The future is here: Presenting Drupal and FOSS to Computer Science students

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30.05.2008
The future is here: Presenting Drupal and FOSS to Computer Science students
submitted by: Zohar Stolar

While universities usually gain their prestige with break-through researches and discoveries, smaller institutes do so by showing how their graduates integrate in the industry, in key positions.

In order to succeed, they have to:

  1. Identify the dominating technologies of the near future
  2. Teach them to the students, and teach them well

not an easy task...

Last week we participated in a conference about Open Source frameworks in Shenkar, an academic institution for Design and Engineering. Shenkar is a school that is much more industry oriented than the normal universities, and that is what makes this conference so important.

The conference had two parts: the first part presented Open Source in general, and in the second part, Drupal was presented, as an example of a successful, sustainable and profitable open source project.

We were amazed by how little the students knew open source. It seems that Microsoft's technologies are (still) very popular, as there is (still) a big demand for developers in these areas. Why is it (still) like that?

Well, apearantly there are much more .NET developers than PHP developers. This can make hiring them cheaper, and for sure - easier.
Now, this is not something to be overlooked. While open source has the great potential of reducing TCO, when it comes to web, employers are still claiming that there are simply not enough PHP developers, to maintain and develop websites. It's well known that people have a tendancy to work with "something they can trust" (while they really mean - "someone we can blame"...). Plus, many developers feel much more comfortable in a known, common environment, well inside the mainstream.

What can we do to change the situation?

Educate, qualify and certify students to work with Drupal

One of the wonderful outcomes of the conference we participated in, was the acknowledgement that PHP, and Drupal, have a place in academic institutes, as a tool - something the students aquire, and out of which they can start make their living, soon after graduating.
This should (and will) be done in two parallel ways:

  1. Continue the joint development of Drupal courseware, and get it into curicullums of academic institutes for Computer Sciences and Design (I'd say design schools are even a better taget audience)
  2. Help students do their graduating projects with Drupal (something like local Google SOCs)

Creating a communication pipeline between the Drupal industry and classic Training facilities (AKA universities, colleges and design schools) is a key point.

Make Drupal a mainstream solution

Mainstream does not necessarily mean mediocracy. Mainstream is, after all, just a state of mind of many people.
With more and more sites, using Drupal for it's basic content management capabilities, and not only for it's amazing capability of expanssion and innovation, Drupal is gaining more and more recognition, as a swiss army knife solution, which can be used for simple tasks as well (yes - Drupal CAN be used for a blog! 1 2 3 4 5).
In the past, I used to tell people with simple demands, to choose another solution. As I know Drupal today, I can't see why I'd recommend such a thing again. Well... maybe there are things Drupal (still) can't do.
The question is - Do we want mainstream developers doing mainstream sites with Drupal? YES. More Drupal developers mean more Drupal clients, which mean more money. More money leads to more developers, and there you go.