Flight Paths: Improving the full OpenMRS Onboarding Experience

Thanks to programs like GSoC, GCI, and university courses, we see surges in new developers coming to our community every February/March. Our annual Implementers’ Meeting also produces a spike.

Thanks to @rainbow’s work last year on updating our Get Started as a Developer Guide, we’ve seen a drop in questions on Talk about getting OpenMRS set up and getting going. This is exactly what we hoped would happen!

What we’re seeing now is that onboarding people to a particular squad or team has its own challenges and takes time. Some squads and teams (like the MFE Squad and QA Support Team) are talking about or working on their own Getting Started Guide. This will help….and integrating these guides into an onboarding “Flight Path” to a specific squad or team will make the full community onboarding experience even better.

Bonus: The Documentation Team and the Website Design Squad have been rolling around with this idea. It’s already helping them align website and Wiki content- and remove/avoid duplicate content.

TL; DR: It’s not enough to get someone on the OpenMRS community plane. Once they’re on board, we need clear, aligned documentation and tools that connect individuals to the right squad or team. “Flight paths” point newcomers to the right squad and the right Getting Started Guide that aligns with a person’s chosen destination, allowing them to take flight with the right squad/team - and from there, grow their reputation and become a valued member of the community.

At a very high level, flight paths could look something like this:

:information_source: Want to know more about why we need flight paths and what they are? Watch this lightning talk or read the next post.

:thinking: Feedback, please! If you’ve found it challenging to join a squad/team or if you’ve helped people join a squad/team, we want to know what you think. How do you think Flight Paths will change the onboarding experience? Aside from Getting Started Guides and bonding periods with squads/teams, what else would you like to see in a Flight Path?


Why do we need Flight Paths?

It’s becoming clear that our approach for getting newbies started with OpenMRS is aimed at developers and is not fully aligned with our squad model. As a result, we’re hearing things like:

  • I’m interested in QA. How do I get started?
  • I’m a React developer. How can I contribute?
  • I followed the Getting Started for Developers Guide and it didn’t really help me when I joined XX squad.

And from squads, we’re hearing:

  • We have a lot of new people showing up and asking us questions. It’s overwhelming.
  • Sometimes, newcomers are picking up issues that are beyond their skill level or that a squad member already agreed to take on
  • We’re spending so much time helping newcomers that we’re losing momentum.

The reality is: onboarding doesn’t stop when people have gone through our Guide for the New and Curious, introduced themselves on Talk, or even our Getting Started as a Developer guide. Anyone who is joining a squad or team needs to get to know more about the squad/team, how they work together, etc.

What are OpenMRS Flight Paths?

Flight paths get newcomers from our website to our Guide for the New & Curious on the Wiki to the right squad or team and their own Getting Started Guide. They are:

Opinionated paths to success within the community. They help individuals create something that they are passionate about - and has high value for the community.

Self-driven. They put individuals in the pilot seat from the beginning. Individuals would be able to choose a flight path to take based on their own interests, experience, skills, and availability.

Community-supported. While our initial onboarding process might need the lightest touch from an OpenMRS Guide, getting and keeping a promising new community member on the right flight path for them will, at some point, need more support. The further down a chosen path someone goes, the more support we can offer them.

Professional development tracks. Different flight paths can offer individuals the chance to grow a variety of skills, from frontend or backend development to QA testing to product management and more.

Not saying that everyone who joins the community needs to follow a flight path - people can still find their own way. What this does is help us reduce the need for intensive onboarding support that our OpenMRS Guides, Grace, squad members, and myself so often find ourselves giving.


The journey often starts from the website. So I would like to hear your opinion about the Get Involved page which is a start page for people who want to start interaction with OpenMRS.

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