This is the third inteview in our series called, "Open Source in Education".
We went to DrupalCon Portland in May and heard from a lot of frustrated teachers. Many of them are struggling to get their universities to allow them to run cutting edge web design courses.
This week, we talked with Brent Laminack who teaches PHP, MySQL, Joomla and more at Emory University in Atlanta.
Welcome, Brent. You teach at Emory?
That's right. I've taught continuing education classes there a few days each month for about six years, and before that I taught continuing ed at Georgia Tech starting about 1990.
How is the continuing education related to Emory? Is it mainly part time students who are also keeping a career going?
Yes, it's adult education. We see a lot of people who are looking for new careers like a building contractor who wants to do web design instead or people who want to add new skillsets, like print designers who want to learn web design, or people who are working for a company and are suddenly charged with keeping up their website and need to figure out how to do that.
What do you cover in your classes?
I teach a number of classes: basic HTML and CSS, How to Add e-commerce to your Website, Email Marketing, a 2-day Joomla class, Google Analytics and Search Engine Marketing. Emory offers several different certificate programs, like Web Design, Open Source Web Developmernt, Web Marketing, etc. These classes are under the umbrella of these certificates.
What was it like getting courses such as Joomla and Open Source Web Development to be accepted onto the schedule?
Joomla was one of the more recent classes we've offered. We started offering classes in traditional programming languages like C and Java, but nobody signed up for them. Then we offered VB and PHP and people signed up and were happy with them. Then we added MySQL and a 2nd PHP class. We tried offering Drupal but nobody signed up for it. We thought about WordPress, but there's a lot of competition out there, so we tried Joomla and the reaction's been positive so far.
How do you do the teaching? Do you give them all local installations or servers? Is it project-based?
Some of the instructors have the students install the WAMP server on the local machines and work there, but I give them accounts on a server my company runs and they can ftp the files up there and see it on the actual internet. We're actually using Joomla Explained as our text.
Wise choice! I didn't realize that before the interview, so I promise I'm not self-promoting.
No problem :)
Do you have any advice for teachers who want to run classes in open source in higher education?
There's lots of material out there, but finding material that works well in the classroom and has good exercises for the student can be hard. About half of my classes I use commercial texts and about half I have to use my own powerpoint on. But if you don't mind looking around a bit and being flexible, it can work well.
Beyond Joomla Explained, have you found any books that work really well as texts?
One of the prime requirements for me for any of these texts is that the student should be able to download the exercises in the book: code, images, etc.
But finding and keeping good texts is always a challenge. I was about to dump the Head First book, but they came out with the 2nd edition which addressed most of the html5 areas we needed to cover
You also run a webdesign business. What keeps you working as a teacher as well?
Several things: one being that the best way to learn something is to teach it. another is that it gets me out of my office (I work from home) and have actual human interaction.
Another is that it generates leads for my web design business when students decide halfway through the certificate that they're not cut out to redesign their company's website. Plus, it diversifies the income stream. But most of all, I enjoy it.
It's a way to give back to the community, and I'd encourage other folks who can to investigate teaching at their local college's continuing education programs.