This post is a form of thinking out loud in the hope of getting some feedback on whether this is a good idea and advice on the best approaches to take…

I’ve run our podcasting workshop online many times now and it has booked well. More importantly, I feel in some ways this has proved a better model than f2f delivery. That makes me keen to do more of this and believe it is worthwhile, so would like to offer our workshop “Making WordPress Work for You” online too. However, the nature of the WordPress workshop makes translating it to an online course a different challenge and I was hoping for some feedback on whether this is a good idea and the best approaches to take.

For our physical WordPress workshop we run everything from USBs, which lets participants install WordPress without worrying about online hosting, but still play with all that WordPress has to offer – themes, plugins and content creation – then take away what they’ve done at the end of the day.

So, in my head, the online model would work something like this…

Before the event

We’d send participants a USB that is setup as it would be for the workshop. This will have a xampp/mamp server stack on it, a zipped copy of WordPress and some demo plugins & themes, videos of the workshop presentations/demonstrations and a PDF of the workbook for practical tasks. These can be used for self-directed study before the workshop and/or for recap after it. The talks and demos wouldn’t be the same as I’d do live, but trimmed down versions, most likely with less slides and more demonstration.

Training day

As for a physical workshop, we’d ask participants to set aside a specific day to work through tasks and try stuff out while we are there to provide live support. By “there”, I mean in Blackboard Collaborate, so we’d make use of tools for presenatation, chat, Q&A, breakout rooms, desktop sharing by moderators and participants and other stuff that’s proved useful in our online podcasting workshop.

As this is now more of a “flipped workshop” (sorry!) I’d hope there would be more time for play/experiential learning, questions and support and less need for long presentations. However, I’m not sure whether I should still plan to do some talks/demos, even if just to structure the day and recap the main points I made in the pre-recorded ones?

While I wanted this workshop to be structured as fairly long blocks of independent practice, followed by discussions and application, in practice there tends to be many  frequent, quick questions to deal with. Desktop sharing might be a sledgehammer to crack a nut for this and text chat a little laborious. I’m reluctant to address it by adding more direction to the practical tasks, as I don’t want participants to simply follow a manual. So, do I simply ‘trust’ them to be effective independent learners and ask for help when they need it or look for another way to make sure they’re OK when I’m not there in person?

I was thinking about mini-plenary sessions at the end of each section, where (willing?) participants take over the presentation (desktop sharing) to show what they’ve done, why, how and what they learned by doing so. Would be time-consuming, but worthwhile?

(As an aside, I’ve considered using virtual machines so that we and the participants can see each others sites, but I haven’t found a feasible way to do this. Anyone know of anything that might help with this?)

After the event

I’d worry about how it went and need a beer 😉

I usually offer informal support after workshops, so would do the same here. However, we may also look to offer a peroid of more formal support. For example, for the podcasting workshop, I’ve provided more detailed individual feedback on their submissions in the week after the workshop. The conversations around this have been useful in improving the workshop and hopefully helpful to participants. So far this has been through personal channels and networks and has worked well, but as always the question of whether we should offer some kind of community platform has come up. I’m not sure it’s justified for a single workshop, but if we’re looking to offer more online courses, perhaps it would be?

How you can help (please)

This post clearly shows I could do with some feedback, advice and ideally some volunteers for a pilot. I’m looking to do the workshop in October, so anyone up for helping me do some testing before then?

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