Linux training is coming soon to a MOOC near you. That's thanks to a new partnership between the Linux Foundation and edX, a leading provider of online education, aimed at transforming the open source consortium's existing Introduction to Linux course into a massive online open course (MOOC) that will be freely available across the world.

The current version of the Introduction to Linux course, which students can take virtually or in a brick-and-mortar classroom, costs $2,400. The MOOC version, which is currently in development, will be totally free via the edX online platform.

This is big news for two different niches. First, in the world of MOOCs and online education (which, for the sake of full disclosure, is an area near and dear to my heart, as well as to those of my fellow history professors wondering what MOOCs mean for our profession), the collaboration between the Linux Foundation and edX signals an expansion beyond the partnerships with universities that have provided the basis so far for edX, which launched in 2012 under the auspices of Harvard and MIT and now counts 31 university partners. Working with consortiums such as the Linux Foundation, which is a nonprofit organization that also has strong ties to industry, is a new direction for edX.

For the open source ecosystem, meanwhile, the MOOC that the Linux Foundation and edX are creating will be welcome as an additional source of training for work in the Linux world. As demand for engineers with Linux expertise—along with their salaries—surges higher and higher, any free instruction in Linux administration and development surely will be in high demand. And while completing the introductory course currently in the works may not qualify graduates for the top jobs in the software industry, it's a positive sign nonetheless for people interested in boning up on their open source skills.

The move also could set a precedent for enterprises with more concrete commercial interests to move their training initiatives in open source software to the MOOC world. Rackspace (RAX) in particular has invested heavily in educating the army of engineers necessary to run OpenStack and other software central to open source cloud computing through its Open Cloud Academy. So far, most of those efforts have involved traditional classroom training, but if the Linux Foundation's MOOC proves successful, perhaps Rackspace, too, will consider a similar approach.

After all, MOOCs live in the cloud, and it seems only right to teach cloud computing in the same environment.