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Drupal cxo on training versus educating

We had a lively debate during the two days of Drupal cxo about Drupal training. The discussion helps a lot to addressing an issue I’ve experienced every since Szeged (Drupalcon 2008) . First of all I would like to thank every one who was involved in the discussions.

From the discussion it became clear that we used training to address two different thinks. There is training as a business opportunity versus training as educating students to have more young people join Drupal. It turns out this is a big difference and we need to address it if we are serious about Drupal internal growth. To make the difference clearer I’ll use “training” versus “educating”. This is neither a battle nor a competition, it is a different target and it requires a different strategy. My interest goes to educating and I think too little awareness exists about what de difference is, why we needed educating and how we can do it.

The difference
With training we often have a discussion on certification. For training this makes a lot of sense, for education not at all. We need to take a closer look on how incentives work to understand the difference. In case of training the customer has an incentive to get a particular job done and to have an undisputable prove of their capabilities, so certification translate good to the proper incentive. However, a student is different breed. The students who only go for a diploma are not motivated to learn, there incentive is to pas. We like to attract excellence. For training this can be good done by paid services and good certifications. For educating this currently happens by a natural selection of extrovert and autodidact students that can blink out in for example the summer of code. However, extrovert and autodidact students are rare and may other excellent students exist.

The growth path for training and educating is very different too. For training we indeed need certifications. During cxo there was an interesting discussion of high-level training model. For example a Drupal shops got stuck and requires a specialist to get them unlocked, this requires training people to enter their shop. How businesses can collaborate on this, build processes around the model etc. will be a challenge. The growth path for educating is extremely different. First of all we actual need education and don’t just count on the small niche of extrovert and autodidact students. There is much excellence out there that we could get it if we design an educational system. I’ve been investigating the current books, but these are training books and thus focus is wrong for our goal. I’ve been creating modules that are not very useful in practice. These modules are made based on educational principle as scaffolding. I think the gap with current modules is just too big from an educational point of view. Notice I can make students with no background in programming do exercises on views-api. This is only possible by using scaffolding. Still, in four years I didn’t had the time to document this well, so creating a book from it seems just way to much work on my own.

Why we needed educating
I’ve noticed fatalism with many peoples during cxo, many were extremely skeptical and even after showing results some simple don’t want to belief in it. So how many of the current developers have started as students? I’m guessing that if you compare it (relative to the amount of extrovert and autodidact students) to other constructive student hobbies, this number would be incredible high. Also Drupal used to be easer, thus there is now even more need for scaffolding (and mediation).

One can question why I’m brining this up on cxo. Well today Businesses probably need internal training and find it hard to get good people? So they should care about education and about the required skills that those people need to have. Many other business networks lobby with educational institutions to get their values into the curriculum. I’m convinced that Drupal values are desperately needed in educational institutions, so I hope some businesses will step up the challenge and help me with bringing education to Drupal.

Many didn’t understand what Drupal course could be. Now I see Drupal as much more than technology, but even the technology part is relevant. My course is called “Web Service Development for Business” and its about how the Internet is growing way to fast and how we can deal with it. To make it practical students have to create a CMS-project, but they have added extra functionality via API mashups. I don’t think any other technology than Drupal is appropriate for this. So you need to understand how the technology is “packaged”. As I see Drupal to be more than technology, you may understand why I see it as a real Drupal course. Notice also the values for learning in this approach, I think we are defiantly missing educational skills to learn students how to deal with the Internet (Not just web, I’m thinking mobiles any other thing that may come along … maybe ATM machines ;-).

How we can do it
Another remark was that high schools, colleges and universities wouldn’t do it. So what have I been doing the last four year? I agree that it will not be easy to convince other institutes to do it. I’m even concerned about what will happen to our course when I finish my Phd. Still, what we did can be a proof of concept and just like other projects it need marketing, this one will. There are other teachers who have contacted me and I’m not at all visible on the Drupal radar. Marketing is one task, but there are many more.

I’ve already mentioned the creation of education books and educational modules. There is a bunch of more work and it is very different form the tutorials, books and modules that currently exist. It is not about documentation for people that already are convinced that they need a solution. I’m talking about students that you need to be convinced in their very first contact that Drupal is worth their attention. The best way to get student curiosity is to show cool projects of other students. They need to be cool to get their motivation right, but it needs to be by other students to show that it is feasible too.

As far as I know, the summer of code projects is the only thing getting close to educating Drupal. I’m so much interested in how the tutors and students have experiences this and if it is possible to build on it. I can imagine that some friction would exist with the current summer of code project. I know how difficult it is to educating students in the correct values. Still we should talk to students directly, yes students! We need to touch their interest directly and we may end up with students Drupal clubs. Remember that Drupal once started as Drop.

I’m still in the process of formulating the correct values better and do this in an educational responsible way. I’m grateful to our university to give us the opportunity for building this knowledge. I’m also eager to give this back to Drupal community and it is frustrated that is turns out to be so hard. Hopefully this blog can help a bit.


Job offer for a drupal Instructor

So there are universities that are starting to teach Drupal.

We've been co-organizing a Drupal course at the University of Szeged together with the Software Engineering Department for about 3 years now. Alternating between an advanced and a beginner course.

I can't do much about teaching at universities, but I wouldn't mind teaching Drupal at one of my local training institutes.. However, the effort necessary to create/develop the curriculum and classroom presentations is too big to do it without knowing if they'll take it on.

So we have a chicken-and-egg situation. I can't propose the training without at least some work, and I am unwilling to do the work without knowing that it's worth it..

If our talk had gone this way, I would have liked to suggest an action to collaborate on an "official" curriculum and presentations that anyone could use and become a trainer in the training institutes (or Volkshochschulen...).

João Ventura

This is much discussed in the curriculum and training group. Here is an initiative I started...

In particular if the drupal site building course looks like it might work for you I can take some time to finish it up - it's basically done, just needs some typing time.

More project links...

I'm writing them as docbook xml with html output included in the git repo. To see this course in html here is a direct link...

Totally agree with you that creating and maintaining a curriculum is hard work, which is why I'm proposing to do it in the open in a collaborative fashion.

It is nice so see your reactions, thanks !

Some people also reacted to the link on

I love these kinds of debates! Wish I was there. I have been on both sides. I have done on-the-job training, I have coordinated training, I've done training for long term unemployed, I have taught at college level.

In the college I was working in, we had to be careful to ensure that the content of the courses wasn't too much like "training".

The higher education framework here in Ireland ensures that "Level 7 - Level 8" (which is like the bachelors degree in the US) includes a range of higher order thinking and reflection, not just 'training' in procedures.

Training has an immediate application in an industry, it is closely tied to work; it is work-place learning. Training focuses on being brutally focused and efficient; time and cost are the limiting factors. Transfer of knowledge is essential. Learn X because you will need to do X on the job, next week.

Education is broader, may have no immediate application, and must strive to prepare someone for a lifetime of learning. Proposals for courses at third level (at least to the HEA higher education authority here) which focus too much on one software are not appropriate. Hence, why my proposal for a 'Drupal Course' was shot down, but my course on 'Open Source in Web Development' was OK'd.

In training we need to look at the immediate needs of people on the job, changing behavior and what they're doing here and now. In education, we must seek the transcendent lasting effects in changing the way people think, and what they will do in the future.

The errors I have seen are when I was 'training' people who were long term unemployed in various MS Office packages. The course severely lacked context for these people. They needed education, they were getting merely training.

I will cross-post this!