this summer; the exact date will be disclosed next month. The Linux class will be free and available to anyone with a Web connection. The foundation normally charges $2,500 for the course, which is already taught online and in person through authorized training partners.
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The need for Linux professionals is outpacing the talent supply, said Jim Zemlin, director of the Linux Foundation, noting that the OS helps run stock exchanges, Android smartphones and many cloud computing services. EdX courses offer an affordable and easy way to help solve the Linux talent shortage, he said.
"Linux has just seen this insane adoption across every sector of technology," he said. "That's all great but as use of Linux rises we need to keep up with demand. This is a way for people to get familiar with Linux."
For edX, adding content from organizations outside of academia would address requests for professional development material, said Anant Agarwal, president of edX.
"Many of our students are looking for courses on topics that enable them to get a better job or bridge skill gaps, and Linux is one example [of that]," he said. "A verified certificate from the Linux Foundation would have a lot of credibility in the marketplace."
According to two surveys, the IT job market is professionally and financially rewarding for IT workers who know Linux. In the Linux Foundation's annual jobs report, nearly 90 percent of the survey's approximately 4,000 respondents reported that knowing Linux gave them more career opportunities. A salary survey from IT job website Dice.com noted that Linux professionals received an average salary raise of 5 percent in 2013 compared to a 2.6 percent average increase for IT workers without Linux skills.
These benefits, Zemlin believes, could motivate enrollees to stick with the class and earn a completion certificate, bucking the low course completion rates MOOCs have seen. Data examining edX's first year of use showed that of the 841,687 people who signed up for edX classes, 43,196 of them received a completion certification.
"People come in, take a course and Linux is demystified for them," Zemlin said. He said that Amazon alone has 2,000 jobs that require a Linux background.