Tech Elevator’s Dallas campus is dedicated to filling the hiring gaps seen in this booming Texas tech city that’s home to many Fortune 500 companies. Tech Elevator’s National Live Remote Program Director Rita Stall tells us why now is an excellent time to kick-start your tech career in Dallas. Rita gives us a virtual tour of Tech Elevator’s robust remote learning environment and shows the tools they use to build connections online between students and instructors.
Tech Elevator has a few campus locations across the country – what sets the Dallas campus apart?
There’s actually a larger tech scene in Dallas than some of our other very successful campus locations. Dallas has been a top 10 tech scene in America for several years. The high concentration of Fortune 500 companies in Dallas has informed Tech Elevator’s curriculum to ensure students are learning skills applicable to Dallas’ hiring needs. Plus, Dallas has a good employer base to support Tech Elevator grads, and we already have hiring partners in the city!
Is Tech Elevator fully remote, even in Dallas?
The Dallas cohort is part of our National Live Remote option, with a dedicated Dallas cohort starting in Fall 2021. We have been delivering remote classes since March 2020 and our curriculum continues to iterate as the technical needs of our communities evolve. Since our learning environments have always been synchronous, our adaptations to our online classroom have been more focused on student engagement and accessibility and less on curriculum modifications. With an abundance of caution, the Dallas campus will be in a remote environment until at least Fall 2021.
What is the Dallas tech scene and job market like?
Despite this recent recession, the tech industry has shown remarkable resiliency. Burning Glass Technologies’s data shows that over 9,600 entry level development-related jobs were posted in the greater Dallas area in 2019 and yet only about 1, 450 computer science grads entered the market to fill these roles. This shows that there is an obvious talent/supply gap happening in the Dallas community. It’s a great time for people to develop technical skills to align with the current and growing opportunities available in this sector for the foreseeable future.
What tools make Tech Elevator’s virtual learning experience unique?
When we first launched our remote learning environment, we quickly learned it was hard to capture our students' presence using Zoom, so we invested in Sococo, which simulates an in-person classroom experience. We like how this platform simulates a feeling of community, neighborhood, and locality within a remote environment.
In the virtual learning environment, students can move between classrooms and converse with peers and instructors. Even though it’s a virtual space, it feels like you are in-person because everyone uses live video to interact. Plus, each campus has its own map, so students only interact with the peers and instructors for their particular campus.
Every student also has access to their gradebook, where they can assess how they're doing and access instructor notes for feedback.
What does a typical day look like in Tech Elevator’s virtual classroom?
At 9:00am ET/8:00am CT, students enter their virtual classroom through Sococo. In order to keep a low student-to-teacher ratio, there are two different classrooms in our National Live Remote Program.
A few links await students as they arrive in their classroom:
Typically, lectures happen over the first four hours of the day. Then, students are broken up around the classroom to complete projects and assignments. Instructors are available to students in the afternoons to answer their questions.
During the day, students also use GitHub, a repository that we teach in preparation for industry use. Every student has their own individual GitHub, with all the module information included. Students can easily enter this GitHub platform, review their exercises, and see pre-written notes they can follow along with and add to.
How do students and instructors collaborate in the remote classroom?
Through Sococo, our students essentially have 24/7 access to each other. Students can jump into the classroom map at any point in the day or on the weekend to see who else is working on the exercises and ask for help. This stimulates peer-to-peer interaction that we don't always see in an in-person setting.
We also use Slack, which has dedicated channels for Academic, Career Readiness, and Kudos, a channel where students can appreciate, participate, and elevate the experience which speaks to the overall mission of Tech Elevator. We have an additional mentoring tool for our students to connect to our graduates as they work through the curriculum and into their careers.
What kind of support can remote students expect from instructors?
Our instructors are all full-time Tech Elevator staff, available Monday to Friday from 9-5 ET with many accessible beyond that timeframe. They are always available during operating hours and we request that instructors take vacations during cohort breaks to ensure we always have adequate availability to meet the needs of our students.
We expect and want students to ask questions and we staff accordingly to ensure there's always someone to answer those questions. Between Slack and Sococo, we have a lot of accessible engagement with our students. For example, if a student is working with a teammate and has a question, they can find a teacher and pull them into the virtual room.
What tips do you have for future bootcampers about how to set up their remote workspace?
Ahead of the bootcamp, we send equipment (pre-tested cameras, microphone, and hardware) to students. We also offer recommendations about connections to external monitors, and how to create quiet learning environments where students can remain attentive to learning.
My advice to future remote bootcampers is to come prepared to commit your time and energy to the curriculum, develop a routine or schedule to make sure you are balancing your work and personal priorities effectively, and then trust the process.
Is Tech Elevator looking for different qualifications from the remote bootcamp applicants (versus in-person)?
Tech Elevator has invested in additional tools, resources, and staff to ensure student success outcomes remain high in a remote environment, so we have found that academic performance has held the same in a remote learning environment as it has in-person. Our admissions team continues to include academic testing and behavior-based interviews to assess prospective students.
For those students joining us in the remote learning environment, the only change is that it has become increasingly important for students to actively seek out assistance, since we aren’t we aren't bumping into each other in the hallways anymore. If students don't have that quality coming in, we take time in the early days to encourage them to take initiative to raise their hand every time they have a question.
Which resources do you recommend for a beginner who wants to break into tech in Dallas?
Dallas has an incredibly robust MeetUp scene. 85% of opportunities are typically found through a solid network, so if you're interested in entering the Dallas tech scene, start now by attending those meetups. Since they're all online now, there's no excuse not to take advantage of them.
Tech Elevator hosts free Learn to Code online workshops where students can interact with our instructors and Pathway Directors, who run our career-readiness curriculum. They can see what it's like to spend an hour learning how to code and what it’s like at Tech Elevator. We have free virtual events available throughout the year as well!
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