Outreachy week 1: Getting to know the domain

So the first week of Outreachy went by and now it’s time to talk about my project in a bit more detail. The goal of the first month of my internship is to create three training solutions based on the existing handbooks: one for community deputies, one for WordCamp organizers, and one for meetup organizers. Basically, this is going to be the same material as the handbooks are currently featuring, but reorganized and with quizzes inserted. The idea behind these changes is to increase the efficiency of the material by:

  • Enhancing retention by making the learners practice effortful retrieval of the material they just read when answering the quiz questions
  • Accenting the points we consider being the most important by asking questions based on them
  • Providing the learners with an opportunity to self-check their comprehension of the material

(If you’re interested to learn more about quizzes and tests being great for learning you can check out this and this)

And I’d like to get into a bit more detail on why the task I do is important for WordPress Community and why we think that creating courses based on content which already exists and is used by the learners is something worth doing in this case. The number of people getting involved within the WordCamps, Meetups and community deputy program grows every year, and WordPress needs to make sure they understand correctly what is expected of them, how to make the effort they are contributing as efficient as possible and how to ask according to the guidelines to minimize the disruptions and possible issues or miscommunications. The learning materials reorganization I will be doing is meant to improve the way the new volunteers are being trained. My mentor, Andrea Middleton, goes into a bit more detail on the problem in her blog post in Make WordPress Community blog post.

Given that, the first step was to analyze the material and the first deliverable was composing outlines. Organizing the materials and creating a course backbone out of them is a crucial step in a training delivery – we have to make sure course content is organised logically, the chunks of information are easily digestible and a learner is able to get a solid comprehension of the subject matter when linearly going through the material as suggested. So I was reading and re-reading the handbooks for a while, and after that attempting various ways to organize them in a way that would make the most sense for someone who will get to see the course for the first time.

The second part of the week I was ready to move the materials to the e-learning solution we are using – the WordPress plugin Sensei, while shaping it according to the outlines. With Sensei I’ve been able to figure out how to do most of the things I needed without the manual, so it probably says quite a lot about its usability 🙂 and with the issues I got stuck on, I got help from Andrea and Hugh Lashbrooke who actually has been a lead developer of Sensei for quite a while! Hehe lucky me. However, there were also some caveats. I have planned the outline to be three levels (Module -> Unit -> Lesson) but then it turned out Sensei only supports 2 levels. Which is definitely something I should have checked beforehand. Mea culpa. However, Hugh suggested a great workaround we agreed to use – “Course Category” will be used as the top level of the course entity, and what I planned to be “modules” will be “courses” in terms of Sensei terminology. Course categories work similarly to the standard blog categories, but for courses, and I’m really happy with the way this feature saved the day.

Next steps will be writing questions – and this is something I’m actually looking forward to! I really like figuring out how to ask a question on the learning objective we want to reach, and how to create distractors for the questions that would be plausible but wrong. Creating multiple choice questions is actually quite an art.

Overall, I’m really enjoying my experience so far. It’s nice to be learning something, and it’s absolutely awesome to have support from my mentor when I’m feeling a bit stuck or unsure how to proceed. So stay tuned, and I’ll be back next week, telling you more about how my journey will be unfolding.

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