Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Jay Pfaffman


The success of open source software is gaining more attention from software users as well as educators. A variety of open source Software exists for different operating systems (Windows, Macintosh, and Linux) for users in many languages contributed and maintained primarily by volunteers. To learn more about what drives them to devote their time and expertise to creating, debugging, and supporting these widely-used applications, an online survey with Likert-scaled items measuring different types of motivations was distributed to contributors to Mozilla, Moodle, OpenOffice, Koha, and Limesurvey. The survey included comments that were used to check the validity of the Likert-scaled items and open-ended questions that allowed respondents to express their reasons for participating in these open source communities. The Likert-scaled items showed that the open source contributors (n=110, 38 paid and 72 volunteers) are motivated primarily by intrinsic desire: altruism, creation, and learning. Receiving payment for their work did not significantly impact reasons for contributing to OSS projects. The comments and open-ended questions validated the findings and indicated that building a "Utopian" community--the desire to help for the greater good worldwide--is one of the most important motivators. Also, the freedom to create free software and share a pool of knowledge with those from inside and outside the community is a main reason why contributors join and remain members of open source communities. The conclusion suggests using the community of open source software as an example of collaboration not only in the online learning but also for participation in classrooms.

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