Lessons Learned in Teaching FOSS: How to Become a Contributor

Short Form


How do you jump into a project and find your way around? I can help you avoid the pitfalls and find some ways to engage that have been successful in a college course.


FOSS experience is an important way to gain experience in a real world environment as well as to learn new skills that is advantageous in getting a job in tech. Many employers today look for FOSS experience on resumes as evidence of this experience with students graduating from college. However, people who are new to FOSS often find the environments intimidating and the barriers to entry insurmountable.

I have created a course in FOSS participation and incorporated it into the curriculum at Western Oregon University. I will share the strategies we use as well as the mistakes we have made to help promote engagement in FOSS and to help newbies overcome the barriers we found. This talk also serves project communities in showing how to best serve newcomers to your projects.


diversity, community participation, engagement

Speaking experience

– Birds of a Feather Morgan, B., Ellis, H., Hislop, G., Braught, G., Postner, L. (2017). Perspectives on Teaching Humanitarian Free and Open Source Software. SIGCSE 2017 Proceedings.

– Panel Likins, G., Morgan, B., Burdge, D., Lambert, L., Veilleux, N. (2016). Open Source belongs in your class. Where do you start? Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing 2016.

– Presentation Morgan, B. (2015). Lessons Learned Teaching Open Source: Productive Partnerships with Community Mentors – Presentation. Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing 2015.

– Panel Alkoby, K., Burdge, D., Morgan, B., Ordóñez, P., Likins, G. (2015). Humanitarian Free and Open Source Software: Motivating the Underrepresented. Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing 2015.

– Birds of a Feather Rebelsky, S. A., Morgan, B., Pulimood, S. M., Postner, L., Hislop, G. (2015). Incorporating Humanitarian Free and Open Source Software in CS Classrooms. Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing 2015.

- Paper Presentation Hislop, G. W., Ellis, H. J., Pulimood, S. M., Morgan, B., Mello-Stark, S., Coleman, B., & Macdonell, C. (2015, July). A Multi-Institutional Study of Learning via Student Involvement in Humanitarian Free and Open Source Software Projects. In Proceedings of the eleventh annual International Conference on International Computing Education Research (pp. 199-206). ACM.

- Paper Presentation Ellis, H. J., Hislop, G. W., Pulimood, S. M., Morgan, B., & Coleman, B. (2015). Software Engineering Learning in HFOSS: A Multi-Institutional Study. In Proceedings of the 122nd Annual ASEE Conference and Exhibition, Seattle, WA.

– Panel Ordóñez, P., Ellis, H., Burdge, D., Morgan, B., Alkoby, K. (2015). Using Humanitarian Free and Open Source Software (HFOSS) to Attract the Underrepresented to Computer Science. 2015 ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing

- Paper Presentation Morgan, B., & Jensen, C. (2014). Lessons Learned from Teaching Open Source Software Development. In Open Source Software: Mobile Open Source Technologies (pp. 133–142).

- Dissertation Defense Morgan, B. (2012). How does a Collaborative Community Affect Diverse Students' Engagement with an Open Source Software Project: A Pedagogical Paradigm. Ph.D. Dissertation. Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA. Advisor(s) Lawrence B. Flick. AAI3536447.


  • 16807181 10211495178831340 3482272154150012620 n

    Becka Morgan

    Western Oregon University


    Becka Morgan earned her PhD in December 2012. Her area of research is diversity in Free/Open Source Software development. For the last three years Dr. Morgan has focused on creating a curriculum for both undergraduate and graduate level students to provide a path into FOSS development. As a 2013 graduate of POSSE, using the support of POSSE alumni, Dr. Morgan has been able to redevelop the FOSS course she teaches to provide a more robust assignment set and assessment model. Her goal is to share what she has learned with her students to improve entry into FOSS projects for people new to FOSS and for the communities who wish to welcome them.