Online Masters Program Focuses on Free Software

Given the expanding strategic role of Linux in businesses and governments around the world, it's not surprising that organizations are scrambling to find employees with the Linux skills they need. More than a third of the respondents to a recent Linux Foundation study, in fact, indicated that they're worried about finding people with the skills to support their increasing reliance on the free and open source operating system.

Demand far outstrips supply, in other words, when it comes to professionals skilled in Linux and other free technologies. Not only does that represent a great opportunity for those in IT, but it also means the time has never been better for the growing number of businesses using Linux and other free software to bolster their in-house skills.

Free Software and Free Standards

As if on cue, the Free Technology Academy (FTA) and the Free Software Foundation (FSF) just announced this week that they've teamed up on an online Master's Program in Free Software and Free Standards, for example.

The Amsterdam-based FTA's virtual campus offers a variety of accredited professional education modules that can be followed entirely online, with emphases including advanced GNU/Linux, public sector applications, and economic and legal aspects. All learning materials are published under a free license and can be accessed by anyone, but learners who are formally enrolled will be guided by professional teaching staff from one of the program's participating universities.

"The FTA course materials teach people to use GNU/Linux; more than that, it teaches them to recognize why this is important," said Richard Stallman, leader of the free software movement and president of the Free Software Foundation.

The FSF's participation in the Master's Program will include special video guest lectures and collaboration in the maintenance of existing materials and the production of new courses. The FTA will also provide the FSF Associate Membership with 30 discount vouchers for FTA courses each trimester.

Enrollment for 2011 courses is now open, and students can register online at the FTA site. Per-course tuition is now 10 percent off the normal price of EUR 380.

Other Online Opportunities

The FTA-FSF Master's Program is an exciting new addition to the world of Linux and free software education, but there are myriad other sources of such education as well. For example:

The Linux Foundation offers a broad array of courses both online and in a classroom setting. Topics include open source compliance, Linux performance tuning and Linux app development, among many others.

Linux Online offers beginning, intermediate and advanced courses on Linux as well as short lessons on specific Linux-related topics and materials offering a variety of tips and tricks. A certificate program is also in the works.

Novell's OpenCourseWare project offers a variety of free training courses on various Linux topics.

The Virtual Training Company offers a series of free Linux tutorials online, viewable with either Flash or QuickTime.

The Linux Tutorial delivers a free, online introduction to Linux, with chapters ranging all the way from Introduction to Operating Systems to Networking to Linux and Windows, including specifics on dual-booting and virtualization.

This is just a small sampling of what's out there, of course. The bottom line, however, is that a lack of skills and training shouldn't prevent any smart business from taking advantage of the many benefits of Linux and free software.

Follow Katherine Noyes on Twitter: @Noyesk.

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