Episode 83: Learning Pathways

WordPress Briefing Podcast with host Josepha Haden Chomphosy
WordPress Briefing – A WordPress Podcast
Episode 83: Learning Pathways

Download file | Play in new window | Duration: 30:45

Learn about where WordPress is going, how we’ll get there, and how you can get involved.

Discover how Learning Pathways can guide you through your WordPress journey with clarity and purpose. In the latest episode of WordPress Briefing, host Josepha Haden Chomphosy welcomes special guest Wes Theron to discuss the newly introduced Learning Pathways. These curated lesson sets are tailored to various experience levels, roles, and use cases, ensuring a personalized learning experience for every WordPress user.


Host: Josepha Haden Chomphosy
Guest: Wes Theron
Editor: Dustin Hartzler
Logo: Javier Arce
Production: Brett McSherry
Song: Fearless First by Kevin MacLeod

Show Notes


[00:00:00] Josepha: Hello, everyone, and welcome to the WordPress Briefing, the podcast where you can catch quick explanations of the ideas behind the WordPress open source project, some insight into the community that supports it, and get a small list of big things coming up in the next two weeks. I’m your host, Josepha Haden Chomphosy. Here we go.

[00:00:28] (Intro music) 

[00:00:39] Josepha: As a steward of the WordPress community, one of the big overarching questions that I grapple with is how to make sure people who have just found out about us know how to get around. Obviously, there’s the contributor path, which is important to me because I am especially concerned with the longevity of our little open source community, but there’s also a path for folks who are learning how to use the software.

[00:01:03] Josepha: And so, joining me today to talk through a project called Learning Pathways is Wes Theron. Wes, welcome to the WordPress Briefing.

[00:01:11] Wes: Good day. Thank you very much for having me. It’s a pleasure.

[00:01:13] Josepha: Before we get into this project that we’re talking about, do you want to just tell me a little bit about who you are and what you do with the WordPress project?

[00:01:22] Wes: Yeah. So, as you know, my name is Wes Theron. I’m based in New Zealand, and I’m an instructional designer. And, I am part of the Training Team. So, most of my life revolves around creating learning content for learn.WordPress.org.

[00:01:38] Josepha: Oh, that’s quite a life. Teaching people how to use WordPress.

[00:01:42] Wes: Yeah, I teach WordPress. We run online workshops. I create video tutorials, courses, and now, of course, this great project we’re working on, Learning Pathways.

[00:01:52] Josepha: Yeah. So, I’ve talked about Learning Pathways a few times here on the podcast, but for folks who have not heard me talk about it or who just need a more in-depth understanding, why don’t you tell us a little bit about this project as it stands today? 

[00:02:06] Wes: Yeah, so when Learn started out, I think the main goal was to just get learning content on the site. But, in May of last year, we shared an individual learning survey with folks, and we were hoping to basically find out what are the needs of the learners? What are learners after? And from that individual learner survey, we actually learned a few things. We learned that tutorials, courses, and online workshops were the most used content types. We also saw that web-based learning is the most popular learning method. And then there was a clear need for a structured way of consuming learning material. And that’s basically where the Learning Pathways project was born; to create Learning Pathways that basically target various types of learners, but also various skill levels. So July of last year, we started with outlines, creating outlines for these learner pathways.

[00:03:10] Wes: And then, in October of last year, we actually started creating content. So, the first learner pathways we started working on was the User Learning Pathway and the Developer Learning Pathway. And what that entails is of course, creating a Learning Pathway for beginner users, intermediate users, and then advanced users.

So that’s how we kind of broke it up. And last week, the Beginner Developer Pathway was actually published, so that’s very exciting. And a few weeks before that, the Beginner WordPress User Pathway. And yeah, of course, we’ve got many other pathways in the pipeline that we want to work on. For example, a Designer Learning Pathway and even a Contributor Learning Pathway.

[00:03:57] Josepha: Yeah, when we’re talking about pathways, what we mean is, like, we are figuring out what you probably need to know when you first arrive and then helping you to identify what you build on based on what your goals might be.

[00:04:11] Josepha: Like, obviously, the beginner user, the goal is basically just like, learn how to get WordPress doing stuff at all. Like that’s, that’s an easy goal to understand. But when you all were doing the work to figure out what needed to be in the pathway for a beginner developer, and as you’re looking towards doing the work around intermediate and advanced topics, like how are you all able to determine what most likely you need in those various steps in the learning process?

[00:04:42] Wes: So, of course, a lot of research went into that. When we created the outlines for these Learning Pathways. We shared it with the community. We asked for feedback. And yeah, a lot of research was done to make sure we cover all the all the bases. 

[00:04:59] Josepha: I know that there were a couple of different proposals about how to, like do skills assessments, maybe? There was something where like we were talking with companies that employ WordPress folks in the ecosystem, and then we were talking to WordPressers who were currently trying to make sure that their skills were advanced enough to get those jobs. And we were trying to figure out like the distance between those and where we actually have some concerns around like the language choices that they need, like basic developer language choices and jargon that goes in there and stuff like that.

[00:05:34] Josepha: So this, if I recall correctly, the research for this has been going on for like maybe two or three years, right?

[00:05:42] Wes: Yeah, definitely. And we’ve reached out to many stakeholders within the WordPress community. And as you say, even agencies, and businesses, you know, trying to find out what do they want people to know when they employ them. And yeah, then of course, speaking to the community, speaking, speaking to folks at WordCamps reaching out to folks an online workshops.

[00:06:04] Wes: So, yeah, it’s definitely been an ongoing process and also seeing what resources are lacking and what needs to be there. 

[00:06:12] Josepha: Yeah, so, the very first, the very first iteration of any training that the WordPress project was offering on, I think it was on learn.WordPress.org, but I don’t actually know for sure, was a troubleshooting workshop, because when you are trying to figure out WordPress for the first time, when you are trying to figure out any software for the first time, being able to figure out what went wrong is a really important part of that. And so that was like the only workshop that existed over there for quite some time. And so it’s really nice to see how we have really, not only created a bunch of resources in general, if you all have not looked at learn.WordPress.org lately, it has, like, workshop outlines that you can use to do a training by yourself at your meetup group or at a school or whatever it is.

[00:07:08] Josepha: But then also, I want to say it was maybe two, three years ago, that you all, as a team, the Training Team, started doing these online workshops. And so, when you created the Learning Pathways, considering like how much time and research has gone into this project overall, did you all have learnings that came from those workshops that you had already done? Is this like a collection of workshops or is this something where you can do it at home and learn by yourself and then go someplace else and learn more about WordPress? Like how does that function in what we have already?

[00:07:45] Wes: Yeah, so maybe I should first, maybe let’s define a learning pathway. So I, I thought about this, but a learning pathway, I would say, is a route taken by learner through a range of modules, lessons, and even courses to build knowledge progressively. So it’s similar to a course, but of course usually covers like a specific topic or subject where learning pathways usually have a larger goal.

[00:08:11] Wes: So I wouldn’t say that the online workshops form part of the Learning Pathways project. And maybe I can also clarify that the teacher notes or the lesson plans that you refer to is something that’s also changing going forward. 

[00:08:23] Josepha: Oh, good. Because I wrote some of those, and I am not an instructional designer. And so, ha!

[00:08:30] Wes: We’ve actually decided to move away from having two different content types. So, we had tutorials. You know, video tutorials, and we had lesson plans, and as you said, the lesson plans were notes that somebody could use to run an online workshop or to go to a WordCamp or at their local meetup and use that to teach something. But moving forward for Learning Pathways, we are actually just going to have one content type, namely lessons. And then lessons from part of creating a course or lessons from part of creating modules and then Learning Pathways. The other exciting thing, and something we haven’t mentioned, is that at the end of this month, when we launched the Learning Pathways or the first few Learning Pathways, it actually coincides with a website redesign.

[00:09:18] Wes: So, yeah, beyond the lookout, hopefully, learn.WordPress.org is going to have a brand new face at the end, from the end of July or, yeah, or August. So, yeah, that’s very exciting.

[00:09:30] Josepha: Excellent. Excellent. So, you said that these Learning Pathways are part of a larger goal. Is that a goal for your learners or a goal for WordPress? A goal for the team?

[00:09:40] Wes: I would say all of the above.

[00:09:42] Josepha: Goals for everybody. We’re like the Oprah of goals. Don’t come get me, Oprah. That’s all I got to say about it.

[00:09:48] Wes: Yeah, I think for us as a team, at the end of the day, we want folks to be able to use the content and find the content and utilize all the learning material on learn.WordPress.org. And then, of course, at the end of the day, for learners, we want folks to be able to succeed in whatever they are trying to do. Is it to build their own website? Is it to maybe find a job as a developer? And. Yeah, I mean, the list can go on.

[00:10:21] Josepha: Yeah. So, on the subject of wanting to help people succeed, I think that as far as I hear from the majority of contributors that I have worked with over the years, like helping other people figure out how to do this and making sure that they can succeed is always something that is top of mind for contributors to open source probably in general, but definitely to WordPress. Like, we really care about helping other people figure out how to have the same sort of benefits that we’ve had in the project and with the software. So if you have somebody who is familiar with all the bits and pieces of WordPress and really, really want to like show up and help teach some things. Is it the case that they can take part in like running a Learning Pathway? Is it something where we mostly need people to help us build some content? Like if we’ve got people who are just desperate to help other people succeed in WordPress, what kinds of things can they show up and help do on this project?

[00:11:22] Wes: Yes, please come to the Training Team. There are many ways to get involved. If you just want to review content, you can do that. But yeah, we do have a need for content creators, folks, you know, creating a video lesson or putting their hand up and saying, I will actually create an entire module or an entire learning, a Learning Pathway. We do have some awesome contributors that’s part of the Training Team that are already doing that. Some people are writing scripts. Some folks are actually, you know, creating everything from the beginning to the end. So they are writing the script, they recording the video, publishing the video, et cetera. And then we’ve, of course, have people reviewing content. We’ve got folks running online workshops. If maybe creating video content is not their, is not their forte, they can can run online workshops. So yeah, many ways getting involved.

[00:12:16] Wes: But Josepha, I wanted to point something else out that I haven’t done. I think there was a real need for Learning Pathways because, at the moment, if somebody new to WordPress or new to developing with WordPress wants to find learning content. You know, where do they go? What’s the main platform to go to? I think most people probably go to YouTube, right? But a lot of the content there are, are scattered and fragmented.

So a lot of learning material or learning about WordPress is all over the place. It’s not in one place. And as I said, a place where you can actually learn from A to Z, learn progressively learning in a structured way. Yes, we know there are courses available that you can pay for, but the awesome thing about this project is that we are providing these Learning Pathways, these learning resources, for free for folks to be able to work through at their own time. I know that’s something else you asked earlier on. So yes, this is a course in quotation marks; this is a Learning Pathway that somebody can start whenever it suits them, you know, in the comfort of their own home, and they can work through the Learning Pathway from the beginning to the end. Or, if they feel I actually know everything taught in module one and two, I’m going to start at module three, they can do that. They basically come in at their skill level.

[00:13:43] Josepha: Yes. I think it’s really important to try to meet people where they are. And I know that it’s difficult because, like, we don’t take a lot of data from our users. You don’t have to give us basically anything in order to use WordPress. And by basically, I mean you literally don’t have to give us anything to use WordPress.

[00:14:01] Josepha: And so we always have some difficulty in figuring out what is it that our users need the most in order to succeed the quickest. And so I agree that there was a real need for this not only because, like, there’s plenty of content for getting from, like, some knowledge to a good amount of knowledge. There’s almost no content around, like, I didn’t know CMSs existed until yesterday, and now I need to quickly learn how to do it because it’s become a thing I need to do in my job. There’s some really clear, like use cases for being able to onboard quickly and progressively.

And I understand that, like, having a clear, structured way to learn doesn’t always fit with the idea of meeting people where they are. But I do really think that, that like what you were saying, it can be as structured as you need it to be. But also, if you get into it and you think to yourself, you know, I know this information already. I can move on to the next module. I can move on to the module after that. Similar to the way we do that at WordCamps also. If you get into a session and you thought it was going to be useful for you, and you discover that it’s not once you’re there, you don’t have to stay. You can go to a different room where they’re teaching about SEO if it turns out that you don’t need to learn about JavaScript today.

[00:15:23] Josepha: And I think that that’s, it’s kind of the value that this is hoping to bring, like, because it is a little bit built one on top of the other when you discover that you have already learned something, you can easily try out the next step and know that it’s probably a good next step.

[00:15:38] Wes: Exactly. And if you maybe want to teach this to other folks. The plan is to, you know, we had lesson plans. We have a lot of lesson plans on Learn. But the plan is also to, instead of having, as I said, two different content types, is to have lessons but then add a tab where you can click on teacher notes and actually teach something as well if that is your goal. But yes, our lessons and modules also include quizzes and, hopefully, some practical activities. We’ve incorporated WordPress Playground where, where folks can actually, you know, test out what they’ve learned or test their knowledge. So yeah, I agree with you that you can basically join the Learning Pathway wherever you feel the most comfortable.

[00:16:28] Josepha: So we’ve been kind of in the weeds of the project itself, the program itself, and if you want to like do stuff with that and in that. Let’s switch gears a little bit and talk about just what people who are wanting to join those pathways would need to know. Do you have any advice for somebody who is just today learning about these Learning Pathways and they think to themselves, I definitely want to sign up for one of those. Like, for one, how do they get started? And for two, your like top two or three bits of advice for as they get started? 

[00:17:05] Wes: So you can make your way to learn.WordPress.org, and you can basically open the, the pathway, and you can start wherever, wherever you want to. We have made it possible to actually view these pathways or our content without logging in with your dot org profile. The other thing I also wanted to mention is that our content is actually hosted on YouTube now.

So the great thing is we have these pathways within YouTube as well. So, folks can go to the, YouTube channel and see our content. And, of course, that basically reaches a very wide audience. And hopefully some of those videos will also bring people to the dot org site so that they can access the content.

[00:17:57] Josepha: I think it’s great that you don’t have to sign up for a profile. If you are a brand new WordPresser and ran into this in your dashboard and are listening to this podcast now. So dot org profiles are a place where you can kind of log your activity in the WordPress community and the WordPress project. You do not have to have one in order to use WordPress. You don’t have to have one in order to look at these courses or to learn from them. But I always think that it’s kind of nice to get your profile set up so that people kind of know who you are and what you’re doing. And then also your activity shows up. Like, you can see that you enrolled in the course and you get to know for yourself that you made some progress. I know that when you’re getting started, it’s hard to, like, see your progress because you don’t know how far you have to go. And so, like progress when you’re starting out is really difficult to feel is real. And so I like it just so that you have a few reminders to yourself, like, look how far I’ve come as you’re trying to figure out how far you still have to go. And so I like that a lot. 

[00:18:58] Wes: You won’t be able to access all the content on Learn without your dot org profile. But one of the things we’ve made possible is to access these Learning Pathways, the new ones being launched without, you know, removing those blockers. So, of course, when you work through a Learning Pathway, you will be able to track your progress, and you will be able to see which lessons you have completed. So yeah, one of the pieces of advice I would give to somebody starting with the Learning Pathways actually to first go through the modules. And go through the lessons to see which things you know and feel comfortable with so that you don’t waste time maybe going through the first module and say, oh, I know this, and you’ve wasted time. Rather do a bit of research, a bit of reading, and then find the right place for you to start the journey.

[00:19:45] Josepha: That’s excellent. I also, just as a learner, I try to always learn some stuff. And also, as you get older, it’s harder and harder to learn things partially because like you’re in a set path, but also, and here’s my advice to new learners: you worry about looking foolish. Like you, you worry, you’re showing up, and you don’t know anything about anybody else in the classroom. And so there’s this feeling of like, what if I’m the only person who does not know how to make this work? What if I’m the only person who can’t figure out what Wes meant by “Playground” or whatever it is? There’s this real feeling of looking silly when you’re doing something like this.

[00:20:25] Josepha: I can’t control what anybody else says or does to anyone else, unfortunately. But what I can say is that I think that there’s never a bad time to start something you wish you had done, right? Like, the best time to have learned how to use your CMS, your website, make your website work was probably a year ago or something, but the second best time is today. And so, like, why not go ahead and get started and be part of that small group of adults that are learning new things every single day? I think that’s great. And so that’s my tip is to just embrace looking silly sometimes because you’re making some choices about your future, and that’s always a good choice.

[00:21:04] Wes: And I would also say test your knowledge. So you’ve mentioned WordPress Playground. And as I said, we’ve incorporated into the Learning Pathways, but sometimes you watch a video, or you read something, and you feel like, oh yeah, I know this, but you know, the proof is in the pudding. So go and test it out. Use a test website or use WordPress Playground and test yourself to see if you can actually implement this or do something. So yeah, that’s definitely one of the other tips I want to highlight; you know, they also say you, you learn by doing.

[00:21:38] Josepha: Yeah, absolutely. And also, like if you have gotten to a point you’ve done the learning, you’ve done some practicing, you think you’ve got it and want to like try to figure out what other things can be done with it. I recommend this is how I did a lot of my early WordPress learning to organize an event with your local meetup.

Like, I did not know enough about WordPress when I started organizing WordPress meetups. I literally knew nothing. And I basically brought people in and was like, hey, we need people to teach us about this, us being half me. Come in and teach us. And, and that can be a really good thing, partially because, like, you get to know your local folks and see what’s going on and get a sense for, like, what is out there, especially if you’re learning this in order to run a business or to accomplish something for your job that you already have, like knowing what’s out there is super helpful. But then I find that once you embrace the fact that sometimes you will look silly, and that’s the only way that we can know we’re learning something. Like once you’ve embraced it, having some people who are willing to look a little silly with you is kind of, kind of fun, kind of nice. Also, like we’re all going to look at this problem that we definitely don’t understand and hopefully look like, at the end, we know what we’re doing, but between looking at it the first time and at the end of this meetup, we’re all going to look a little bit silly, ask silly questions. And I think that that’s a really helpful thing, too. But yeah, knowing some basic information is a great place to start before you do that, especially if you get anxious about looking silly. And I think these pathways are going to really help to get folks a little bit of a leg up on those big questions that they have as you’re starting to learn how to use WordPress.

[00:23:18] Josepha: So we talked about, like, tips and tricks for learners in general. But if you had something that you wanted to share with us that, like, you’re really excited about for either the Training Team or for the Learning Pathways in general, I think the Learning Pathways are slated to be shipped by, like, end of September or something. So, like, a lot of them are coming quite quickly. 

[00:23:38] Wes: So I am most excited about the website redesign and the new look and feel of the website. And also, you know, one of the goals for us as a Training Team is for learn.WordPress.org to be one of the places people come to and learn about WordPress. And I feel these Learning Pathways and the new website redesign and all the hard work that’s gone into this project is hopefully going to, make that happen. As I said, our content is also available on YouTube. So we’ve really tried to make it easy for folks to find our content and also now to digest our content in a progressive and in a structured way. Because, you know, learning is hard. And hopefully, these Learning Pathways have made it easier for folks to, as you said, to build on your knowledge. You know, a lot of times, there’s knowledge gaps. And I think that’s what makes learning so hard. And hopefully with these pathways, you can build that knowledge one step at a time.

[00:24:44] Josepha: Yeah. And as is the way with open source, like we can only make these pieces of content better if you all show up and help us like try it out, learn some stuff, and tell us what was confusing. Tell us what was too big a step. Cause yeah, you’re right. There are some knowledge gaps and when you’re on the other side of knowing something, it is so hard to tell how big a step is, you know?

[00:25:11] Wes: Exactly.

[00:25:12] Josepha: And so we need y’all to come in here and tell us very plainly as a new learner like that was eventually what I needed, but this part here was especially confusing. This part over here was too like too many little steps like we just we’re trying to make sure that it works for you WordPressers, future WordPressers of the world. And so yeah, come build some learning with us over here on the Training Team.

[00:25:35] Wes: And yes, please, we want feedback because, as you say, as we iterate, we want to improve. So there will be a place where you can provide feedback, and at the end of the pathway where there will also be a satisfaction survey for folks to to complete.

[00:25:50] Josepha: Great. Well, folks, we’re gonna have a bunch of links in the show notes. There’s so much stuff out here to learn with and about WordPress. Wes, thank you so much for joining me today.

[00:26:01] Wes: Thank you for having me. And I will see you all on Learn.

[00:26:05] (Music interlude)

[00:26:12] Josepha: That brings us now to our small list of big things. Although I have to say we have a bunch of links that we’re going to share in the show notes. If you’re listening to this in a place where there are not show notes, you can head over to WordPress.org/news. That’s where we keep all of those. If you are lucky, we also will help you find it on Twitter/X, but I think that it’s hard to find things over there these days. So WordPress.org/news is your best bet. Now, it is time for the small list of big things.

So, first up on my list is that WordPress 6.5.5 is now available. It’s got a few fixes in it, some maintenance things and some security fixes as well. I recommend that you update your sites immediately. You can download it from WordPress.org/download, or you can just visit your WordPress dashboard. If you’re on a managed host, they may have already done this for you, too. But auto-updates, manual updates, CLI updates. However, you want to get it done, get it done. But it is recommended to do this as soon as possible. 6.5.5. 

[00:27:16] Josepha: The second thing on my list is that the WordPress Contributor Mentorship program has a call for interest out. This is a program that we launched about a year ago as well. And we had such a good bit of success at the end of the first round in February that there was significant interest in doing another cohort. So, that program connects seasoned WordPress contribution experts with folks who are new to contributing and offer a fantastic opportunity for mentees to gain hands-on experience contributing to WordPress while their mentors share their expertise and improve their leadership skills. So, most of the time, what you are going to be contributing to is probably a release of WordPress, but there are also a lot of opportunities to contribute to things like the Training Team that we’ve been talking about today and other teams as well. Not everything is focused all around our release cycle. We have things happening in the WordPress project literally all the time. It is a project that never sleeps. 

[00:28:17] Josepha: Speaking of projects that never sleep, our next official release, our second release of the year, is coming out. WordPress 6.6 is coming out just about a week from now. It is the second major release of 2024 and has a lot of things in it that you will want to check out. If you have not yet seen the hallway hangout where we take a look at what was happening in the release, what we intended to get into the release, take a look at it. And if you haven’t tested it yet, if you are one of our plugin developers, if you are building something on top of WordPress core, now is the time to check that out and test it against your products.

And then the final thing is that it’s a new month, my friends. Here we are in July, and we have a ton of things happening in the project. That’s the theme of my small list of big things: the project that never sleeps. But we have a lot of team meetings that are happening. If you haven’t attended one in a while or even if you have never attended one of these meetings and you were trying to figure out when to start, now is as good a time as any. You can join your fellow community members and contribute to the WordPress project. And there are ways that you can do that from home and from your computer and for some parts of the project, like from your phone, if you are taking photos out and about and submitting those. So check out make.WordPress.org/meetings. It’ll give you a sense for everything that’s happening. Do not get overwhelmed by that calendar. You can just choose which team you think is most interesting to you.

[00:29:45] Josepha: And that, my friends, is your small list of big things. Your small list of never-sleeping things. Don’t forget to follow us on your favorite podcast app or subscribe directly on WordPress.org/news. You’ll get a friendly reminder whenever there’s a new episode. If you liked what you heard today, share it with a fellow WordPresser. Or, if you had questions about what you heard, you can share those with me at WPBriefing@WordPress.org. I’m your host, Josepha Haden Chomphosy. Thanks for tuning in today for the WordPress Briefing, and I’ll see you again in a couple of weeks. 

[00:30:15] (Music outro)

Get the Latest Updates

WP Briefing — The WordPress Podcast

Join Josepha Haden and Matt Mullenweg to learn about where WordPress is going and how you can get involved.