Drupal Mentored Trainings

Download the Organizer Resource Pack

1 Set a time and place

Pick a venue with good internet, if possible. If you can't find one, that's okay, just read the USB Backup Plan under the Prepare and gather materials section below. Usually you can find a place for free or very cheap like a library conference room, but you can also go more upscale with venues like hotel meeting halls. Here are some suggestions for places where Mentored Trainings have been held in the past. 

  • Universities / Colleges
  • Libraries
  • Conference rooms at a community member's office space
  • Cafés
  • Restaurant banquet rooms
  • Hotels
  • Zoos (for reals! They often have conference rooms)

Sitting at round tables makes a big difference for how students interact, how easy it is to access students and also creating interesting unexpected conversation when helping students. If you can find a place where you can have a setup like the one below, that's the best. If not, that's okay, but it's good to keep this in mind when researching venues.

Students sitting at round tables.

Also, ask the venue about the power situation. Most colleges are set up with power to each seat, but most other venues either have a pile of extension cords and power strips or expect you to bring your own.

Single day trainings are the most common, though there have been half-days and two-day trainings as well. Half-day trainings tend to be a bit too short for students that have a hard time getting started, but you can easily reduce the risk of that happening with good communication before the event.

Trainings tend to have greater attendance when bundled with another tech event, like a Drupal Camp, Conference or Code Camp, but don't be afraid to set one up without an event to hitch to.

2 Reach out to students

Now that you have a time and place, it's time to find some people that want to learn! Depending on your location and local interest in Drupal, this is probably going to be the most challenging part of the training since it might take some time to do outreach and follow up with everyone you connect with.

Keep in mind that there is some non-Drupal-specific material on BuildAModule, including a collection on Front End Development, another on PHP and also Git and the command line, so you can gear your training to highlight any of this material if it will help get students interested.

First, set up a signup page with a service like EventBrite. You can charge whatever you want for the training, or even offer it for free. Because free events often have a lot of no-shows (expect about 50%), taking a token fee of $20 or increases the chances of people showing up. You can even give the $20 back or offer lunch if you intend on not earning any money for the training.

Below is a template for the training signup / info page. The HTML source can be found in the Organizer Resource Pack:

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Here are some groups to reach out to. Try to connect with local businesses, teachers, and through them to their employees, coworkers and students:

  • Nearby Drupal User Groups
  • Other tech meetups nearby
  • Local companies that you know use Drupal
  • Other tech companies that might be interested in training
  • Schools: Universities, high schools, even middle schools
  • The local Small Business Association
  • Also, be sure to ask anyone helping with the training to tap their networks for anyone who might be interested.

Here's an example of a message you can sent to potential students:

Dear ____,

A few of us local techies are conducting a free [it's okay if it's not free] Drupal [or whatever you'll be focusing on] training on [DATE] at [LOCATION] and I wanted to reach out to see if you and your team would be interested in attending. It will be a lot of fun, and all skill levels are welcome.

If you've never heard of Drupal before, it's a powerful CMS platform that runs many of the world's most popular web sites. You can learn more about it on http://drupal.org.

There's more details about this training up at [URL] and a sign up at [SIGNUP URL].

If you have any questions at all, please just send me an email!

Thank you!

3 Find Mentors

The more people you have Mentoring at the training, the better. Don't worry about what you or your Mentors do or don't know about Drupal or whatever subject you'll be working on. If there's questions that you can't answer, there's a good chance one of your Mentors can. If not them, then there might be a student who can help. Even if everyone is a complete noob, a training can still be really fun and successful.

To find trainers, reach out to the local Drupal community first, and then to tech-oriented friends any of you have. The ideal ratio for a small training (5-20 students) is around 1 trainer for every 5 students. You can carry a bigger training (20-90 students) with just 4 trainers, but it's nice to have at least 1 for every 10 students, more if you can get enough people to come.

The tricky part is that you'll be gathering Mentors and students at the same time, so you won't know exactly how many Mentors you'll need. That's okay. The Mentors don't need to do any prep work or anything, they just need to show up. If you don't get as many students as you predicted, just let the Mentors know that they don't have to help if they have other things they need to do.

I find it's pretty easy to get Mentors on board. It's super satisfying helping people, and because there's no prep work, it's easy to say yes.

4 Contact BuildAModule

Send a quick email to us with the following info:

  1. The date of the training
  2. The email addresses of the organizer(s). We will give the organizers the ability to credit Mentors and students with a free 8-day pass to BuildAModule.
  3. Any questions you have

We will send you back an email with a link to download the files needed for the USB Backup Plan, and will answer any questions.

5 Prepare and gather materials

The materials part is where things get a little more nuanced, and you can definitely go minimal and not do anything here. However, a little prep work will make things go a little more smoothly and make for a more professional-feeling training.

  1. Figure out how to get power to each student. You may need to gather extension cords and surge protectors from friends and associates if the venue doesn't supply these. If so, you will also want to bring some tape to keep people from tripping over the cords.
  2. Create signage and get tape. If the venue is a little confusing to get around, you'll want to put up some signs to help direct people to the training. Printing these out beforehand can save you time and headache on the day of the training. But, bringing a big black marker, white paper and tape will be useful for improvising.
  3. Get sticky notes. It doesn't matter what kind or color, but it will help students let you know they need help without having to keep a hand raised.
  4. Print out QuickStart guides - either a handful so each table can have one, or one for each student. The files for these can be found in the Organizer Resource Pack. If you use card stock to print on, you can print the guide on one side and the cover on the other side and fold it in half.
  5. Get a few extra headphones. About 10% of students come with no headphones or have headphones poop out on them. Amazon has them for super cheap online, and Walgreen's usually as pairs for $2-5 a pop if you need something immediately.
  6. Download and uncompress the USB Backup Plan file, and start copying the files over to USB drives. The files weigh in at about 1.5gig now, though that will increase as we add more video collections. You can buy 2gig USB drives on Amazon for about $3 / apiece. I try to bring one per every 5-10 people. If things do go south with the internet, then it will probably take each person about 3-5 minutes to copy all the files over to their computer, so the more drives you have, the quicker everyone can get squared away.
  7. Practice the introduction. I've included a slideshow in Keynote and Powerpoint formats that you can use verbatim or as a template. These also have comments on each slide to further clarify what might be covered and why. This is also optional, but I know I feel a lot better if I know what I'm going to say before I get up in front of a bunch of people to say it. The intro won't be more than 20 minutes, and the slides will help you remember what goes where, but it's still nice to not have to worry about on on training day.
  8. Figure out how you'll present the intro. For smaller trainings, you can tote in a big screen TV. For larger trainings, a projector is usually necessary. I've tried live streaming from my computer, but that almost always ends up crashing the internet. If you don't have a projector, you can rent one, or you can print out the presentation on paper.
  9. Pack a dongle to hook into a the projector or a cable to the TV.
  10. If you can, bring 1 blanket for every 10 students, unless you know the venue is definitely going to be warm enough. 90% of the venues I've trained in have gotten cold, regardless of the season. Those couple students who are shivering will really love you if you can help them out.
  11. Think about getting neon t-shirts. Shirts are totally optional, and are only really useful in larger (20+ students) trainings, but they can really help people identify who are Mentors. You can get blank neon shirts on Amazon for about $6 apiece.
  12. Think about serving food. Getting people started off with some coffee in the morning is nice, and supplying lunch can help people get back to work faster since they don't have to leave the venue for lunch. But, it takes some finagling.

6 Communicate

There are at least two groups to send communication to before the training, the Mentors and the Students. Sending one email a few days prior to the training is usually sufficient, but if you really want to be diligent, you can set up a whole series of emails to get the students engaged.

3-5 days before the training, give the students credit to access BuildAModule (I will have sent you instructions for this earlier), and then send them a message like this:

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And here's an example message to send to mentors, also a few days before the training (though you may want to touch base a couple weeks before, just in some things came up and you need to try to grab more Mentors):

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7 Train!

On the day of the training, it's good to get to the venue about an hour early so you can test the projector / TV setup, do any table-wrangling you need and also distribute materials to each table. Here's a short checklist:

  1. Set up signs. Sometimes students come early, and you don't want them wandering around aimlessly.
  2. Set up power. This is hard to do after students start filing in, so try to tackle it first.
  3. Put a whole or partial sticky pad on each table, or distribute every 4 seats or so if the venue has lecture-style seating.
  4. Distribute the QuickStart guides. If you printed a front and folded them, you can set them up nicely at each seat.
  5. Test out the projector / TV setup and put the title slide up to give students as sense that they're in the right place.

Even though you will have set up students with BuildAModule access before the training, some students won't have it because they signed up late or the spam filter swallowed up your email. Have the credit page loaded up on your smart phone so you can give people access as needed. Any other Mentors who were given the ability to issue credit can also do this.

At 9am, or whenever the training starts, go through the Introduction presentation. I mentioned above that you can use the Powerpoint / Keynote presentation that comes with the Organizer Resource Pack, but you can also roll your own. It shouldn't take more than 20 minutes or so.

During the training, be sure to encourage Mentors to walk around when they're not helping a Student. Students will often wait to ask questions until a Mentors is right next to them.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to know a lot about Drupal to organize one of these?
What if our internet is slow or stops working?
Can I simplify this training any further to make it easier to plan?
Do I have to credit or pay BuildAModule anything?
Can I bundle a longer membership with the training?
What do you do about "problem" students?
I'm getting a lot of questions about personal projects but I'm not getting paid for consulting...
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