It’s been a few weeks since we opened the virtual doors to our exciting new programming boot camp, Shift Click, and it’s been a lot of fun so far. We wanted to put together a brief post looking at some of the lessons we’ve learned while we’ve gotten to grips with the process, and think about how things might look in the future for our cohort.
It’s been fantastic seeing our cohort come together – Shift Click learners are a diverse bunch of folks from almost the whole of Manchester, from a wide range of backgrounds and skill levels. This has meant that the initial flexible course, Introduction to Coding, has been really useful for everyone: some are taking it slowly and methodically, and some (namely those with a little existing experience on hand) have raced through the content and are now actively helping others. We’ve also noticed that people’s schedules vary a great deal, with some members of the cohort able to invest full days into the materials, and others spreading lessons out around other commitments. We secretly quite like this effect, as it means newcomers to the course never feel completely left in the dust: flexible learning means everyone will cross the line in their own way, at their own pace, supported all the way by our mentors and other learners.
More broadly, the elephant in the room is of course the ongoing Covid-19 situation that’s continuing to affect everything around us so profoundly. Shift Click had been planned and structured to be delivered both partially remotely and also physically on-site for lessons and workshops, long before the pandemic reared its head. Like so many other educational entities, we had to do some thinking about how best to deliver the course and support our learners.
In practical terms, we’re quite lucky - all of our content is available online, and our support model has transitioned quite nicely to an online-only one, for both mentor support and also keeping the peer group linked up, which is something we really didn’t want to lose. To achieve this, we’ve tried to treat Shift Click as a place of work (after all, that’s what we’re aiming our cohort at), and move the way we do things to accommodate remote learning and increasingly unpredictable timescales in the same way that a digital business would. Many of our mentors are also busy working software engineers, and we’ve tried to utilise the same new approaches that many real software houses have to ensure the machine keeps moving.
The cornerstone of the process for us is our shared Slack channel. For the uninitiated, Slack is effectively a very fancy chat room, allowing learners and mentors to talk, share code, post questions and answers, and even video call one-to-one or in groups. More importantly though, Slack is now turning into an organic peer-learning tool, where questions posed by members of the group are sometimes answered by other learners who’ve already been over the same ground. This peer learning model works super well remotely, especially at the moment when communication is often slightly more asynchronous than a classroom discussion. And of course, when mentors go a little deeper on technical questions, those answers and links are available for everyone to read and learn from.
Pleasingly, learners are also using this shared space to exchange ways of learning, too. While we’re delivering content and support, learners often find different ways to take notes and digest complex content, some of which is now being shared between the cohort. For example, one learner has been building up a glossary of tricky code examples and new terminology, which he’s freely shared with the rest of the group digitally: an open-source approach to learning is one we enthusiastically encourage!
The larger Full Stack Web Development course is much more structured than the self-directed beginner’s course, and will definitely be more of a logistical challenge to deliver when it begins in a few months. This course has a stronger emphasis on timetabled learning and peer group lessons, and so greater thought will need to go into ensuring everyone’s getting a solid and well-supported experience from the get-go. As before, we plan on treating this process as we would if we were transitioning a business into a remote model, and for us this is a good exercise: studies are already showing that a significant percentage of companies plan on retaining elements of remote working even post-pandemic, with some companies going as far as suggesting they’d go entirely remote. Ultimately, learners moving into careers will need to be equipped with skills and knowledge to handle anything this kind of exciting career throws at them, and we’re treating the ongoing disruption as part and parcel of the learning process.
We’ll be sure to post back once the Full Stack course is underway, and in the meantime if you’re interested in joining the Shift Click cohort, do check out our website or our introductory post for the full picture.
Shift Click is the best start for a possible future in coding – a chance to learn valuable skills and boost your career prospects.