You may know Codesmith as an immersive bootcamp in New York and Los Angeles, but did you know that Codesmith just launched its Part-time Remote Software Engineering Immersive? Lead Instructor, Shane Taylor, answers all of our questions about this new option! We cover the curriculum, time commitments, prereqs, instructors, teaching style, and what Shane is most excited about for this course.
What do you do as a Lead Instructor at Codesmith?
As the Lead Instructor, I am responsible for outlining all of the curricula and setting up the schedule that students will follow throughout the Part-time Remote Software Engineering Immersive. I teach a majority of the lectures in the program. For these first couple of cohorts, I'm involved in everything from running the helpdesk after lectures to being with the students as they work through the units.
How did you get into programming?
In middle school, I loved making websites with my friends on Geocities. As I got older, I was still deep into the nerdy fun computer stuff but I was also inspired by my mom to get into social work. I have a degree in social work and I worked as a Case Manager for years, working with folks who were exiting incarceration and experiencing homelessness. It was amazing, but it wasn’t the big impact scope that I was looking for.
There are a lot of coding bootcamps these days – what inspired you to work at Codesmith in particular?
Codesmith has been teaching in-person for over five years. Why have you decided to bring the bootcamp online?
What motivated the next step forward for Codesmith to create a Part-Time Remote Software Engineering program was specifically access. What it came down to was making the teaching style of Codesmith accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world. Folks in Nigeria or Australia or Delaware should all be able to access an online program.
The reality of an onsite immersive program is that you have to quit your job. You can't work a full-time job and then do a full six days a week at Codesmith. The hours are 9am-8pm in the onsite immersive. We wanted to make sure that the program was also accessible to folks who needed to maintain a full-time job or maybe have commitments to family and other things in their lives. Both the physical access and the ability to work full-time while going through this part-time program were the big inspirations.
Aside from being online and part-time, will the curriculum be the exact same as Codesmith's in-person bootcamp?
The curriculum will be exactly the same. We'll have Hack Hours in the mornings and all of the projects from the onsite Codesmith program those will all be present in the remote immersive as well. Students will build the same quality of production projects that we see come out of the onsite programs.
The specifics of the Remote hiring program also get me excited! We’re bringing our amazing New York and Los Angeles hiring programs to the online space by working with each student individually. We'll be able to work with each student to tailor the hiring program to the region that they're in and the kind of job that they're looking for.
What is the time commitment for the new online remote course and how long will it take somebody to finish the class?
The part-time program is 9-months long and students attend class Monday-Thursday 5pm-8pm Pacific Time and Saturdays 9am-3pm Pacific Time. We don’t want to cut any corners. We want to make sure that we have the same level of quality for the remote program as we do for the onsite program. We need to make enough time to get pair-programming, lectures, feedback time, and all of the project work time. What we're aiming to do with this schedule is to minimize the amount of time that students have to be doing homework.
You're not expecting students to have to put in any additional hours doing homework?
Correct. In the process of creating the schedule that we’re using for the beta cohort, we realized it was a large time commitment. So we baked two Break Weeks into that 9-months. We're breaking the program up into three portions:
Final Production Launch and Hiring Program
During Break Weeks, you're not expected to do any homework. You're expected to rejuvenate yourself, reconnect with your friends and family, and have some semblance of life again before you dive into the next portion.
What does the online learning platform look like?
The way that we're delivering the program is a combination of Zoom video sessions, Slack, and GitHub to send out the curriculum and lectures. We will also be using VS Code Live Share in combination with Zoom for pair programming. You get a pair programming partner for each unit and you work together for that unit’s challenges, practicing technical communication, and engineering empathy. We're able to do that with the breakout rooms in Zoom and the VS Code Live Share even if you're halfway across the world from each other.
Will students be meeting with a live instructor for every class?
It will be live instruction every time! The Lead Technical Mentor (LTM) will be there giving live instruction. Using Zoom we will be able to have a dialogue back and forth, direct questions to the classroom, making sure everyone's on the same page, checking for understanding, and going into nuances of the concepts and frameworks that we're working with.
Will this course offer help outside of class time?
Yes! We'll have a Helpdesk in Slack. You'll be able to submit any challenges that you're running into and ask for additional help there. That will be present two hours before and an hour after as well as during the class time. The Helpdesk will be staffed to be able to give live help during those set times but we'll also work with people directly if their schedules are outside of the Pacific Timezone to schedule direct time on our calendars if those office hours don't work for them.
We'll do a shared screen together via Zoom and walk through the code together. Often times help at Codesmith looks less like, "Change this bit of syntax here," and more like instructors asking leading questions to get residents to come to the answer themselves so that they can better internalize what they're learning.
Are there any timezone requirements for this course?
They'll need to be able to tune in on Pacific Time to participate. If they can make that work in their schedule, we're happy to have them no matter what timezone they're in. Some of the folks that have already been accepted into the program are in Nigeria and Australia.
Who is the ideal student for the remote bootcamp? Is it the same as onsite?
The same five core capacities that we look for for the onsite program we're also looking for in the remote program. Those are:
analytical problem solving
demonstration of commitment
We're looking for folks who can demonstrate that they can make a long term commitment and see it through. It's extra helpful if you've participated in online communities in the past. That doesn't mean that you had to be a forum moderator somewhere or some big leader, but some demonstration that you've found benefit from in an online community, can appreciate them, and are excited to be an active participant in this online community.
Is the admissions process different for the remote program?
The admissions process looks exactly the same for the remote program as it does for the onsite program. The process looks like:
Those same steps still apply. We ask a few additional questions in the initial application and initial interview to get a sense of folks’ readiness to commit to the online community. Aside from that, the application process is exactly the same.
Teaching online is different than teaching in person. How will you support students who might be falling behind or are less engaged online?
Engagement is going to be absolutely critical. Codesmith Residents will be required to have their webcam and access to their microphone turned on during class. It's tempting to be in an online classroom and have a distraction open in another tab. We want to limit that as much as possible. Part of how we'll do that is through interaction and asking questions. If it looks like you're reading something else, I'll likely notice that and ask you a question about the code that we're looking at.
The onsite Codesmith program has a reputation for moving extremely fast. It's a firehose of information, we like to say. In the remote program, obviously that time is going to be more spread out but folks will still need additional support. We've worked assessments into the curriculum after every three units.
Each time residents take those assessments we grade them and give what we call academic progress checks (APCs). That's where we check-in and review any pieces that folks might have room for improvement for based on their assessment. Those are done one-on-one outside of the scheduled class time. We work with residents directly to come in an hour before or after class to do that APC to make sure that we connect over those pieces of the curriculum that aren't quite solid yet.
Can residents repeat a module?
All of the lecture slides are accessible to residents after they take the program. They'll have access to all of the GitHub repos that store the curriculum. At any time they can go back through the units and get another brush at the things that they're finding challenging. Residents often do that, come in on a Sunday and set up study groups, in the onsite program. I'm hoping to see that kind of community engagement and excitement about learning in the online program as well.
Codesmith graduates have a reputation for getting jobs as Senior or Mid-Level Developers. Do you expect students will get those same types of jobs after the remote program?
One of the reasons I chose Codesmith is because we're so intentional about this. The biggest lesson that we're taking over to our remote program is this knowledge that defining culture takes time energy and effort. It's not something that comes by virtue of magic or picking the right people, whatever that is. It comes about by putting in the time and commitment to the students and delivering that heartfelt culture and community that I value so much in the onsite programs.
The onsite program that I went through in Los Angeles definitely changed my life and I formed life long friendships out of that. We want to take all of that commitment and effort that goes into making that culture from the onsite program and bringing that all to the remote program. That's been a big intention of a lot of the meetings that we've had and the planning that's gone into this. That's why the curriculum is structured in the way that it is.
We're not having folks work a whole bunch outside of their scheduled hours.
How are you going to bring those lessons to this online course?
We want folks to be able to connect while they're working. A huge benefit you get is practice explaining your technical approach to someone but also talking about your favorite dogs or which coats you follow on Instagram. Those human touches make such a big difference. The emotional realities of going through a program like this are something that you can't underestimate. We want to support the residents in the program and help them love the time that they got to spend working on a curriculum and being a part of the program.
You're emphasizing the time that you're spending in the online classroom and not putting a ton of emphasis on the outside of the classroom time that you're spending.
Is there any advice that you have for a student who is about to do an online bootcamp program to change careers?
Be honest with yourself about what you're looking for and what you need help with or might struggle with. I knew someone who used to teach at a coding bootcamp. They had negative things to say about their experience teaching there and it turned me off to coding bootcamps internally. I wasn't into them as a concept for quite a while. What it took for me to give any coding bootcamp a fair chance was to look at what I did well and what I struggled with. I struggled with being my own structure creator and enforcer. Learning on my own worked for some of the entry-level positions that I was getting as a Front End Developer but to do the hard learning I needed some structure.