Feedback from WordCamp Minneapolis 2016 Foundation Friday on Tier 1 Lesson Plans


WordCampWordCamp WordCamps are casual, locally-organized conferences covering everything related to WordPress. They're one of the places where the WordPress community comes together to teach one another what they’ve learned throughout the year and share the joy. Learn more. Minneapolis had three training tracks for some 120 people on May 20, 2016, as described on the website:

The training was popular and sold out the 115 ticket capacity. The Introduction to WordPress track had 45 trainees, three trainers, two training assistants, and one room assistant. WordPress Design had 35 trainees and multiple trainers. WordPress Development had 45 trainees and multiple trainers. This post will only cover the Intro track as the Design and Development tracks did not use Make WordPress Training as a resource. Some volunteers sat in on tracks to round up the numbers.


I created a matrix to outline what we planned to cover for Introduction to WordPress and what aspects were supported with Make WordPress Training resources. We had six modules, each one hour long, with 20 topics to cover in all, and I identified 12 Lesson Plans as potential resource fors 14 of the topics.

While I hoped a matrix linking to Training resources would be a helpful planning guide, the other trainers could not schedule much time for planning, and they were not familiar with the Make Training materials, although they are frequent speakers at WordCamps and similar events. Instead, the other trainers simply planned to plug in their existing hour-long talks into the general outline.

Since WordCamps are primarily volunteer-driven and consensus-ruled, we decided to adjust the Intro track outline to accommodate the existing presentations, while I would incorporate Make WordPress Training Lesson Plans where possible.

For hands-on training, we wanted to ensure that students had an easy onboarding process to WordPress installation and startup. We did not receive any guides for using Bluehost, though we inquired about that option via Make WordPress Community. We made a decision early on to use Pantheon free developer accounts for several reasons:

  • Pantheon developer accounts are free for life, with no credit card required.
  • Managed WordPress platforms are highly recommended over shared hosting.
  • The Pantheon primary dashboard is concise and easy to navigate for novices.
  • Pantheon is a WordCamp global community sponsor and Pantheon Director of Community and Agency Outreach Drew Gorton was a volunteer organizer and trainer for WordCamp Minneapolis.

We also decided to focus upon providing a guide with some deliverables for trainees and created a website just for our Introduction to WordPress track: That resulted in nine modules from our outline plan, and from the matrix I was able to incorporate a lot of general descriptive information from the Lesson Plans.

For a takeaway we provided trainees a complimentary copy (that we subsidized) of an comprehensive manual in ebook format: Easy WP Guide WordPress Manual by Anthony Hortin, published by Maddison Designs.


Overall, we had to move quickly to keep on schedule, and we did get behind in the morning sessions. Both factors of trainers following their own presentation agendas and lots of trainee questions (from novice to advanced to individualized) made it difficult to keep to a tight schedule. The SmartyPress module descriptions based upon Lesson Plans did ground the day with a solid outline that we did stick to and complete in six classroom hours.

The morning sessions primarily covered a general overview and need-to-know information. Those sessions did not rely upon Make WordPress Training resources.

The Sandbox module was scheduled for a full hour, but had to be delivered in 40 minutes to have the lunch hour as scheduled. Some trainees did have existing websites, but we got some 40 people into new WordPress installations on Pantheon without much trouble. While some Managed WordPress hosts have their own installation wizards, Pantheon does display the actual standard WordPress installation GUI, so students did experience a standard install. We ended the Sandbox module with a classic Hello World! post, so students completed the 3-hour morning with a hands-on experience.

The afternoon sessions started with Media & Images, before Posts & Pages, as trainers wanted to use a photography blog metaphor, so trainees could build a small collection of media images ready to use with text content. We experienced some problems with trainees not being able to follow the different theming and content used by different trainers, and the role of plugins was a concern with one trainer’s demo site, since that was only to be covered as a short advanced topic at the end of the day.

Understanding the interactions of categories, tags, and menus for Content Architecture was confusing for most students. That was one area where trainers and assistants needed to float the classroom and provide individual help and troubleshooting to trainees. Otherwise, we found that most either had prior exposure to WordPress or were able to navigate the dashboard for basic use, and did not require individual support for most of the training.

Themes and Plugins were a major interest for most trainees, as they have experienced all sort of functionality as web content users, and they had high expectations for adding such functionality to their own website needs. While there was some initial confusion about where these bells and whistles come from and how they operate, trainees did grasp the concept of using and trusting the The community site where WordPress code is created and shared by the users. This is where you can download the source code for WordPress core, plugins and themes as well as the central location for community conversations and organization. repository. Being able to quickly see and try some live examples of finding and installing both themes and a basic pluginPlugin A plugin is a piece of software containing a group of functions that can be added to a WordPress website. They can extend functionality or add new features to your WordPress websites. WordPress plugins are written in the PHP programming language and integrate seamlessly with WordPress. These can be free in the Plugin Directory or can be cost-based plugin from a third-party, most trainees were highly impressed with the WordPress platform.


We have not had a formal debrief, and I haven’t seen WordCamp survey feedback yet, but I can summarize some feedback on our user of Make WordPress Training resources for Tier 1 Lesson Plans:

  • They provide an excellent general outline of training topics.
  • They provide good content for use in describing training topics.
  • The style of lessons is somewhat inconsistent, requiring editing of the materials to use them effectively.
  • Lessons are not given an particular order for delivery, and this is problematic in dealing with the constraints between specific plans for live training.
  • Trainers may not be familiar with either Instructional Design formats nor the Make WordPress Training initiative, so comprehensive planning work is important.
  • Since the lessons are intended as general scripts for live demos, trainers use their own presentation materials which lead to agendas that may not match lessons.
  • Some lessons are incomplete, such that other resources need to be used.
  • Some lessons use alternatives terms in describing standard WordPress features.
  • It’s probably not feasible for most novice students to use FTPFTP FTP is an acronym for File Transfer Protocol which is a way of moving computer files from one computer to another via the Internet. You can use software, known as a FTP client, to upload files to a server for a WordPress website. and other advanced technical skills for WordPress installation—so that’s a major concern in the expectation for WordPress Installation

This is a post in progress, and additional feedback on specific Lesson Plans will be added.