Are you a teacher interested in the Sugar Learning Platform who has wandered the endless warrens of the Sugar Labs wiki without finding an answer to your question? If so, you are not alone, according to a new study organized by John Tierney of Sugar Labs with students at the MIT Sloan MarketLab to better understand if our web presence is fulfilling the community's needs.
The MarketLab team presented three key findings:
- There is a developer/teacher divide - differences in user experience, language, and community support.
- Accessibility: Technical language and software create barriers for users.
- Lack of identity as an education non-profit.
This last is not too worrisome - perceptions that Sugar Labs is a fancy startup instead of an all-volunteer nonprofit can be addressed. The other two findings are more serious. The survey [PDF] showed that teachers encounter difficulties attempting to download, install, and configure Sugar, and generally getting technical support.
For example, fewer than one in three teachers (29%) have found Sugar resources to help with bug reports and feature requests; the comparable figure for developers is 100%. And although 90% of survey respondents affirmed having recommended Sugar to others, of these only one in three were successfully implemented. Moreover, while half of the developers surveyed stated having found resources on the Sugar Labs website concerning how to recommend Sugar (a dismal enough figure), a mere 14% of teachers said they did. Across all respondents, only one in five agreed that Sugar Labs is driven by education, and even fewer (16%) felt that SL is supportive to users.
Clearly, work needs to be done to better welcome and support teachers. As a first step, we are going to revamp the Sugar Labs website. Two years have passed since it was first launched amid a dearth of visuals (the wiki section is older). The new site is being worked on by Christian Marc Schmidt (creator of the fab Sugar Labs logo) and students from the Rochester Institute of Technology, Mike DeVine and JT Mengel.
Teachers, we need you to help us! A draft outline of the new site's sections is under review (available here). Suggestions are welcome and in particular, we encourage teachers interested in Sugar's learning mission but who are not already active in the Sugar Labs community to beta-test the site from around mid-April. Please contact us by e-mail at feedback at sugarlabs dot org or via the It's An Education Project (IAEP) or Sugar Labs Marketing mailing lists. Thanks!
Sean Daly is Sugar Labs' Marketing Coordinator