Owning the Content

Drupal training often begins with the code/framework and then gets increasingly more specific as it reveals how that is applied to an actual Web site: it goes from abstract to concrete. Adult learners, however, need to feel like the stuff they’re learning actually relates to their job. Starting with real content on a real site is more effective at engaging the adult learner as it makes what they’re learning apply directly to what they need to accomplish on the job.

Participants: This activity is perfect for marketing/communication teams who are taking a ‘group’ class on how to manage their own Web site. It is critical that the students be able to review the site they are responsible for when then go back to work. Don’t use “fake” content.

Materials: live web site, flip chart paper, markers, glue sticks, print out of content editing screens.

Activity, Part 1: Determine ahead of time what the most popular types of content are on the Web site. Break the larger group into smaller teams. Assign each team a type of content. Ask them to review the live site and create a “style guide” for their type of content. This is completed by listing the content characteristics of a piece of flip chart paper. Have them scour the site for examples of their type of content. Time: not more than 10 minutes.

Anticipated outcome: often people will find “problems” with the site they want to address later. If the problem is something they will be able to fix after the training, have them write it down in their work book (I typically include prompt for “pages I want to fix later” in the work book). If the problem is something they won’t be able to solve, mark it down on a flip chart that you can hand off to the right team after the training session (e.g. something the IT team needs to fix in the site’s information architecture or theme).

Review: Ask each of the groups to present their style guide to the others. Collect identified “software” problems that can’t be solved by the training on a master list that you can hand over to the IT team after training.

Activity, Part 2: After each group has presented to the group, discuss the content types with them. Is it what they were expecting? Are there overall changes they want to make to the site? (e.g. more pictures throughout)

Activity, Part 3: Give each group a print out of the content editing form for their content type. Have the form cut up into individual fields. Ask them to glue each of the fields beside the characteristic listed on their style guide. They may have more fields than characteristics (e.g. for the log/revision info for the page). Those pieces should also be glued on, but under a new heading, “Not displayed”. Max time: 10 minutes. Review again after they’ve finished gluing together their content form.

Overall anticipated outcome: typically participants will find a few problem areas of their web site they want to fix. They will be motivated to actually fix the content and therefore more persistent when exposed to “scary” technical content editing forms. The forms themselves also have a better tie to the real content of the site. With the style guides posted around the room, participants will also have a self-built, visual reference point that will serve as an anchor when faced with the ‘scary’ administrative backend of the Web site.