Friday, January 14, 2011

Open Wonderland Development Course at P2PU

I am organising an 'Open Wonderland Development course' at P2PU. This is a course that follows a peer to peer approach, it is all community based, and totally free.

About P2PU
The Peer to Peer University is a bit different. All work is done through p2p collaboration. Courses generally run for 6 weeks (next batch starting on the 26th of January 2011). You do not need to be an expert to organise a course, mainly because of the fact that you will be a facilitator, as opposed to a teacher/lecturer. All you need is a collection of open accessible resources to run a course (you can also create your own).

I think this model fits perfectly the software profession, if you compare it with the individualised approaches of any 'normal' university. You will not get a degree after finishing a course, but you might get much more out of it...

About Open Wonderland
Open Wonderland is a toolkit to create virtual worlds. It is 100% Java, it has a relatively small core, but its extensibility through 'wonderland modules' makes of it a platform to do pretty much whatever you want within the 3D environment. Out of the box you can share X11 apps within the world (Open office, Chrome, Eclipse, or freemind work pretty well), communicate through text, voice, or even the telephone, and drag and drop all kinds of digital materials such as pdf files, images, etc.

You can also write your own modules. One of the available modules is an scripting engine based on "JSR 223: Scripting for the Java platform". Using this module you can script objects inside the virtual world using any language supported by the specification (Javascript, PHP, Ruby, and so on).

The project was initially born at Sun Microsystems in 2007, but support from Sun/Oracle stopped earlier last year(2010). It was an open source project from inception and although most people envisioned its death after Oracle laid off the team, it has been quite a different story since then. The community has taken control of the project through the creation of the Open Wonderland Foundation (non-profit), and all kinds of meetings inworld have been happening ever since. All Wednesdays at 1pm (EST) there are development meetings in which the community share an instance of Netbeans and hack on code as a group (every avatar can take control of the instance and start driving).
I do have to say that things are going a lot slower, no doubt of that, but there are more users now than ever before, and development continues at a steady pace.

So, why am I doing this, what's in it for me? The experience really. I was not part of the initial wonderland team and my association has not been other than as a volunteer in the community for the last few months. I thought this would be a good way to give back to the community.
I am also a researcher in IT in Education, and this is just a way for me to experiment with ideas, mostly taken from Software Craftsmanship.

I see a few different ways that learning can be organised around the wonderland system (apart from development work which will also be covered).
Although it is a fairly big system (with a small core), test automation is almost inexistent. One of my goals would be to start inspecting the system by testing it from within, and see where that leads us. There is a test harness in place, but it hasn't been used much and it would be great to inspect that too.
Another course for experimenting is the building system. Ant scripts exist for the system but dependency management is not explicit. The build is also way too dependent on netbeans.

These are two scenarios that people are quite likely to find in their everyday job. So, what's in it for you? Well, the experience really! :)
Some people might find attractive the fact that some out of the office learning can being organised (to a point) by someone else. I say 'to a point' because, as mentioned earlier, this is a peer to peer experience, I am not an expert, and learning is ultimately the responsibility of the participants themselves.

This is a 'distance learning experience', and I do not expect people meeting face to face, but I do expect meetings avatar to avatar. It is definitely not the same (nowhere near!) but in my opinion is the closest experience to the real thing that I've had so far.

In a nutshell
So, as a summary, if you are interested in learning through technology, be it software development, testing automation, scm, and so on, and you want to do it within an existing system, and more importantly, in a collaboratively, community-based way, please have a look at the course.

Link to the course:
Dates: starting on January the 26th (2011)
Pre-requisites: Please read through the sign-up task (main page of the course) before applying.

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