LearningFuze bootcamps are usually taught in southern California, but have moved completely online due to COVID-19. Cody Miller, an instructor of the Full Immersion Program, Cody walks us through the differences between the online and in-person immersive, gives us a virtual tour of the LearningFuze online classroom, and shares advice for students who want to do well in an online bootcamp.
How did you get into tech, Cody?
I didn't take a traditional path into tech. I had been working in special needs care for 10 years, with a focus on kids with autism. My girlfriend still works in the industry and I love that I still get to talk to her about it, but it had reached a point where it wasn't economically viable anymore. I needed to make a change. A family member suggested I look into software engineering, so I started by looking at bootcamps and the rest is history! I attended LearningFuze in 2017, learned to code, and now I get to continue teaching and coding every day.
What has LearningFuze's reaction been to COVID-19? Are all classes online?
All classes are moving online for now; everything we do now is remote. The good news is that before that decision had been made, we were already in the planning process for opening up a remote course because we saw this coming. The day that the California Governor gave the Stay at Home order, we already had a plan ready to go. We chatted with our students and prepared them to make the transition. We had one day devoted to set up and then we picked right back up the next day.
What did you notice that the most successful students have done as they shifted to remote learning?
The biggest keys to success are being able to have a dedicated work area and still being engaged in the community from a distance.
One of the realities of working from home is that we're surrounded by all of these distractions that can make it hard to focus on work when you need to. I always recommend that my students set up a work area where they're not going to be interrupted. We work hard to continue to foster community with our students. Remote learning makes that more challenging. We're trying to offset that by creating events with our students. We've set up gameday gatherings where we play remote online games together. We have tea time video chats. We have dedicated channels for discussion of non-tech topics in our Slack. We're trying to make sure that our students have that opportunity for community. The students that take advantage of that always do well because they find the fellow students that have strengths and they can build a collective base of knowledge.
Do you have any advice for students who are setting up their remote workspace?
Multiple monitors are a huge help. When you're working in code there's a likelihood that you'll have one window that you're doing research in, one with code, and then maybe even one more with the live version of the code you're working on. Working off of one monitor makes that a slog. I work with three monitors and even then I still run out of space sometimes.
Having a dedicated keyboard and mouse instead of using the one on your laptop can help quite a bit too. And make sure you have a good chair! It’s super easy to mess up your back.
LearningFuze is moving classes online for now. But will you be launching a full-time remote immersive even after things settle down?
In the wake of the switch, we're discovering that our curriculum was perfectly suited to make the jump to the remote setting. We're planning on launching a remote full immersion program so that people can still take LearningFuze remotely. It also opens the door for us to have students outside of California which is exciting too!
How has LearningFuze been ensuring that remote students won't be missing out on anything that in-person students would normally get?
Ostensibly we've lost a lot of opportunity for interacting with others by moving to the remote model. We actually offer the same things that we did before but we've made adjustments to make them compatible with a Zoom meeting or through Slack.
Before going remote, we offered Lunch and Learns where someone from the industry came in and talked to students during lunchtime. We've switched to having our Lunch and Learn guests on a Zoom call. We've been using the ‘Ask Me Anything’ format so that students can ask about things that they want to know from our guests. We're still doing student project demonstration days – we call them Demo Days. We're going to be doing those by way of sharing screens during a Zoom call in breakout rooms. And we still have our group capstone projects as well. Students are doing their final projects with Zoom workspaces.
Where are your students in the curriculum right now?
I teach the first half of the LearningFuze program. My cohort finished their first hackathon this week. They did that for two full days. Yesterday we did code reviews. They are about to start their curriculum on object-oriented programming tomorrow. There is also another Senior cohort that is getting started on their final projects.
How did you orchestrate a remote hackathon?
Had we been in person all of the students would have been put into a group. They would circle up their desks in the classroom and have a dedicated work area where they could collaborate. To do it remotely we kept it a group-oriented project the only difference is that students are grouped in a breakout room in Zoom that way everyone can work in their groups without distractions. They can come back to the main session if they have questions, much like raising their hand in a classroom.
What does the remote classroom look like at LearningFuze?
We use GitHub and Visual Studio Code to disseminate our curriculum and as a way for students to turn in their work. We use Slack for any written communication and question help outside of class. Then we use Zoom for instruction.
We recommend Visual Studio Code as our text editor or code editor for our students. We created a Visual Studio Code repository that contains our work and a list of all of our lessons which are organized in subfolders that have any documents you might need as well as a readme that has instructions. Students can view all of the lesson instructions in your code editor if you want to. We also host all of this on GitHub. There's a GitHub repository for each lesson. When we go through our lessons we'll send over the link to the exercise the student will be working on through the Zoom chat. That sends them to a page that details the instructions of what they'll be doing.
The lessons are also sent to the students in their Slack channel as we progress through the curriculum. Once one topic is done, I'll let them know what the next thing is that we'll be working on and give them a direct link to it. We have a Slack channel for each cohort where we share links to documents they might need, slideshows, videos, and the most pertinent instruction for the course in that channel.
We also have a few other channels that every cohort has access to. We have a few "off-topic" channels. We have one called "Adaptation to Remote Learning" where all of our students get to be in the same room and chat about what they're working through. There's a lot of humor on the off-topic channels. Slack helps our students keep active non-coding related community interactions.
We also have a channel dedicated to pull requests. Pull requests are a way that you can tell others you’ve made changes to some code on GitHub. We use it as a way for students to turn in their work. They can send the Slack channel a link to their pull request to get feedback. And we have a channel for each cohort called the "Question Queue" where any student from that cohort can go to ask questions and get help from the instructors.
Our classes take place on Zoom. The students are meeting with their cohort and instructor on Zoom every day. Our instructional hours are from 10am-6pm aside from the lunch hour from 1:30pm-2:30pm. We have a Zoom call with all instructors active at all times during instructional hours. Even though it's remote it feels like we're in a shared space and we can chat with each other if we need to. That makes it feel like a classroom experience.
What’s your teaching style like and how has that changed as you've moved to remote instruction?
I haven't had to change my teaching style too much for the remote transition. My teaching style is derived from enthusiasm and excitement for the concepts. That tends to mean that I'm a bit loud! But my students can see and feel how excited I am about this subject. My students hopefully get to have some of that enthusiasm rub off onto them by way of passion for coding.
The one major difference that I feel like I've had to take in is that when I was in person, I would walk around the classroom to easily check in with students. Unfortunately I don't have that luxury anymore. To offset that, we're doing direct check-ins with each student throughout the day. We've adapted to communicating more directly through Zoom or Slack.
What changes has LearningFuze made to assist students in the remote job search?
Not a whole lot has changed as far as the process for applying for jobs. The job market, of course, is adapting to the situation so we're trying to find ways to change things up by getting our students projects to work on. Our career services still begin in week one of the program. We start out by having our students polish up their resumes, build out a properly formatted Linkedin, start in on networking, and attending remote meetups. We still do mock-interviews with our students via Zoom.
Historically, we've given our students the freedom to come to our campus to get work done if they want to after graduation but they could also work from home and have remote check-ins with us. Now we do remote check-ins for all graduates. Our Career Services Director, TJ, does weekly check-ins with graduates to have a job search chat. All of that is still progressing the same way that it was before.
Have you had a cohort of students start the full job search remotely yet?
We had a cohort graduate recently. They're doing pretty well. Job offers are still happening and they're getting out there and hitting the pavement and talking to people. If you get out there and network and talk to people, then things happen. Thankfully it's a pretty immortal industry. Tech is always going to be vital. Even now with the remote option for everybody, digitalization has become vital. There is no lack of work for us. If anything it's a slight adjustment while companies adapt to hiring remotely.
What's the best advice that you've heard from a student or instructor about how to get a job after graduating from a remote bootcamp in this climate?
It might sound kitschy but the best tip is to stay active. The worst thing you could do for yourself is throw out some resumes and wait to hear from them. Hit the ground running. Job searching is basically a job. You should have a routine. Put out resumes and talk to people every day! You should be devoting multiple hours every day to getting out there and networking or looking for job listings. The people who do that and are constantly staying up to date are going to be more successful. Those are the people we see get jobs within weeks.
Are you expecting to see an influx in demand from people who have lost their jobs in service industries? Where should a beginner start?
We definitely expect an influx of bootcampers during this time. The good news is, we're prepared for that. As we start to get new people coming in, our ultimate goal is to help them understand the journey they're embarking on. We don't want people to feel like this is going to be an easy transition. Obviously, we try to make it as easy as we can with the curriculum but learning code is hard.
When we talk with an interested applicant, we always make sure that they're ready and willing to put in the time and energy they need to succeed in this. That's actually one of the things that we're most worried about – there may be other bootcamps that don't have a screening process and might be taking advantage of the situation. Learning how to code is a journey but it can be done by anyone. If you've got the hustle, you can do it.
Are there intro programs at LearningFuze?
Yeah! We offer Root Level 1 which is the introduction to HTML and CSS. Root Level 1 is mandatory for anybody moving into the full immersion program so that we know our students have exposure to the basics coming in and our style of teaching. Root Level 1 is free to anybody who comes to attend an info session with us. If you want to see how we teach, I encourage you to attend an info session.
Why is this a good time for someone to make a career change into tech?
In the wake of this pandemic, everybody has to figure out how to continue business remotely and how to do things digitally. There's a huge influx of companies that realized that they needed to develop a better web presence and find tools that they could work with their clients remotely. As soon as the hiring process gets more steady, we expect a huge rise in employment going forward because of all of the companies that are going to need to put more attention to digitalization.