BrainStation just launched more than 70 new online courses in design, web development, data science, and marketing. We sat down with Julia Osmar, the VP of Education Experience at BrainStation, to learn tips for how to collaborate online, why it’s important that the courses are instructor-led, and how to set yourself up for success in BrainStation’s online courses. Plus, is this the right time to take a bootcamp? Read on to find out!
First, tell us about BrainStation’s response to COVID-19 – are all classes moving online?
BrainStation has moved all programs and courses to our Online Live delivery format for the time being. We’ve been delivering online-only courses since 2017, so this has been a smooth transition for us. Our learning platform offers students a seamless, interactive online experience including live video, assignments, and tracking progress.
BrainStation’s monthly industry events, including panel discussions, workshops, and info sessions have also moved online. We’ve seen great participation and new online events are being added and announced every week.
BrainStation has had Online Live classes since 2017 – what is available online?
Online Live is actually the fastest-growing segment of BrainStation's business. From our broadcast studios across North America, we delivered over 150,000+ hours of live online instruction in 2019 to learners in 50 cities and 17 countries around the world.
This month, we have over 70 online courses kicking off, including design courses, data courses, development, marketing, and product management. We are also accepting applications for our Data Science Diploma and Web Development Diploma programs.
Are online classes full-time or part-time? Are they synchronous?
We have part-time certificate courses, which are more flexible professional development learning experiences delivered over weeknights and weekends, available online. But our 12-week diploma programs, which are more intensive, full-time career transformation programs, are also available online.
These courses and programs are available through Online Live, which, as the name implies, is live instructor-led learning.
Who are the instructors for the online courses?
Most of BrainStation’s Educators and Instructors already teach in both our Online Live and on-campus courses, so they are familiar with both delivery formats.
We put an emphasis on low instructor-student ratios for all of our learning experiences. This means that students can expect lots of 1-on-1 support whether learning online or on-campus.
BrainStation’s Educators are always industry professionals; you can expect to see subject matter experts from digital-first brands such as Google, Amazon, Shopify, and Facebook leading our classrooms.
We have a thorough interviewing process and unique scoring system that ensures our Educators are not only experts but also individuals that are well suited for teaching. It’s lengthy but worth it – it ensures that our students are not only learning from experts but also getting a great learning experience.
We start by looking for leaders in the industry. Typically that means professionals with at least 10 years of related industry experience. Once we’ve found a professional that stands out, we’ll issue a challenge, which involves delivering a simulated lecture to assess their presentation style and the ability to break down complex topics into easy-to-understand lessons.
What’s your advice for students about how to set up their online workspace?
First, find a dedicated, quiet space with no distractions. Having a separate space reserved for your studies can help you stay on top of your work and stay motivated in the same way that going to a classroom would.
It’s also important to have a strong internet connection. You don’t want connection issues to interfere with your work or your concentration.
I would also suggest using a dual monitor if you have access to one. This would let you see the Educator and class, while also taking notes or following the course material. Your second screen could also be a tablet if you want to be inventive, as Synapse is mobile-friendly.
How do you ensure that online students won’t miss out on anything that in-person students get?
We put an emphasis on group discussion, even in the online space. Synapse, our Learning Management System (LMS), makes interaction and communication between Educators and students very easy, which helps.
Our courses and programs are also extremely collaborative, with a heavy focus on real-world project work. So, for example, students in one of our marketing courses will often work with each other to complete a project, just like they would in the workplace.
This kind of learning approach puts an emphasis on feedback and communication, both of which help to create an interactive classroom experience.
Is this a good or bad time for students to be taking a class like this? Should they just wait until everything goes back to normal?
The world has been thrown into an unprecedented challenge, but many are using this time as an opportunity for self-reflection and improvement. In fact, we've seen a 350% increase in search traffic for our online offerings, and have added more courses to meet demand.
We’re also fully equipped to deliver a high-quality online classroom experience, so there’s no reason to wait to start your course. For us and our students, online is normal.
In fact, our Online Live students are already well-versed in a lot of the skills that individuals are now using as they work from home, such as presenting online, collaborating with others digitally, and learning (and working) from home. They’re also used to using industry tools such as Slack and Zoom. All of these skills are really valuable.
What kinds of tools do you use to teach online?
Our Online Live courses and programs, and our LMS, let learners:
Learn from industry-expert Instructors over live video
Receive real-time feedback on projects and assignments
Collaborate and interact with fellow Learners
Develop a network of like-minded individuals
How do students communicate with each other and with their instructors online?
We use Slack for all communications between students, our Educators, and our Experience team. We have a full team that is dedicated to supporting students throughout their course and are available to assist pretty much any time of day.
What types of career services does BrainStation offer students? Do you have a job guarantee?
BrainStation has developed our Career Success program over many years, refining the support to help Diploma program graduates make a transition into a new career. This program includes live webinars and hands-on workshops, opportunities to connect with industry professionals and one-on-one coaching to develop your professional profile.
We just launched a new online showcase of all our recent graduate’s work, where you can view recorded demos of their final projects. This allows hiring partners to connect with our students directly.
Our Career Success program has been extremely effective in helping our graduates find work. In fact, 97% of BrainStation Diploma Program graduates from the class of Winter 2019 found work in their field within six months.
What’s the best advice you’ve heard from a student or instructor about how to get a job after graduating from a remote bootcamp?
I think understanding that it is a process. Don’t get discouraged and just keep focusing on that process: refining your portfolio, developing your personal brand, working on your resume and interviewing skills – these are all things that you can continuously improve, and every proactive step you take helps in the job search. We’re dedicated to guiding our students through this process and are extremely proud of our hiring rate across diploma programs.
How do you see the job market at the end of this? Do you offer deferred tuition or Income Share Agreements – will anything change about those?
The skills that we teach in all our programs and courses are still some of the highest in demand within the hiring landscape, and currently, it doesn’t look like that is changing. The digital skills gap is still very real, and we want to empower as many professionals as we can to be successful in the digital world.
BrainStation does offer Income Share Agreements to support students looking for that type of financial arrangement. Otherwise, we have lots of flexible payment options to accommodate different financial situations.
How can students who have lost their jobs during this time take advantage of a program like BrainStation?
Like I mentioned, we’ve seen a huge surge in demand for online courses. While I can’t say at the moment if the service industry is leading that surge, it wouldn’t surprise me. We’re facing an uncertain time for sure, but I think it’s clear that the need for digital skills is not going anywhere. If anything, this time has proven that they’re more valuable than ever.
To help more individuals take advantage of our digital skills training, though, we’ve further expanded our scholarship program. I encourage service industry professionals to see what scholarship opportunities are available to them.
Liz is the cofounder of Course Report, the most complete resource for students researching coding bootcamps. Her research has been cited in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, and more. She loves breakfast tacos and spending time getting to know bootcamp alumni and founders all over the world. Check out Liz & Course Report on Twitter, Quora, and YouTube!
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