We finished collecting all Summer of Code midterm evaluations yesterday, and the results are promising. 90% of our students received successful midterm evaluations from their mentors, which is a slight decrease compared with 95% last year. When taking a look at why our numbers had dropped this year, our conclusion is that the lengthened program timeline allowed mentors and students more up front time to interact and work on project planning; in cases where there was not a good match between a student's schedule or skill set, the discrepancy became apparent much more quickly than in previous years.
While we learned a great deal from the feedback we received from the community as part of the evaluation process, three key themes emerged:
Communicate Early, Communicate Often
Nearly all students who received rave reviews from their mentors were in contact with their mentor multiple times per week, often communicating via voice as well as email and chat/IRC. Mentors who required status update reports from their students also felt they were better able to monitor student progress and provide guidance where needed, and many mentors reported that their best students sent regular status updates unprompted.
A few mentors lamented that they'd prefer to spend more time with their students, most often stating that it was their busy schedules which precluded a closer working relationship. Many students found that they had underestimated the amount of time it would take to complete key project milestones given other commitments. Most participants who reported that they'd like to more effectively manage their SoC tasks had a solid plan in place for devoting more time to SoC in the final month.
More Time is Better
The lengthened timeline was quite well received by the community. Many mentors reported that they used the community bonding period to better acquaint their students with the inner workings of the project, as well as to help them get up to speed with the project's tools and documentation. Several students used the community bonding to do more in depth research on their project topics, some finding that particular academic papers helped them optimize their project plan and resulting code before even getting started. Perhaps the coolest result of the community bonding period, many returning SoCers reported that the extra time gave them the opportunity to help newer students learn more quickly. We're looking forward to seeing if including the community bonding period encourages more students to stay on as long-term contributors to their projects.
If you'd like to learn more about the program evaluations, you can check out the mentor evaluation questions and the student evaluation questions. If you're curious about responses to a particular question, post a comment and let us know!