What inspired you to start DecodeMTL?
At the time we started Decode, there was nothing like it in Montreal. We were two partners with a very complementary skill set – I was on the business side and Ziad on the technical side. Ziad was teaching me and a few others some basic coding skills in the evenings. More and more people wanted to join in, and eventually it turned into a full-fledged coding bootcamp. Ziad always had a very strong passion for mentoring, and I have a strong passion for creating. Combined, our passions have created something we are extremely proud of. To this day, our driving factor is hearing another happy student tell us about their new jobs. We have a little bit more about DecodeMTL and our history on our website.
Why did DecodeMTL decide to introduce a remote online program?
It’s quite simple: people were asking for it. Montreal is the largest city in Quebec, but the province itself is huge. About 80% of the population does not live in Montreal. Relocation costs or traveling can be time-consuming and expensive. Bringing the experience directly to our remote students would allow those who otherwise could not take our course to enroll.
The remote program is not just limited to Quebec though, it’s available globally. We feel that our bootcamp is extremely competitive on a global level, as the value of the Canadian dollar is relatively cheap compared to the US dollar or Euro. So being able to take advantage of this without relocating is quite beneficial.
There are a lot of flexible, part-time online bootcamps – why do you think full-time better for students?
One option is not necessarily better than the other. It depends on your learning style, the time you can commit, and your ultimate goal. Our focus is on people looking to enter the job market as a web or software developer. We also cater to an audience that has been doing some self-learning for a few months prior, or already has the basics down, and they know 100% that they want a career switch. When you have that level of commitment, a full-time intensive bootcamp such as ours is their fastest option into a new job.
Is this synchronous learning? Are all students required to be online at the same time?
Yes, this is a synchronous bootcamp. It’s an intensive, full-time bootcamp. Our students should know that we require them to be online from 10am - 9pm almost every day. Our teachers and the other students are all online, and we are connected via video chat the entire day.
Will the learning style mimic an in-person bootcamp? What does the online learning platform look like?
The learning style does mimic an in-person bootcamp. As I mentioned previously it is a synchronous program and everyone is required to be online at the same time. Typically, we will do a lecture in the morning, which is live-streamed by the teacher to all the remote students. Much like in our live classroom, remote students may ask questions on the spot, answer questions, and have discussions with the other students and teacher all in real time. Our class size is small, so it’s pretty intimate and after the first week, people really start to get to know each other. Our afternoons and evenings are more project-based. We will keep a Zoom chat open with all the remote students and teaching assistants. Everyone will be muted, and whenever you have an issue or question you can summon a teaching assistant, or ask it out loud to the whole group. It’s literally the closest thing to being in a physical classroom as possible.
Our online learning platform is quite simple. We use a combination of GitHub for assignments and code samples, Slack for most communication, and Zoom for video chat.
How often does your team update or iterate on the curriculum and what is the process for that?
Every cohort sees an update to the curriculum. To date, there has not been one cohort where the curriculum did not change in one way or another. The last change we made was to condense the HTML/CSS portion of the course (and require more prior knowledge of this before acceptance) and replace it with a 5 day Full-Stack project, done as a team. This is the first of two major full-stack projects that our students will build.
How do you train instructors to teach a brand new curriculum or updates to the curriculum?
Our instructors, like all good developers, are continuous learners. They are constantly taking courses, reading books, and tinkering with new tech. As a team, they take full ownership of the curriculum, and by doing so, teaching comes very naturally to them. They are teaching things they know, and things they are passionate about.
How many instructors teach the Remote students, and what will the instructor: student ratio be? How will students and instructors communicate, and how often?
We have 1 lead instructor who teaches the main curriculum from start to finish. We then have 3-4 teaching assistants who help with the project work. We have a 1:10 or less teacher/student ratio.
They will communicate via Slack and Zoom on a daily basis. We are connected face-to-face all day, 5 days a week. There is really no room for slacking. We want to ensure our remote students benefit from the same level of intensity as our in-person class, so we stay connected all the time.
Tell me about the ideal students for the new remote program. Are you looking for students with programming experience or a certain background?
Our program is really designed for career switchers. At a minimum, you should know that you want to be a developer, and ideally, you’ve done or experienced coding. For remote students, we do need people who are a bit more autonomous than the in-person course. You need to be comfortable sitting in your home office 8+ hours a day, grinding away. Typically gamers, online poker players, or people who have previous remote experience know what this is like. As long as you come in with the right mindset, create yourself a quiet workspace at home where you won’t be distracted, you will be fine.
What can applicants expect from the admissions process?
Do you have assessments or a way to track how students are progressing through the remote program?
Currently, we do not have assessments. We can measure a student's progress with the quality of their coursework and are able to accurately pinpoint the students progressing slower or faster than average.
Within the first two weeks, if students have fallen too far behind we will give them the option to drop-out and rejoin another cohort. Repeating individual modules is not currently possible.
Would you recommend taking a pre-course before the remote bootcamp? What would you suggest?
Other than our study guide (www.bootcampprep.co), we have a handful of recommendations for students to improve pre-bootcamp. Some of our favorites are:
How will career services work for the new remote curriculum? Do you expect students will get the same types of jobs that your former course grads we're getting?
Career services are done in a similar fashion to the in-person course. Currently, once the bootcamp is over (week 9) we are giving talks on LinkedIn, resumes, cover letters, as well as conducting mock-interviews all via Zoom. We then start scheduling 1-1 meetings with each student to review all of their work and give them tips/advice on the job search. We also work on any issues they may encounter. We are currently integrating some of these lectures sooner into our curriculum during the bootcamp as well. A full article post about our career services can be found on our official blog.
Tell us why DecodeMTL has decided to introduce a 6-month job guarantee.
Too many people are scared to take the leap on a bootcamp. From an outsider's perspective, for-profit education has always seemed somewhat scammy and more of a cash grab than anything. We know our program works and is life-changing. We don’t want people to feel afraid that they won’t get a job – take the leap. If someone sincerely puts in the effort and is not employable after going through our course, then we didn’t deliver on our promise and they deserve to be refunded. Currently, the job-guarantee is in place for in-person students, but we are hoping to get it going for remote students in the near future. In all honesty though, pretty much everyone gets a job :)
Have you spoken with employers? Are they excited/nervous to hire students who have learned online?
Our employers have yet to care about where/how someone learned to code. Their priorities remain on finding awesome people who have great programming skills and are a good culture fit for the company.
What is your advice for students embarking on a new online program? Any tips for getting the most out of it, especially if they are trying to change their careers?
Sure! I think one of the most important things about the remote program is ensuring you have a comfortable setup at home or another workspace nearby which you will be using. Ensuring your family/friends understand that just because you are home doesn’t mean you are free to do whatever, will also go a long way. You do not need and/or want distractions during the course.
Secondly, abuse the resources at your disposal. Our teachers and teaching assistants are here for you. You need to ask them questions and learn from them as much as possible. Be curious, ask about their experiences on the job, ask about how you can go above and beyond as a student, and aim to do more than just the bare minimum. This is what will make you stronger at the end of the day.
Any other information you would like to share about DecodeMTL’s new remote curriculum?
Yes. There are a few other fun features with our remote program. We host alumni panels where past students and current students will join a video chat and they will talk about their experience. They share what made them successful, as well as any tips/tricks. We choose alumni who have gone through the remote program as well.
We also do a lot of presentations on Friday afternoons where we will show off any fun projects we built during the week. We usually get the in-person bootcamp involved so that you can demo your project on the big screen to the full-classroom. We find putting a little bit of pressure on by telling people they will be presenting, gets them to put together something a bit more polished.
We also do a lot of remote group work where we break out into groups of 2-3 when working on projects. At any point, you can ping a teaching assistant when you are stuck, and they will join your chat. We use cloud9, which allows for easy pair programming.
In conclusion, our remote program is a unique experience but provides the same outcomes as an in-person bootcamp. Students interested in enrolling should check out our remote bootcamp page. Our upcoming course starts on October 2nd, and then January 8th.