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Open collaboration between universities and enterprises: a case study on GitHub

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Social coding platforms (SCPs) have been adopted by scores of developers in building, testing and managing their codes collaboratively. Accordingly, this type of platform (site) enables collaboration between enterprises and universities (c-EU) at a lower cost in the form of online team-building projects (repositories). This paper investigates the open collaboration patterns between these two parties on GitHub by measuring their online behaviours. The purpose of this investigation is to identify the most attractive collaboration features that enterprises can offer to increase university students' participation intentions.


The research process is divided into four steps. First, the authors crawled for numerical data for each interactive repository feature created by employees of Alibaba on GitHub and identified the student accounts associated with these repositories. Second, a categorisation schema of feature classification was proposed on a behavioural basis. Third, the authors clustered the aforementioned repositories based on feature data and recognised four types of repositories (popular, formal, normal and obsolete) to represent four open collaboration patterns. The effects of the four repository types on university students' collaboration behaviour were measured using a multiple linear regression model. An ANOVA test was implemented to examine the robustness of research results. Finally, the authors proposed some practical suggestions to enhance collaboration between both sides of SCPs.


Several counterintuitive but reasonable findings were revealed, for example, those based on the “star” repository feature. The actual coding contribution of the repositories had a negative correlation with student attention. This result indicates that students were inclined to imitate rather than innovate.


This research explores the open collaboration patterns between enterprises and universities on GitHub and their impact on student coding behaviour. According to the research analysis, both parties benefit from open collaboration on SCPs, and the allocation or customisation of online repository features may affect students' participation in coding. This research brings a new perspective to the measurement of users' collaboration behaviour with output rates on SCPs.
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Keywords: GitHub; K-means; Open collaboration; Social coding platform

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Information Management, Central China Normal University, Wuhan, China 2: HSBC Business School, Peking University, Shenzhen, China 3: National Engineering Research Center for E-Learning, Central China Normal University, Wuhan, China

Publication date: April 10, 2020

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