Inside This Article


 

The Codesmith team understands that the best way for people to learn is alongside a community. So when they launched Codesmith CSX, a free online learning platform to prepare people for coding bootcamps, user interaction was front and center. Codesmith Senior Product Manager Haley Godtfredsen tells us all about the CSX curriculum, how to navigate the online platform, how users can take part in weekly pair programming sessions, and she gives us a demo of a CSX coding challenge!

Q&A

What's your background and your role at Codesmith?

I'm a Senior Product Manager at Codesmith and I’m taking the lead on our new product – the CSX online learning platform. I've also been a Codesmith coach for about two years.

My background is mostly in Python but I was excited about learning JavaScript and came to some of Codesmith’s free events to learn more. I loved the teaching style and loved the team. After meeting them I thought, "I need to work here!" My coworkers are so passionate and excited about technology, and it's a very fast and iterative environment, which I love. So I’m excited to bring the learning experience to a lot more people online.

Can you tell us exactly what CSX is and why you are working on it?

CSX is an online advanced JavaScript learning platform. It has challenges, video recordings, and READMEs about different core fundamentals of JavaScript.

The core of Codesmith is our 12-week residency in Los Angeles and New York. We have tons of applicants coming from other cities and countries and we didn't have many resources to help get them into the community besides our weekly live stream of our JavaScript The Hard Parts course on YouTube.

As a more advanced program, people usually need to refine their skills or learn more JavaScript to get accepted – we were constantly pushing applicants towards different resources to prepare for Codesmith. So we thought, “why aren’t we doing it ourselves and giving people the exact fundamental knowledge they need to know coming into Codesmith?” With CSX, we are doing just that.

Is CSX just for students thinking about applying to Codesmith or can anyone do it?

Anybody can do it, and we already have such a range of users. Some of our students are preparing for Codesmith and other coding bootcamps as well. I've talked to people who manage engineering teams who use our platform to better understand the technology that their engineering team works with, or maybe they're fluent in Python but want to try JavaScript.

For now, CSX is a free program, so it’s available for anyone who wants to pick up some JavaScript. But there is a special focus for people who are preparing for Codesmith and giving them the tools and knowledge we expect from applicants in our technical interviews.

How long does it take to graduate from the CSX program?

It's different depending on what background you're coming in with, and how much time per week you're going to be putting toward learning. It's a completely free online program, and people can take it at their own pace. For someone who is less experienced, it could take them up to 60 hours. For someone who is more experienced, it would take less time than that.

Can you give me an overview of the CSX curriculum?

CSX starts with a pre-course which takes you into the basics of JavaScript, starting with variables, then moving up to loops and arrays. Then you move on to functions and execution context, callbacks and higher-order functions, closures, execution context and scope, and then asynchronous JavaScript. We also are about to release an object-oriented programming unit.

For those students taking the free version of CSX, do they work with instructors or is it mainly solo learning?

We really wanted to bring a community to the online space with CSX. Our weekly in-person workshops are focused on community. We make sure everyone feels comfortable and able to really put their best foot forward with learning because they're not worried about being competitive or asking a silly question.

All of our CSX videos are taught by our CEO Will Sentance, who is one of the top Front End Masters instructors. If you have questions while you're going through the free program, we have weekly half-hour office hours to ask a mentor or the CSX staff questions about the program itself or about a specific challenge.

If you have any questions, you can just shoot that into the general Slack channel and one of the mentors usually answers within a couple of hours. Other students also answer questions and help each other out on Slack, which is really exciting to see.

In addition to prepping for the Codesmith application process, what is the overall goal of CSX? What will students be able to build or do when they finish?

CSX is structured around a core Codesmith value: teaching students how to teach themselves. In this world of technology, things are always changing. The next thing is always right around the corner, and it doesn't help to get yourself in a very small hole by just being an expert in one technology. You need to know how to learn new technologies and new concepts. And that's what we want to bring to CSX as well.

There’s a lot more to being a software engineer than just understanding the technology. We also focus on technical communication and problem-solving, student pair program on a weekly basis to interact with other programmers and work on those skills. One way to understand a concept is by explaining that concept to someone else. We expect students to come out of CSX with a refined ability to tackle any type of problem, whether they've seen that problem before on CSX or not.

The other goal is to have a core knowledge of the fundamentals of JavaScript. We have a project called Building a Chrome Extension that allows people to dive into the nitty-gritty of JavaScript. The practice problems are amazing and allow you to get to know each concept, but building a project helps you understand how things work together and how to use all the resources the internet can provide.

It’s cool that CSX students actually build a real project.

Yeah. We also award scholarship opportunities based on submissions of that Chrome Extension project. Recently, students had two weeks to build a Chrome Extension and our team awarded a 25% scholarship to Codesmith to the winner.

Okay, Haley – share your screen and show us what CSX looks like!


 

The CSX layout:

Where should users start?

Watch the video to see Haley walk through the CSX unit about Variables.

It's awesome for people to be able to connect and work through problems with people around the world. Online learning can often be very solitary and it's hard to keep motivated when it's just you in your room alone. We do a lot of pair programming in our full program and in our in-person events, so we wanted to bring that to the online space.

How can students pair program on CSX?

What are “navigators” and “drivers” in pair programming?

How is CSX different from other free online resources like Codecademy?

I'm a huge fan of Codecademy, but what we wanted to bring to our CSX is really hard learning. Hard learning isn't done best by yourself. It's easy to stop, hit a block, and not want to continue. We wanted to supplement that with live workshops that complement each unit that we have filmed live, as well as videos on CSX, weekly pair programming, and weekly office hours to give people that actual push.

If you have questions and you're struggling, you have other people to work with and you have mentors to ask questions. We think that you learn from hitting a block and working through it, as opposed to being walked through a programming tutorial like Codecademy.

How often do students actually get accepted into Codesmith (or other coding bootcamps) after going through CSX.

Since CSX is relatively new, we don't have any hard data on this. We have a lot of students in our most recent cohort who have been using it. And talking to them, it sounds like it was really helpful. I do think that it's helping our students start off on the right foot.

How else can students prepare for Codesmith?

We're releasing two new programs in March that are more structured, paid versions of CSX. The Live Online program is two weeks long, and is a version of the free program condensed into a two-week program, with three weeknights and one weekend day per week, with live instructors and office hours, and a focus on problem solving and technical communication.

Then we have a self-directed four-week program, which you can take as long as you want to finish. There's no focus on how far you get through it, but there are weekly personalized office hours, assessments, and pair programming with a mentor who can help you through if you're struggling. That course ends with a mock interview for Codesmith, to prepare you for the real thing.

There will be scholarships available for these programs. And if you are accepted into Codesmith, that tuition comes out of the full bootcamp tuition.

What's your advice for students who are considering this CSX program?

Set yourself up with goals and the achievable tasks to get to those goals. Make a plan and commit a certain number of hours per week, making sure that your schedule allows for that. Pair programming is important, and using to those office hours is super important too.

It's easy to stop when you’re learning online, so remember that there is a real community to take part in. Ask questions on Slack, meet other students on Slack, come to in-person events, or attend a live stream. Set yourself up with the expectation that it's not going to be easy. The CSX program is a really great path with a lot of support.

My best advice: be ready to hit blocks and then be ready to solve them.

Find out more and read Codesmith reviews on Course Report. Check out the Codesmith website.

About The Author

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Imogen is a writer and content producer who loves writing about technology and education. Her background is in journalism, writing for newspapers and news websites. She grew up in England, Dubai and New Zealand, and now lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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