During September and October 2023, the Training team experimented with facilitating its first course cohort. Course cohorts have been a goal of the Training team since 2022.
The first iteration of the Learn WordPress course cohort guidelines was published, and this cohort would be used to test and iterate on these guidelines.
The cohort was announced on 2 August 2023, and ran from 4 September 2023 to the 13th of October 2023.
Here are some numbers regarding the course cohort:
- The cohort was conducted over 7 weeks, with new content provided over 6 weeks
- 14 participants were chosen from 64 applicants
- 6 participants completed the content by the 13th of October
- This slightly missed the predetermined Learning success metric “A 50% course completion rate”, by 1.
- 4 participants requested an extension till the 15th of November
- 2 participants did not start on the content
- An average of 7 participants attended the weekly synchronous calls
- This met the predetermined Results success metric of “A 50% attendance rate for the weekly calls”.
Feedback Survey results summary
Participants were asked to complete a feedback survey once they had completed the course.
- 75% of respondents indicated that the course achieved all of their expected learning outcomes
- None of the respondents highlighted any missing topics or information that they expected to learn in this course.
- The only information they felt was not necessary was block Block is the abstract term used to describe units of markup that, composed together, form the content or layout of a webpage using the WordPress editor. The idea combines concepts of what in the past may have achieved with shortcodes, custom HTML, and embed discovery into a single consistent API and user experience. styling (applying styles to blocks via CSS CSS is an acronym for cascading style sheets. This is what controls the design or look and feel of a site. files)
- All of the respondents indicated that the course instructions were very clear and easy to follow
- 75% of the participants felt that there was enough time to complete the course.
Overall the feedback was very positive, with little to no negative feedback. One respondent indicated that an introduction to the different programming languages might be a beneficial addition, for anyone brand new to programming.
Click here if you would like to read more about the preparation, planning, and execution of this cohort.
Preparation and goal-setting
To prepare for this first cohort, we published the first iteration of the Learn WordPress course cohort guidelines, and set the following success measurements.
- Results: at least 50% of participants complete the activities, attend the in-person sessions, and/or complete the feedback survey.
- Learning: at least 50% of participants complete the course, and pass the final task, or both.
These goals were based on the first two levels of Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Training Evaluation.
Additionally, we hoped to use this cohort to:
- Determine if the existing steps laid out in the guidelines were complete, or if gaps existed that needed to be addressed.
- Experiment with the course cohort format and use the lessons learned to help improve the guidelines and help future cohort facilitators plan and execute their cohorts.
Planning vs. Execution
Application for the course cohort required interested folks to complete a sign-up form. The sign-up form included a question related to their ability to attend the weekly synchronous calls, as it was important to ensure that applicants could make this call.
A total of 64 applications were received, about half of which were possibly not going to make the synchronous call, due to being in distant time zones.
Participants would be randomly selected from the list of available applicants.
As the number of applications were larger than what we had anticipated, and from a wide range of time zones, we had to think of a way to fairly select a diverse group of participants while making sure those selected would indeed be able to attend the synchronous sessions.
Ultimately what we ended up doing was splitting the group into AMER, EU and APAC friendly time zones. We then confirmed with all the AMER folks whether they would prefer an AMER friendly cohort, which they all agreed to. Finally, we selected 7 participants randomly from the EU and APAC groups.
The cohort would use a group Slack Slack is a Collaborative Group Chat Platform https://slack.com/. The WordPress community has its own Slack Channel at https://make.wordpress.org/chat/. DM in the Make WordPress Slack.
Slack group DMs are limited to only 8 participants, so an alternative solution had to be found at the last minute. A new Slack channel for the cohort was created.
Course duration, content delivery, and synchronous call schedule
The course was to be held over 6 weeks, from 4 September 2023 to 9 October 2023.
New course content for each week was to be released on the Monday of each week, and the weekly group call would be held on the Wednesday of the same week, with 6 group calls expected.
Each participant was expected to attend every call unless unforeseen circumstances prevented it. Participants were expected to complete the coursework for each week by the date of the next Wednesday’s call.
Based on the above-mentioned content delivery schedule, the first group call served more as an introduction, and one additional asynchronous call was required on the 11th of October 2023.
There appeared to be about a 50% drop off in attendance for the weekly call. After performing check-ins with those folks who were not able to attend, a number of them indicated that they had some unexpected changes but would be back.
By the end of the course:
- 6 participants had marked their course content as complete
- 2 had actively notified the group that they had finished the project (either with screenshots or GitHub GitHub is a website that offers online implementation of git repositories that can easily be shared, copied and modified by other developers. Public repositories are free to host, private repositories require a paid subscription. GitHub introduced the concept of the ‘pull request’ where code changes done in branches by contributors can be reviewed and discussed before being merged be the repository owner. https://github.com/ repos The Training Team uses GitHub for working copies of lesson plans. You can find them at https://github.com/wptrainingteam. of the code)
- 8 were still progressing through the course
- 4 had asked for time extensions until 15 November 2023 due to unforeseen circumstances
- 2 had not started.
Trying to create course content based on existing related content was not effective. This was because changes to tooling and block development since those original pieces of content were created meant that it was either slightly out of date, or couldn’t be reused in its entirety. This meant creating new content specifically for the learning outcomes of this cohort.
The course content would be managed using the Sensei LMS plugin 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 WordPress.org Plugin Directory https://wordpress.org/plugins/ or can be cost-based plugin from a third-party. This would also provide an opportunity to experiment with the Sensei Groups and Cohorts feature for managing the cohort.
The use of Sensei and the Sensei Groups and Cohorts feature worked well, with one small caveat. All the course content needs to be created upfront, and then either published or set to release on specific dates to be made available to cohort members.
What did we learn?
Below are the lessons we learned from this cohort, that will be used to improve the cohort guidelines:
- Make use of the
shortcode A shortcode is a placeholder used within a WordPress post, page, or widget to insert a form or function generated by a plugin in a specific location on your site. in any course cohort launch posts, to ensure readers are aware of the time of any synchronous meetings or calls.
- Make the application more detailed for the vetting process. Ask more detailed questions about the cohort time commitments, and their availability to take part.
- Decide on a better vetting process to filter Filters are one of the two types of Hooks https://codex.wordpress.org/Plugin_API/Hooks. They provide a way for functions to modify data of other functions. They are the counterpart to Actions. Unlike Actions, filters are meant to work in an isolated manner, and should never have side effects such as affecting global variables and output. and select participants for future cohorts.
- If choosing to continue to use Slack, set up a Slack channel well ahead of time.
- Consider alternative means of communication, possibly email. Some folks did not receive notifications of Slack messages, and so missed either check-ins or the invitation to the course.
- Investigate using comments on Lessons in Sensei.
- Allow for one more call than the number of weeks in a cohort, (ie a 6-week cohort requires 7 calls)
- Consider adding a follow-up call after a month from the course completion date.
- Consider allowing additional time for folks to complete the course, who might have unforeseen circumstances affect their ability to complete it in time.
- In the future, we recommend extending the time to complete the course content, allowing for unforeseen circumstances.
- Use an existing course as-is for the cohort content.
- If one does not exist that covers the specified learning outcomes, create it first, before announcing a course cohort on the topic.
During the process of drafting this recap post, the following questions arose.
- What additional questions could we ask cohort applicants, to improve the vetting process?
- What can we do to improve the selection process?
- How can we safely request applicants to submit their email addresses, to improve cohort communication?
- How much additional time should we allow for folks to complete the course content, after the cohort is completed?
- Is there a reason comments are not enabled for lesson post types, and can we fix this?
Answering these questions will help the Training team improve the course cohort guidelines.
Therefore, we are calling on all Training team members and faculty to assist with brainstorming ideas to find solutions to these questions.
This is just the first of hopefully many more Learn WordPress course cohorts, but we need your help to improve the guidelines and make it easier for future facilitators.
This recap post is calling on the Training Team to help improve these guidelines, starting with the following:
- Comment on this post with any ideas or answers you can think of for the questions in the Additional Questions section.
- We are looking for volunteers to help update the Course Cohort guidelines in the handbook based on the lessons learned from this cohort.
- If you participated in the cohort, please share your thoughts and feedback in the comments on this post.