Local Efforts Can Lead to Global Impact - Open-Source Lessons
One of the best things about working in open-source technology -- and, in our case, Drupal specifically -- is the fact that your local efforts can have a global impact. You are part of a much larger community that’s all working together, sharing its strengths, to make a difference.
Just over a month ago, I wrote a post about our ongoing partnership with Fanshawe College, wherein we run a 12-week Drupal course for interested students. Almost immediately, @ok_lyndsey reached out to us via Twitter and started a conversation asking what lessons we learned and what we did differently.
That started the ball rolling on a much larger conversation, with @BancroftAlison about bringing continuing Drupal education to smaller locales.
You see, Lyndsey is in Australia, Alison is in England, and I’m here in London, ON. We all live in cities that aren’t our major metropolitan areas, so the challenge for all of us -- whether we’re in a more rural environment or in an urban setting -- is how do we bring relevant, ongoing training to our communities.
Both Lyndsey and Alison have attended Drupal meet-ups in their area, but those are often targetted to a more technically advanced clientele. How do we cater training to those who want to use Drupal for marketing purposes, for example? So our course appealed to their interests -- it’s not too technical, but it’s not bare-bones intro-to-coding either.
I’m happy to say that Lyndsey, Alison, and I have had some wonderful conversations over the past month -- via Google Hangouts. We’re working together to try to come up solutions and develop programs that work in their areas -- and all because of one blog post. That is the power and global impact of open-source: one idea we had in London may now have a ripple effect across the Atlantic.
So going back to Lyndsey’s original question, what did we learn from last year that we’ve applied to this year?
- We started the program earlier to avoid the challenges of student graduation
- We updated the curriculum
- We added two more general courses to the beginning: Intro to Drupal and a why-you’re-learning Drupal element
- We delineated more into front-end, back-end development courses
- We added streams on site performance, AODA compliance, and site checklists.
Essentially, we added elements that, while relevant to Drupal development, would also apply across the board -- those foundational elements that support all coding. What was exciting for us was that many students indicated they actively wanted to learn Drupal as they saw the value of having another digital tool in their virtual toolbelt. And by starting it earlier, we’re also able to solicit more student feedback that will help us create future iterations of this program. Last year, we missed out on that opportunity as many of our students graduated immediately after the course completion.
Selfishly, it’s great for Digital Echidna. Obviously, we benefit from more students learning about Drupal and becoming conversant in it. But this has an incredible impact on the students as well. Our co-ops get to help our staff members in supporting their classmates and mentoring them during the program -- and we all know that the best way to learn something is to teach someone else.
I’m happy to say we’re only going to grow and refine this program. Next year, we want to incorporate more ongoing project work, so that students can have something tangible built at the end of the program. We’re also extending this type of training program to non-students, offering customized Drupal training courses so to support the IT and development needs of other companies.
And, of course, we’re going to support our new friends in Australia and England as they work to bring enhanced Drupal training to rural environments. It’s all part of being a community -- we work with each other to support each other and, in the end, make our Drupal product better.