Training Your Team on Drupal 8: Balancing Classrooms and Individuals

August 24, 2015
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Not every student learns the same way, so teachers consistently have to find a way to instruct a classroom while also reaching students individually.

We were reminded of a teacher’s greatest challenge when we trained dozens of Acquia employees on Drupal 8. As my co-author Kent Gale and I detailed earlier in this series on Drupal 8 instruction, we separated employees into groups of two, with one person having some knowledge of the new platform and the other having no knowledge. Once their instruction ended, they split up and each teamed with two other employees – our version of chromosomal mitosis.

Our approach to training was structured. We had goals to achieve. But we also had to stay flexible throughout. Because experience, knowledge, and skill set differed with each employee, we had to connect with them individually while maintaining the larger class structure.

We had people with deep programming experience. We had middleware folks. We had site builders. We had front-enders. Because of that, the training program had to present a lot of material, but not so much that individuals wouldn’t learn. We trained with the expectation that not everyone would, or even needed to, become experts.

Consider the training of our “explainers,” the employees who explain our products to the public. We had to figure out what they could easily learn in only one- to four-hours of training. They needed to know enough to promote and answer questions about Drupal 8, but didn’t need to know as much as a support person, who received anywhere from 40 to 80 hours of training. Figuring out what the explainers needed to learn took some effort, but there was ample material to help us determine which path to follow.

Speaking of paths, your team doesn’t have to follow ours. Mitosis worked great for us, but it may pose a problem for your program if you have fewer employees, less time to train, or other considerations.

You need to find out what works best and that, as we’ve mentioned, takes time and effort, success and failure. Some employees like to be lone wolves and learn everything on their own, for example, so our process may not work for them.

Tools that track progress will help you ascertain what works and what doesn’t. Every company, no matter how large or small, faces time constraints, so these tools will guide you through the unknowns.

We used training as a key performance indicator (KPI) for employees. Shared ownership in this big Drupal 8 training project made sense if we all had to make a big leap together in understanding the new platform. Sometimes employees will sweep training under the rug because they believe putting out other fires is a priority.

We knew learning Drupal 8 would be a significant commitment; it’s a significant change, after all. But we couldn’t delay training. Drupal 8 was coming out and there was no time for delay. KPIs helped motivate and get everyone on the same page. There was a vested interest in making progress.

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