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Project Goal

Provide web development education that directly addresses a gap in Mozilla’s current offerings for developers, specifically the gap between the literacy efforts of WebMaker & the skills to create professional web sites and be employed in the profession. The Learning area will help beginners attain and access the skills of the intermediate and advanced developers who currently make up MDN’s audience.

for more in-depth evaluation, see the MDN Learning Are Project Summary & Requirements document.


  • Q1: 50 Learning Area contributors
  • Q2: 50K Learning Area users, 100 Learning Area contributors
  • Q3: 160K Learning Area users, 150 Learning Area contributors
  • Q4: 320K Learning Area users, 200 Learning Area contributors

Strategy & Requirements

Knowledge Collection and Initial Requirements Definition

Work on the learning area began with several surveys.

The initial survey that was emailed to Mozilla email lists with high concentrations of developers and/or learners (dev-mdc dev-mdn, education, webmaker, engagement-developers, mozillan, reps-general). The survey was run in January and February 2014 and was completed by 70 participants. Full Survey Results

Key takeaways from the survey were:

  • MDN lacks organization for beginners
  • MDN needs a glossary and explanation of basic concepts
  • MDN needs to improve examples (interactive, video, etc.)
  • MDN’s existing content needs to be updated and adapted
  • MDN needs a “from zero” guide
  • MDN content should focus on tasks instead of technologies

In addition, Ria Joy created a survey about MDN to help us learn about our developer audience and how they use MDN. Results are documented in the Project requirements.

Building on the results of these surveys, the requirements and deliverables were divided into two parts - content and site features.

Work on the content was started first, as the resources for content development were available through paid and volunteer writers, as opposed to feature development which was constrained by developer resources and competition with other product priorities.

Content Strategy & Prioritization

Content Strategy

To address the content gaps identified in the survey, a group of Mozilla employees and volunteers created a web technologies "tree of knowledge" as a foundation for Learning Area content . The tree of knowledge represents the path of knowledge acquisition a learner must follow to complete a given web development task.

The tree of knowledge was validated with the larger MDN community (via mailing list discussions) as well as members of the WebMaker team, who recommended linking the pathways in the tree of knowledge with the WebMaker Web Literacy Map to increase usability between the programs for learners who may transition from one to the other.

Content projects are organized by tree of knowledge pathways, and a content structure, which also served to define the priorities for content, was defined. It was decided to focus on developing “textbook” style content until such a time as the interactive code features were developed and deployed on MDN.

Currently, much of the content creation is community driven, with some defined tasks by paid staff and the bulk of the writing work being done by volunteer contributors. Weekly public project meetings are held in the #mdn IRC channel every Monday at 10:00 AM PDT (18:00 UTC, 19:00 CET).

Content work defined in these meetings is tracked via a public Trello board. The overall content plan is tracked on the MDN site.

Community Strategy

It is important to note that volunteer writers (also called contributors in the KPI’s) are key to achieving the content goals for the Learning Area & Glossary, for several reasons:

  • Mozilla does not currently have enough paid staff to write all of the content that needs to be created for the Learning Area and Glossary
  • There are some skills required for the learning area that are not held by current paid staff (curriculum development, education best practices, etc.)
  • Mozilla does not have paid staff for mentoring new volunteers, especially those located in time zones outside of US and Europe
  • Mentoring users will require a large, global set of volunteers who are expert in various technologies and best practices

Work (both paid staff and volunteer) will be coordinated in weekly, public meetings and tracked via the public Trello board.


In the pre-launch stage, contributors to the Learning Area textbook content and Glossary were recruited by paid staff from the MDN mailing list (existing volunteers), as well as a “Contribute” page in the Learning Area that describes the need for volunteers and how to participate. Along with paid staff, these volunteers worked on:

  • Defining the structure of the Learning Area
  • Defining best practices for communicating work needs and priorities
  • Writing and reviewing basic textbook articles defined in the “tree of knowledge”
  • Write and review Glossary entries
  • Mentor new contributors to the learning area and determine the best fit for their skills, help edit and review their content, and answer their questions as needed

In Q2, the recruitment efforts will widen to include external groups to increase both quality and quantity of content as well as to help fill skill gaps such as curriculum development and best practice code

Groups targeted for recruitment will include:.

  • Current Mozilla-affiliated groups with affinity for education and technology (Webmaker)
  • External web developer groups (such as Code for America)
  • Mozilla Reps
  • Mozilla WebDev

In addition to volunteers, contractors may be hired to help with the content writing and review efforts as well as for their expertise in developing curriculums for new learners.

At such time as interactive code features become available, additional volunteers will be recruited from advanced and intermediate coders to help build interactive coding lessons based on the textbook content and designed to showcase best practices in building websites.

Recruitment will target:

  • Mozilla webdev
  • Social media
  • Mozilla developer communities
  • Current MDN users & community

Longer term, mentors will be recruited to help users evaluate their code projects from the Learning Area lessons. Mentors will be recruited from expert users, contributors to the Learning Area and other areas of MDN and from learners themselves as they advance their skills. Mentors will be recruited from current contributors to the Learning area.

Wiki/Website Feature Requirements

Based on the survey results (as well as anecdotal request from the community ad paid staff), feature gaps in the current MDN website that impede beginners are:

  • MDN needs to improve examples (interactive, video, etc.). ~80% come to MDN to learn. 3/5ths are seeing sample code.
  • MDN lacks organization for beginners

Top 5 survey responses for specific features to improve MDN for beginners.

  1. Interactive exercises
  2. Live editable examples
  3. Links to find further help if you get stuck
  4. Full progressive course about a given technology
  5. Ability to ask questions to more skilled developers

As code samples has consistently been identified by users as a top feature gap for MDN, a [Media:Code-samples-survey-results.pdf detailed code sample survey] was conducted on MDN from May 22th to June 16, 2014 and was completed by 950 participants, ranging from beginners to advanced web developers who use MDN. Raw data are available on Google Drive

Several attempts at requirements gathering have been started, all are currently on hold:

Going forward, prioritization of features to address the gaps in the MDN learning offerings will follow the overall MDN product prioritization process. Code samples are currently in the queue to begin experiments.