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Lessons Learned

Here are some notes from the workshop leader about the outcome of the 2011 Spokane Drupal Workshop, in case someone visiting this site wants to use the curriculum to put on a similar workshop.

Participant Feedback

  • Most participants that answered the survey reported that their level of knowledge of Drupal improved during the workshop, and they were generally satisfied with the format, delivery, and curriculum.
  • One participant suggested that future workshops about theme customization and other developer topics would be welcome. Several other participants wanted "more" in general.
  • Several participants mentioned how useful it was to have additional people besides the workshop leader available to help them (we had about 10 participants and 2 helpers; I think 1 helper would have been sufficient though).
  • One participant suggested that since we did the workshop over three weeks, that I could have assigned or suggested homework to them -- such as "Create a few more pages and photos" or "Try out a few more themes that you download from". He did some of this type of thing on his own, and felt that it improved his understanding considerably.

Format and Agenda

  • This was the first year I tried splitting the workshop into three evenings instead of one long day. I think it worked better for the participants that way -- a one-day workshop leads to information overload. But it may also have excluded some participants (I know of one who was three hours away -- making the trip once would have been feasible, but three times not so much).
  • On the first day, it would have been helpful to get people started downloading XAMPP, MAMP, or WAMP at the very start (while I was doing the presentation), so that it would be ready to install when the presentation was over. The network in the venue was very good, but it was quite a load to have everyone downloading those large files at the same time, and everyone had to wait for the download to finish before we could proceed.
  • The *AMP installation section of the workshop was fairly chaotic, but everyone did eventually get it set up (see also: infrastructure section below).

Curriculum and Materials

  • The handout was very useful for students to refer to -- it contained the Agenda and Step-by-Step pages from this site, as well as printouts of the presentations. Bring a few extra copies for the helpers, and in case people forget to bring theirs back.
  • I found when I was making the handouts that I needed to make some small changes to the content formatting, such as putting URLs in the text vs. just having them as links (obviously the URL doesn't come through in a printout of a link).
  • For the next workshop, I would make some modifications to the Views section of the curriculum, to give participants a little more varied experience with Views:
    • Set up the photo gallery page to sort by title rather than date, and then override the sort order for the latest photo block.
    • Use fields rather than the teaser for the latest photo block.

Infrastructure and Venue

  • The venue was great -- thanks again Strong Solutions! Really good WiFi, and everything Just Worked.
  • An earlier version of the agenda had suggested people use Acquia's DAMP. About a week before the workshop, I tried it out and had problems installing it on my Windows machine, so I changed the recommendation to WAMP, MAMP, or XAMPP. We had people using all three, and they all worked out fine. But there were some differences -- workshop leaders need to be aware of them! Things to watch out for:
    • MAMP and XAMPP have their server document route in directory 'htdocs'; WAMP uses 'www'.
    • MAMP uses a non-standard port for Apache, at least as it was configured by default on two participants' machines. So when navigating to their Drupal site, they needed to take the URL that MAMP had supplied for PHPMyAdmin, cut off the end, and substitute the directory where they had put their Drupal files.
    • For most of the participants, at some point we had to get into the control panel for MAMP/WAMP/XAMPP and tell it to start up Apache and MySQL, as it was turned off. WAMP users also had to enable Apache's mod_rewrite from their control panel.
    • One person had already installed Acquia DAMP (having seen my earlier recommendation), and he had some difficulties -- I would recommend against using it unless you want to also use their built-in installer for Drupal. (I think the built-in installer is not the best service to the participants, since eventually they will need to know how to install Drupal in the standard way on a web server.) The main difficulty we had is that Acquia DAMP uses a non-standard port for MySQL. We had to look at the settings.php file for a Drupal installation DAMP had set up to figure out what to enter for the Drupal site we were trying to install.
  • In previous years, we had used WebEnabled rather than having students install their own local *AMP server. It does save some time (I think it added an hour to the workshop to have people install *AMP, and obviously this time could have been used for something else). However, I think that anyone working with Drupal will want to have their own local server, and also the participants got to run the standard Drupal installer, so I think the time it took was worth it. If you do want to use WebEnabled, read this post on about how to set it up ahead of time.