IBM sets academic initiative

At the Rational Software Developer User Conference in Grapevine, Tex., IBM Corp. on Tuesday detailed an initiative to collaborate with educators to teach students open standards skills to enable them to keep pace with changes in IT.

Through the IBM Academic Initiative, the company will work with schools that support so-called open standards and seek to use open source and IBM technologies for teaching purposes, both directly and through the Web. Standards such as Java, Linux, and Eclipse are part of the effort, as well as training on IBM software and servers. IBM with the program is intending to develop “in demand skills for this on demand world,” said Buell Duncan, general manager of developer relations in the IBM software group.

The Academic Initiative will feature IBM assigning a technical team to assess an institution’s IT curricula and provide training and skills for faculty and staff. Course materials will be provided on key software and hardware technologies along with information resources provided through the IBM Scholars Portal and developerWorks program.

An official at Northface University, which is participating in IBM’s academic effort, stressed the need for students to learn how to solve business problems through acquiring skills for modeling and architecture, rather than just learning how to code. These skills will insulate a developer from the issue of having their job outsourced overseas, McKinley said.

The issue of students being scared off from computer science because of outsourcing concerns has been cited in recent news reports. McKinley cited statistics that have seen computer science programs drop from graduating 36,000 students to fewer than 30,000 students.

“Our mission is to scale the university to a size that actually makes a dent in the available developer talent and to make sure that talent is fluent in the tools du jour,” McKinley said.

The other schools piloting the IBM Academic Initiative include Texas State University, Indiana State University, and the University of Wisconsin. IBM has set a goal of reaching 1,000 schools around the world and 250 schools this year, Duncan said.

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