Ahmed Omran is a passionate educator, web developer, and graduate of HackerYou in Toronto. Here, Ahmed describes "Learning Velocity," a measure of bootcamp efficacy, and how bootcamps can help their students accelerate through the course. Whether you're a student looking for advice or a bootcamp administrator looking to improve your students’ learning velocity, Ahmed is always available for a chat. Feel free to reach out to him on Twitter.
I was part of HackerYou’s first immersive development program as a student and later helped build the curriculum for subsequent cohorts. If there is one thing that I believe people should really focus on in bootcamps it's Learning Velocity. It's an informal measure of how much a person learns per unit of time. Keeping a high and consistent learning velocity is crucial.
If a student gets stuck then the learning stops and in a bootcamp environment students can't afford to fall behind. The learning obstacle needs to be dealt with right away. The student should of course try to "figure it out" but if it’s been 20 minutes and there is no progress then it’s time to ask for help. Taking enough time to figure it out -- without efficient help -- results in stress, tension and demotivation.
If the student is getting frustrated it's because they are not seeing the options that are available to them. They need someone to widen the lens by asking questions that lead to more options. A teacher/mentor/peer needs to use "growth responses" to point the student in the right direction. Answers get the student unstuck once but growth responses help the learner see how to navigate problems in a repeatable way.
Not all bootcamp experiences are equal. If you're considering applying to a program then you need to do your research and find out if the bootcamp has the proper support system. Find out if the bootcamp uses timely growth responses to keep learning velocity high. Ask them if they are committed to your learning velocity and what concrete steps do they take to accomplish this commitment.
Once you are immersed in the intense bootcamp experience make full use of the support system. Ask for help and advice as much as possible, ask questions about the material, and ask questions about your interests beyond the official curriculum. Don’t let pride, shyness or anything else get in the way of your learning. Your teachers, mentors and peers are there for a short period of time to help you so use the support system unabashedly.
To give you an example, HackerYou has a 1-to-8 mentor to student ratio and they use an app that my team developed to manage student questions efficiently. When HY students are working on a project and they get stuck, they communicate to everyone that they're stuck and the support system (mentors, teachers, peers) kicks in to get them help within minutes.
Bootcamps are a big departure from traditional education. Their immersive, intense instruction style has the potential to change our mainstream education system forever. But this is only if the proper structures are developed to ensure learning velocity stays high and no one falls behind or drops out who is genuinely trying.