Written By Jess Feldman
Lighthouse Labs recognizes that people from diverse backgrounds and with varied experiences enrich tech teams and organizations. With that in mind, Amanda Sterling, the Academic Accommodations and Accessibility Expert at Lighthouse Labs, is on hand to ensure that students with different learning styles have the support they need as they complete the program. From the hands-on curriculum to personalized mentorship, Amanda explains how Lighthouse Labs has created an adaptable program that equips students with different learning abilities with the skills they need to launch their tech career.
Amanda, what is your role at Lighthouse Labs?
I am the Academic Accommodations and Accessibility Specialist at Lighthouse Labs. My role was developed due to a recognized need to strengthen the capacity to support students with diverse learning needs. Presently, I am a team of one, however, I work closely with our Enrollment and Education Delivery Teams to ensure that anything we do on the Accommodations side is practical and scalable from a curriculum and implementation perspective.
I believe that online learning helps reduce barriers to accessing high-quality education opportunities for many students, which is why I am very passionate about this subject. Students have access to a range of Instructors and Mentors who have up-to-date knowledge and relevant experience of the industry without geographical constraints due to the remote nature of the course delivery. Additionally, online learning offers a high level of autonomy and flexibility as students can configure their systems and environments in a way that supports how they learn best.
What is your background with accessibility and academic accommodations?
My background in accessibility and accommodations stems from both professional and academic experience as I have worked with a diverse population in a frontline and advocacy capacity. I have a Bachelor's in Human Services and a Master’s in Interdisciplinary Studies, during which I focused heavily on building inclusive communities and the value this brings as well as human-centered design.
Lighthouse Labs works with so many different students each year! How do you and your team identify incoming students with special needs and different learning styles?
We want to ensure that every aspect of their experience is the best possible for all students, so making sure that they have the support they need to fully engage with learning from day 1 is a priority.
We encourage students to discuss potential accommodation needs as early as possible during the admissions and enrollment process. I am available to meet with students who have questions before applying, and will support the student throughout the application process. Sometimes members of the Education Delivery team will refer students to me once their program has started and students encounter challenges related to a disability. In this case, I attempt to expedite their meetings and discuss solutions, but again, it is a smoother process if we can meet and implement any accommodations from the start!
What kinds of needs is Lighthouse Labs equipped to support?
I would invite any student who feels that they could benefit from additional support or who has questions about accessibility to contact me. I am happy to discuss their individual concerns and whether an accommodation plan might be appropriate. I hesitate to formulate a list at the risk of omitting something — People who share a similar learning challenge may have vastly different support needs ranging from extensive to none at all. I work cross-departmentally to ensure that the accommodations offered are practical and can be implemented without having a negative impact on the student’s experience. In some cases this can take some time for planning.
How is Lighthouse Labs prepared to meet the needs of students with different learning styles and needs?
I firmly believe in an individualized, person-centered approach; as such, I meet with students to discuss their concerns and strategize about what they need to get the most out of their experience. This may involve creating an accommodation plan, helping identify financial resources for students with disabilities, or simply discussing some strategies the student can employ to help manage their workload.
How does your team intervene? Do students with special needs and/or specific learning styles receive more one-on-one coaching?
It depends. If the student has an accommodation plan, I am available to meet with them upon request throughout the student journey, but I will also check in at predefined checkpoints. We also collect feedback after the student graduates to help continually improve our practices.
Our courses are designed in such a way that all students have access to a very robust support system. Students can meet with Mentors with practical experience in their chosen fields during predefined hours, and during this time, there is no limit on how much interaction a student can have. Our Career Services team also offers comprehensive preparation for job seekers by design, but students can certainly focus more on specific concerns during sessions with the Career Services team.
Why is it important to help students successfully graduate from Lighthouse Labs, regardless of the challenges that they may face?
People with disabilities are underrepresented within the tech industry, and yet we know that organizations are stronger when they employ people from diverse backgrounds, with varied experiences. Supporting students with diverse learning needs in getting into the tech sector can spark new innovations and create opportunities for people in a sector that is well-positioned to address accessibility challenges through the vast number of tools available. I am proud to be able to support students in their learning journey as they work toward rewarding careers in tech.
What can neurodiverse students gain from Lighthouse Labs?
Our programs can be an excellent option for people who may otherwise struggle in a traditional classroom setting. A remote learning experience allows students to control their environment and work from a comfortable space, which is an essential foundation for effective learning. Students also have autonomy over scheduling breaks between assignments which is helpful for those who hyperfocus and those who like to break up work sessions into shorter time segments. Our Web Development Flex Program is also an excellent option for students who need more time to process material between sessions.
The learning experience is so important, but does your team guide students into jobs or companies that support them as well?
Yes, career services is very tailored to individual needs. If a student identifies an area where they require more preparation or assistance than this can be focused on. Our Career Services team considers each student's skills, goals, and experience when helping them prepare for the job search, interviewing, and contract negotiation. Our connections with industry-leading employers are also crucial in assisting students in finding the right fit. This works pretty well as our graduates achieve a more than 90% employment rate across programs.
Jess Feldman is an accomplished writer and the Content Manager at Course Report, the leading platform for career changers who are exploring coding bootcamps.
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