In my view having dedicated Open Source Geospatial Labs/ Research Centers in universities worldwide is a key step in helping strengthen the educational agenda for Open Source GIS both in research and teaching. Currently even with the great progress made in open source GIS the sad fact is that many universities still use proprietary software for GIS teaching and research. This was one of main reason, we took initiative to start the Open Source Geospatial Lab at University of Nottingham so that we can give opportunity for staff and students interested in open source to work on interesting open source GIS projects. Also it is very important to make available high quality teaching and training materials for staff to help them use for teaching their students. It is with that objective in mind that once we set up Open Source Geospatial Lab at Nottingham we started planning the E-learning for Open Geospatial Community (ELOGeo) initiative. We hope over time, we will be able to have lot of teaching materials developed which can be used by all others.
But to make Open Source GIS key in university teaching and research there should be a network of dedicated open source GIS labs and research centers worldwide (not just in one university). As more universities setup their dedicated open source GIS research facilities means that more staff and students will get opportunity to work on interesting open source GIS research projects (for example we just submitted a paper to Transactions in GIS on "Mapping the Open Source Geospatial ecosystem" based fully on the work carried out at OSGL Nottingham over the last year), organise training programs/summer schools in open source GIS (for example the ones we co-organised with SIGTE - which not only helped build research collaborations but also resulted in production on good quality tutorials and training materials, which then we were able to distribute through the ELOGeo platform to the wider community). The universities which setup dedicated facilities for open source GIS research will over time not only start teaching Open Source GIS and carry out excellent research but will also provide support for staff in other universities who wish to use open source GIS in their teaching and research (For example Dr Tuong Thuy Vu who is Assistant Professor in Malaysia Campus of University of Nottingham is leading initiative to establish a Open Source Geospatial Lab in Malaysia Campus and we are providing full support for him in realizing this objective as we strongly believe that this will create lot of opportunities for Open Source GIS in Malaysia. Formal announcement of OSGL Malaysia will be made later this month).
My hope and vision is that we all work to setup dedicated open source GIS research facilities in universities worldwide by supporting interested staff in any university by sharing best practices, teaching materials, research collaborations as this will be the key in building up the education agenda for Open Source GIS. The more universities starting teaching and research using Open Source GIS the more powerful the initiative will become. Also i believe there is a huge opportunity for universities in in developing countries to benefit from this, as many universities in the developing countries will be able to start courses in GIS for the first time to teach their students and also start building up their research capabilities in GIS.
Education is a long term strategy. We need to work now, to get the results in 5-8 years time and the only way to achieve our objective is through hard work and collaboration.
--Suchith Anand from http://lists.osgeo.org/pipermail/board/2011-August/003916.html