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[OSCTC-planning] mentorship and other ways to follow up with Open Source Comes to Campus attendees

Shauna Gordon-McKeon shaunagm at
Tue May 20 21:46:33 UTC 2014

Hello OSCTC-planning,

(I've been having conversations on this topic informally with a number of
people, and I thought it made sense to bring everyone together here on
OSCTC-planning so we can all talk together.)

Open Source Comes to Campus has grown a lot over the last year.  We're on
pace to run 20-25 events this year, reaching over 500 students.  While I do
believe that the events themselves are of great value to our attendees, I'd
like to provide some sort of clear structure for following up with
interested students.  If only 1 in 20 students want to continue in open
source, that's still 25 students a year we can help - and anecdotally, the
rate of students interested in learning more seems to generally be higher
than 5%.

The question becomes: what kind of structure can we provide attendees who
want to stay involved?  Currently, our IRC channel serves as the main way
for students to remain involved, but this does not seem to be sufficient.
 I think a good way to approach that question is to consider what these
students need from us.  Good conversations (thanks Heidi, Sumana, Sean) and
reading of other people's work leads me to suggest these needs:

* More instruction/repetition on the skills we teach at our events (IRC,
version control, issue trackers, etc.)

* Help finding good projects (learning which ones exist, how to evaluate
them, benefiting from our community's informal knowledge about which
projects are most welcoming/responsive, etc)

* Help understanding community norms and structures that may be otherwise
invisible (how long is normal for someone to respond to you and is it okay
to ping them again, how FOSS projects functions without deadlines and
assignments in an academic sense, development environment setup is
frequently difficult it's not just you, FOSS can be harder for reflective
learners than active learners, etc)

* A social network to increase feelings of belonging and enjoyment of
participation. (Peers at a similar level of experience, role models who
they can identify with and who feel approachable, a source of positive
feedback for their work not just from the projects they're contributing to,
a sense of shared values, a place to turn when they feel discouraged or
like an impostor).

* Help finding "easy wins" to increase feelings of competence and
belonging.  (An easy win may be fixing an issue for a specific project
we've helped them find, but could also involve helping others, or doing
setup sprints or user feedback or other contributions that rely on and
require their new-ness.)

* Help setting achievable goals. (Many students want to apply for GSoC/OPW
but are intimidated, most aren't sure what they can contribute to a given
project at their experience/skill level, many are confused/concerned about
what kind of time commitment they're making, etc.)

Are there other needs I'm missing here?

Of these needs, which do you think are the most acute?

Which ones we are best equipped to address?

And, as a follow up questions - what mentoring structures have you observed
or participated in, and how have they addressed the needs above?  What
resources exist to help us figure out what specific structure would work
best to meet our needs?  (I'm keeping a list here as well:

Thanks in advance for your input and insight!

~ Shauna
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