Bhaumik Patel is the Program Director for Thinkful’s new Nights & Weekends web development course, a live classroom experience delivered online. The course mirrors the instructor-led classroom schedule of the full-time Engineering Immersion course but provides flexibility for students who work during the day or prefer evening sessions. Bhaumik spoke with us about this new course, currently in a pilot program, and his hopes for opening up opportunities for more students looking to shift their career into the coding world.
What is your role related to Thinkful’s new Nights & Weekends course?
My title is Program Director of Web Development at Thinkful. I oversee our web development programs across Thinkful and Bloc, including the new hybrid Nights & Weekends program. After a lot of research and talking to our existing students and alumni, we found a lot of people wanted a part-time program that offered a combination of classroom learning and self-study. I did that research, built the program with our curricula and instructor team, and recruited the first students in our current pilot program, and will keep iterating and learning how we can make it better for the next group of students.
What’s the difference between this program and Engineering Immersion or Full Stack Flex?
Before we launched the Nights & Weekends course, we offered Engineering Immersion (EI) program which is full-time, 50 hours/week with a full classroom experience involving lectures, paired programming, and group projects. You’re working with a cohort of students that you start with, pair program (learn and struggle) with, and graduate together. We also offer Full Stack Flex, which is completely flexible in that students can decide when specifically to commit their 25 hours per week depending on their work schedule. The only fixed time are your regular 1-on-1 mentor sessions.
The new Nights & Weekends course is the best of both worlds. It’s for people who want that classroom experience but couldn’t commit to full-time hours or are unable to quit their jobs and go back to school.
What’s the format of the new Nights & Weekends program?
The program is 25 hours a week (10 hours in class, 15 hours flexible time) and is seven months long. Classroom time is Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6pm to 9:30pm and Saturdays from 11am to 3pm. Starting with our March 4 cohort, class will be available in both Eastern Time and Pacific Time. You can decide which cohort to join. Outside of classroom time, you’ll be required to commit 15 hours per week on tasks like graded homework assignments, reading the next day’s lesson in the curriculum,, attending office hours and meeting with your 1-on-1 mentor, or joining peer study groups. You have the liberty of choosing those hours as they fit into your schedule as long as you complete the requirements before the next classroom day. You can see a sample calendar under “A Week in the Life”.
What lessons have you learned from running the Engineering Immersion program that you’re integrating into the Nights & Weekend course?
Because the Nights & Weekends course is closely tied to the Engineering Immersion course, we’re not reinventing the wheel – the assets and curriculum are the same in both programs, so the Nights & Weekends students the same curriculum and content as a full-time EI student. They’ll have live instructor-led lectures, pair programming with on-demand TA support, group projects, and demo days. Similarly, the mentors are shared our web development programs.
If the pace of a full-time program where students move on to a different topic every day is a bit too much, the Nights & Weekends program could be a good fit. Students have that extra time between the classroom days to dig into the concepts a bit more. Though, keep in mind that students are expected to pass the same technical interview to gain admission into either program.
One new thing that we’re excited to adopt from Bloc is Technical Coaching. It’s similar to asking questions in Slack, but it’s much more systematic in that any question creates a ticket where any one of our online technical coaches can answer that question within 30 minutes from 9am to 11pm. You will also have study groups with your classmates where you can informally work on homework and study together. In building this program, it was important to leave some flexibility for those with full-time jobs or kids to take care, while still keeping them accountable to a consistent schedule.
How is the admissions process for the Nights & Weekends Course?
As for deciding between programs, I mentioned earlier that we learned early on that there was a meaningful group of people who wanted to do a live, synchronous program but couldn’t quit their job. If that sounds a lot like you, you’re the perfect student.
Now, we’ve intentionally built-in some flexibility to accommodate a broader audience so it’ll important manage your time well then. In our pilot, we’ve had perfect attendance with students meeting assignment deadlines. Because it’s a synchronous program, there are regular assignment deadlines and comprehension quizzes to help students stay on track and manage their time - you still have to finish an assignment by evening to be prepared for the lecture the next day.
How does Thinkful track students’ progress in the Nights & Weekends course? Are there tests?
When you work through a topic, we assess your knowledge by asking you to apply that new lesson or concept to projects and drills. Then, when you get to bigger projects that require putting together lots of different pieces from the last few weeks, each of those projects goes through a three-tiered assessment for functionality, code quality, and design. Finally, when you get through a major phase like React or Node, you’ll have a mock interview with a combination of qualitative and quantitative questions that is intended to simulate a real interview that you have to pass that to move on to the next phase.
Students can also have open conversations with their mentors about different topics or concepts they’re struggling with, and if enough mentors are receiving that feedback we may consider repeating a concept or lecture to ensure students feel comfortable with the topic. They also submit a reflection every week where they answer questions about when they did the work outside of the classroom, give feedback on each their peers each other, and anything they’d like to share about the program.
Are the expected outcomes or salaries different between the web development courses?
I’d say one primary difference is that the Engineering Immersion program has a much higher graduation rate than the Full Stack Flex course given the synchronous schedule. You have to commit to a daily schedule over 5 months and it has a rigorous admission process to make sure the peers you work with are fantastic. We obviously don’t have outcomes data for the nights & weekends program yet, but given that it has the same admissions process as the full-time program with a consistent schedule, we expect graduation rates and outcomes to be closely aligned.
In fact we’re confident enough to offer a financing plan where you don’t pay until you get a job. For both the Engineering Immersion and Engineering Nights & Weekends program, you will pay zero tuition upfront.
How does this new format make Thinkful more accessible to different types of students?
The ideal student may have been leaning towards the full-time Engineering Immersion program who want the classroom experience but aren’t able to commit full-time or can’t quit their jobs to go back to school.
There was a student who was in our Prep course for Engineering Immersion. She has a health condition which makes early mornings difficult for her but she recovers by the evening. When we announced the Nights & Weekends course, she immediately emailed me because she’ll be able to do the program once she passes her technical interview. We’re so happy that there are people interested in this new program who can’t commit to the strict schedule of EI - whether it’s someone with a health restriction or a parent who needs to pick up their kids at a certain time. The accessibility of the program is really exciting.
When does the next cohort start?
The next Nights & Weekends cohort starts on March 4th (you can apply here), running on both Eastern and Pacific time zones. We’re excited about opening Thinkful up to a new group of students and accommodating for their time zones.
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