How Your Feedback Helped Us Design Our Live Theming Workshop

Image looking down on desk with papers spread out and a hand holding a marker highlighting things on the papers.

Last month, we added a Remote Workshops landing page to Drupalize.Me, with descriptions of 4 different workshops we'd be interested in facilitating. Then, to gauge interest, we asked you to sign up to be notified when we schedule one. Based on your interest and lots of good feedback, our first one is scheduled: an online version of our popular Hands-On Theming Workshop.

Assuming 3 things: 1. nothing breaks, 2. we're able to create an experience that lives up to our standards, and 3. that all the attendees have fun, we're hoping to schedule more soon. For now, if you want to to learn to theme Drupal 8 or Drupal 9 via real-time instruction, this your chance!

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View the detailed workshop syllabus.

Our evolving format

We're still ironing out details, but here's some things we're trying, and how we decided to try them:

We're using Zoom. After talking to friends who have either attended or led virtual workshops, Zoom seems the best choice. It's widely available, reliable, and has features like break-out rooms and whiteboards to help facilitate a more interactive experience.

Instead of one long 8-hour day, we're going to break up the workshop into 3 shorter segments. We asked for feedback on this and over 85% of those who replied indicated a preference for breaking it up. My interpretation of this is that 8 hours is a LONG time to try and stay focused on a video call. Also, compared to in-person events where you're forced to leave your workload, the distractions of remote daily work can pile up quickly.

It's still unclear whether 3 consecutive days is the right approach or if something like every Monday for 3 weeks would work better. We'll probably try both and see what sticks.

During an in-person workshop, we give attendees exercises and time to work through them. We then follow up, answering questions and demonstrating a solution. There's a lot of evidence that people internalize knowledge better when they're given the chance to try (and fail) on their own. However, I'm not yet sure what that will look like in a virtual workshop. My concern is that if I give an exercise and say "come back in 15 minutes," it's easy to walk away and get distracted. By spreading things out over the course of a couple of days, we open up the opportunity to use more traditional homework-style exercises: Here's a set of problems, bring your answers/experience to class tomorrow, and we can use it to further the discussion.

Real-Time Feedback

At Drupalize.Me, we already have a huge library of asynchronous material. When we asked what would make a live, instructor-led workshop so valuable, you overwhelmingly said the ability to get real-time feedback and questions answered. I hear that. One of my favorite parts of in-person training is that we can tailor the materials, examples, and the presentations to the people who are present, which is impossible with recorded video.

To help facilitate this kind of interaction, we're going to limit workshops to 10 people (and 2 instructors). I'm going to try and figure out some good ice breakers and exercises we can do as a group to help encourage everyone to turn on their camera, un-mute their mic, and take an active role in their learning experience.

With such limited space, just be sure to sign up quickly if this is the workshop for you.

Shout-Outs

Thanks to everyone who replied to my questions about remote workshop formatting, pricing, etc. In particular I want to thank David at Pantheon for talking with me about all of this. David has done numerous remote trainings of different lengths and styles in his role at Pantheon. If you're ever looking for an instructor-led Introduction to Drupal, check out one of their frequent workshops.

Cover image by William Iven on Unsplash

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