Linux education: A lesson to be learned

By Joe Barr, |  Development

It's over now. The first adult continuing education course in Linux, part of a series of courses offered by a partnership between the CTTC (Community Technology & Training Center) and CATF (the Capital Area Training Foundation) in Austin, Texas, has been completed.

The class met twice a week, Mondays and Wednesdays, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Travis High School. It was taught by a group of volunteers recruited from the Austin LUG and, by all accounts, it was a huge success. But the road to the finish wasn't all that smooth. There were a few bumps along the way and lessons for everyone.

I wrote about the beginnings of this class a couple of months ago, and a brief history follows. At the urging of several members of the Austin LUG and especially as a result of Dr. Phil Carinhas's offer to use his professional curriculum as a starting point, the CATF decided to offer a Linux class. The students are newbies but have completed other CATF classes that have introduced them to keyboard, mouse, monitor, and Windows. Other advanced courses cover topics such as word processing, HTML coding, and the Linux introduction. The wily Ms. Gress (aka Ms. G), gathered up a handful of volunteers to teach the course in a visit to one of the LUG's weekly meetings. That got the ball rolling and the first class was held Oct. 16 and the last on Nov. 15. Five weeks, two nights a week, three hours a night -- not a trivial commitment for students or teachers.

To CLI or not to CLI

The curriculum was ambitious. It also provided the major bone of contention that arose among the LUG volunteers during the class. Should a CLI environment, including some shell programming, be included, or should the whole class be taught from within the training-wheel-like security of a (almost) familiar GUI? There was no bloodshed, but there was considerable heat in the debates over that issue. Some felt it would be too difficult and drive the students away. Others felt that teaching Linux without an introduction to its CLI would be like teaching history without covering anything prior to 1999.

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