Collaboratory: An Open Source Teaching and Learning Facility

From the outset, CITRIS involvement has been instrumental in helping to shape academic excellence at UC Merced. This influence is the innovative open source teaching and learning system developed by the School of Engineering at UC Merced, known as the Open Source Collaboratory. The Collaboratory represents an effort to provide an effective, relevant, and flexible environment for educating the next generation of computer literate and technologically confident college graduates.

The Collaboratory is a model for educational computing environments of the future:

  • Complete reliance on Free and Open Source Software (FOSS)
  • Minimal reliance on administrative intervention Commodity hardware  
  • Cost effective in terms of both initial hard-ware/software acquisition as well as operational costs

    Our vision for the Open Source Collaboratory has been guided by the overarching goal of providing students a learning environment with minimal barriers. Students should also have tools available that will enable them to interact effortlessly with other people in the lab and beyond. Part of achieving these goals will be complete reliance on FOSS. Not only will this provide complete freedom in developing and maintaining our software systems, but it will enable transparency so that students can study and extend the capabilities that have been developed.

    While the Collaboratory has already proven valuable in supporting the rapidly emerging open source culture and innovative new courses, there is more to come. The facilities for session recording remain incomplete. Security is, as always, a never-ending challenge. A few small opportunities remain: further reductions of boot-time; use of panning or scaling on the projectors to match the potential 1900×1200 resolution afforded by the workstation monitors; acceleration or replacement of VNC with NX or other technologies; integration of VoIP functions; and automation of outbound VPN to peer sites.

    (Caption: The UC Merced campus serves as the hub of several key CITRIS thrusts.)