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MOOCs appeal to different people in different ways. From the college student who wants to supplement his or her coursework to the stay-at-home dad who wants to brush up on Chinese history (and there are hundreds of other examples), the appeal is obvious and the opportunities endless.

One area where we believe MOOCs can have a huge impact on knowledge sharing and the jobs economy is as a delivery mechanism for specific, tangible, technical skills. Today it is a well recognized fact that as the nature of work changes and technology advancements accelerate that most jobs require technical competence.

This is why The Linux Foundation is excited to join the Smithsonian, the Inter-American Development Bank and three other organizations as the first non-university members of edX. Through our partnership with edX, the learning platform founded by Harvard and MIT, we will be making “Introduction to Linux” available to anyone for free.

The early response we’ve received since announcing this course tells us students know the value of knowing Linux: More than 2,500 people signed up for the “Introduction to Linux” MOOC in the first 24 hours.

Linux is the free and open source operating system that powers most of modern day society. It runs Google, Facebook, Netflix, Twitter and Amazon. It powers 94 percent of the world’s supercomputers and nine out of 10 of the world’s stock exchanges, as well as Android phones and tablets. Most TVs run Linux and increasingly our cars and appliances do, too.

It has become so ubiquitous that Yoh Research is reporting this month that 8,000 employers are looking for Linux pro’s with Amazon alone having more than 2,000 openings right now for IT pro’s with Linux skills. Demand for Linux talent is on the rise, but the latest Linux Jobs Report shows that hiring managers find it difficult to find skilled Linux professionals.

The Linux Foundation hopes to help grow the talent pool for these important contributors technology’s future. As a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing Linux and collaborative development, it is core to our mission to ensure people know how to support the platform. MOOCs are a natural place for us to do this work. The whole idea of MOOCs is ingrained in our culture: free, online, available and accessible to everyone, just like Linux. MOOCs even provide interactive users forums where students and professors can build communities, similar to the way in which the Linux community collaborates.

Talent isn’t bounded by geography, neither should access to formal Linux training. The next Linus Torvalds (creator of Linux) Steve Jobs (co-founder of Apple) or Mark Zuckerberg (creator of Facebook) could be anywhere in the world. Innovation today happens everywhere. So must learning.

Jim ZemlinJim Zemlin is the Executive Director of the Linux Foundation. Zemlin’s career took root at Western Wireless, which had a successful IPO and was later acquired by Deutsche Telekom and renamed T-Mobile USA. He was also a member of the founding management team of Corio, a leading enterprise application service provider that had a successful IPO in July 2000. Other posts have included vice president of marketing at Covalent Technologies and executive director at Free Standards Group.

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