CSU Lecture: WordPress Development in 43 Minutes

Get the highlights from Amber's WordPress development lecture at CSU!

Last month, I was honored to be asked to speak as a guest lecturer to a Colorado State University website development class about what it is like to be a WordPress developer.  Below, you’ll find a video and my slides from the presentation, but first I’d like to lay a little groundwork about how I came be to an associate in the computer science department at Colorado State University and why I feel continuing education is important to success as a business owner.

Continued Education is Vital to Business Success

In January, I had reached out to the professor, Ross Beveridge, to see if I might be able to sit in on his class for the semester.  This year, I’ve made a commitment to participate in more continuing education opportunities and improve my coding skills.  I’ve been regularly attending and am now an organizer for the Fort Collins WordPress Meetup, but thought it might be useful to get an official education (of sorts) on coding since I am fully self taught.  I also decided to follow all the advice that I regularly give to the women entrepreneurs who come to Allied Women Entrepreneurs (my nonprofit) events, and seek out some additional learning opportunities for myself.  As a business owner, I have found that learning never stops, and that…

Committing time to improve general business and technical skills is key to achieving entrepreneurial success. Click To Tweet

Especially in the landscape of online marketing, where technologies and trends are ever changing, it is important to continually be developing knowledge – both to keep our business successful, but also so that we can make sure we are providing the best value to our clients, keeping their websites and online presence ahead of the curve when it comes to website design and development, social media marketing, and search engine optimization.  With this in mind, I attended two conferences already this year, Pressnomics and WooConf, and started looking for additional Fort Collins opportunities for learning and growth.

Learning to be a Web Developer at Colorado State University

As I was Googling, I came across the Colorado State University (CSU) web development class. This is an undergraduate class for computer science majors.  When I found the class website, I was excited initially because Professor Beveridge openly posts video of all of his lectures for any one to watch.  This is in the vein of the Open University culture that I saw sprouting as early as 2007 when I was working in higher education on the east coast, and universities like MIT, Yale, and Harvard were paving the way to make their lectures freely available to the public on YouTube.

At first, I was only planning to watch a handful of the lecture videos, since many of the topics they were discussing were already things that I knew how to do, but then it occurred to me to reach out to the professor and see if I could sit in.  I didn’t want to take the course officially, but I thought it might be interesting to listen live and perhaps occasionally contribute to the discussion.  More than interesting, I thought it would be fun, because I’m nerdy like that.  When I first spoke to Professor Beveridge, he was enthusiastic about the idea, as long as I was willing to regularly contribute along the way.  I agreed, so I officially became an associate in CSU’s computer science department and was able to sit in on the lectures, and regularly share my coding knowledge with the class.

The website development class started with the basics of HTML and CSS, then covered PHP, databases, and JavaScript, before moving into content management systems and WordPress.  The course outline can be found here, along with videos of all the lectures along the way.  As someone who has been a WordPress developer since 2010, I found a class which covered general website development outside the unique WordPress ecosystem fascinating.  I enjoyed the professor’s live coding examples, because I always like getting to see how others do things, but also because there were a number of things about databases and coding that I had not previously been exposed to in my experiences within WordPress – some of which I’ll be able to use, and others that are less relevant but were interesting nonetheless.

Explaining WordPress Development in 43 minutes

Towards the end of the semester, Professor Beveridge asked me if I would like to give a guest lecture about being a WordPress developer and what it means to develop WordPress websites.  I’ve been speaking more at meetups and other Fort Collins events, so I thought it might be fun – though a bit of a challenge to condense what I do into 45 minutes.  We met beforehand to talk about what he was envisioning for the class and how I might best be able to lay the groundwork to get students started if any of them wanted to try their hand at becoming a WordPress developer.

What resulted was a talk that generally introduced students to:

  • why I use WordPress,
  • what a WordPress developer does,
  • what is included in “core” WordPress files, and what can or cannot be modified,
  • how the wp_posts and wp_postmeta tables function in a WordPress database,
  • what custom post types are,
  • what WordPress widgets are,
  • what shortcodes are,
  • some very basics of theme and plugin development, and
  • a bunch of tools/resources I find useful.

It was a pretty broad overview, but I managed to fit it all in 43 minutes, which left some time for questions before they needed to get to their next class.  If you’re interested in watching the talk, Professor Beveridge was kind enough to give me the video to share.  It has a recording of my computer with the slides and a small picture of me in the corner, but might be a little more interesting than just looking at my slides.  Keep in mind, this talk was geared toward computer science students who had just about finished the class above, rather than beginners or non-developer WordPress users.

I didn’t have a script, just the slides, which means there are a fair number of “likes” and “ums” along the way, but for a first experience as a guest lecturer, I think I did pretty well.  I definitely glossed over a few things in the name of time, and don’t mind my laughter of relief at the end as I realized I did get through it all in time with two minutes to spare before the camera cuts off automatically.

Everything you need to know about WordPress development in a 43 minute video. Click To Tweet

If you would like to flip through the slides, there are links to all of the resources that I mentioned. There were shout-outs to the Genesis Framework, Desktop Server, Gravity Forms, and a huge number of other tools, books, and podcasts that I find helpful.  (Click both the right and down arrows to navigate through the slides.)


If you prefer a full-screen view over this iframe, you can access them on their own through Road Warrior Creative’s GitHub account, here.  (The easiest way to navigate through the slides there is with the space bar.)

Questions?  Feedback?

If you’re thinking about becoming a WordPress developer, and have any questions for me, I’d love to answer them.  Are you a WordPress developer already? I’d love to know what other key things you would include in a talk like this.  Let me know in the comments!

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