Teaching PHP at a Community College

open source education

Everyone seems to agree that teaching students to code is important.

However, most of our education system seems to be stuck in the 20th century, teaching Dreamweaver and other outdated systems.

Fortunately, we get to talk with an increasing number of teachers who include open source in their classes.

During the next few weeks we’re going to talk with several of those teachers.

First up is Tessa Mero. If you’re an OSTraining member, you’ll have seen Tessa around on our support forums. Recently Tessa started teaching PHP at a community college near Seattle. In this chat, she shares her experience and advice for other teachers.

So, how’s it going? How’s the course been so far?

Going on the 9th week of class (this week) and it’s been so wonderful. I have the most amazing group of students who are all eager to learn and there to learn web programming.

Which college are you teaching at and can you describe the students?

edmondsI am teaching at Edmonds Community College, which is located in Lynnwood, WA. The students range from being in the Running Start program (college during high school) to middle aged men and women trying to change careers.

How did you get involved in teaching this class?

It started by looking for a summer internship for college credit summer of 2012, which landed me as an Assistant teacher in a Web 1 course (XHTML). The class went so well, not realizing it is actually fun managing a large group of students and motivating them all to succeed and do well. Soon after I was offered to teach more courses at the college.

So, how do you actually got about teaching a college class in PHP? What do you need to prepared?

The PHP course I am teaching is a hybrid class. I work with them online daily by answering discussion board questions. The class meets live every Tuesday between 6:00 PM to 8:40 PM for my lecture. Every week I prepare an outline of the content I will cover and provide examples of how to use the code. Sometimes I’ll start with a powerpoint presentation to cover the concepts of the meaning behind the code, and then demonstrate it, with everyone following along on their localhost server.

Do you give homework? Have a class guide?

Every 1-2 weeks I give the students a new project. I show them screenshots of what the project end result should look like and give them a list of what should be accomplished throughout the project to get full credit. All projects are turned in via FTP.

Wow! This is very different to many people’s idea of a college class. It’s very hands-on rather than theoretical?

The way others imagine a college course is reading a textbook and writing essays and answering questions about the textbook. I do require students to read their textbook and hint that it will really help them with how to go about writing the scripts for their projects. So this is a hands-on type of course where the majority of the time is spent writing code. I also give them mini assignments that involve researching information.

So you’re teaching them how to learn, not just how to recite information. Can you give an example of a research project?

Two weeks ago, the topic was on Content Management Systems. I had them research information on different CMS’s and why it is a benefit of using the system. It really opened up their eyes to a different side of the web development world.

Are you planning to keep on teaching after this class?

After a recent student review and a review from the Dean of the department, I was invited to teach more courses. I didn’t think it would go as well as it did and I have developed a passion for teaching and a love for the students who demonstrate nothing but dedication for learning web programming. It definitely puts a smile on my face and I plan on continuing teaching forever. Although I am dedicated to my full time job as a Web Tech/Dev for K2Sports, I denied the offer of teaching full time and have managed my time to teach 1 course a quarter.

Do you have any advice for people teaching open source in colleges?

The first thing is being prepared. Review the textbook prior to class and make sure you are up to date with the terminology. I persuade students usually with cookies and pizza to get them to listen to me. Just kidding! But if you come to class showing excitement and passion to teach, the students will listen. One unique quality I have is a lot of patience. I try to slow down and answer everyone’s questions. I am a firm believer that everyone is capable of succeeding and doing well, and that’s how i treat the students. You’ll be surprised how much of a difference you can make.

About Tessa

tessaTessa Mero is a Web Technician for K2Sports, developing and managing database applications. She also teaches web programming courses at a local college, helps with Joomla! support questions with OSTraining, and enjoys volunteering with the Joomla! JED team.

As a hobby, she enjoys snowboarding and surfing as a hobby when the superglue from the computer chair wears off.

Are you teaching open source?

If you’re teaching open source and would like to be part of this series, send me an email to  steve@ostraining.com.


  • Steve Burge

    Steve is the founder of OSTraining. Originally from the UK, he now lives in Sarasota in the USA. He was a teacher for many years before starting OSTraining. Steve wrote the best-selling Drupal, Joomla, and WordPress books.

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11 years ago

I hope she does not abandon helping out on FABRIK – THE Joomla! Application Builder Component. Her contributions are very helpful.

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11 years ago

That was some kind of an amazing lessons that a student must have to learned because we are now facing the high technological aspects that involves computer related works. And, that PHP learning could be one most useful to every individual due to its high in demand to any works.

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