Many developers are working remotely but what does an online coding bootcamp look like? Since Monday, March 16th, out of concern for participants of our bootcamp’s health, we were compelled to offer both online and offline teaching options. In our experience, people attend coding bootcamps to have access to a vibrant study community which pushes them to do their best. Also, our students appreciate that mentors are available to students at all times, so they never feel alone during their studying process. Many of them first go through studying online as bootcamp preparation using different online platforms. How does a remote coding bootcamp differ from these? The goal of our staff and instructors is to deliver the classes as close as possible to their in-class teaching model.
Here at Coding Bootcamp Praha, lessons have continued as usual but also online - our video conferencing tool of choice is Zoom. Our students can see not only their mentors throughout the day but also all the other students who have their camera on. Mentors are using a sharing screen option instead of the projector and whiteboard. Students can tune in and ask questions or type them into the chat. There is even the possibility of raising a hand. Zoom is in addition to our already existing online environment where we share materials, exercises and solutions, which we normally use in all our bootcamps.
“Everything is basically the same except I wake up 30 minutes later. I get on Zoom, listen to the lecture and/or work on my project most of the day. In general, I like to figure things out on my own and then interact with the mentors. Whenever I need some help I ask for the instructor's help, and they are always available and helpful.” Martin, a student from the Czech Republic.
"I like being able to see what the students are seeing on my screen, debug their code and have them watch me do it. All of this is actually faster than leaving the teacher's desk and bending over their shoulder." Jan Polak, Mentor at Coding Bootcamp Praha.
Since we think that communication is paramount, we are continuing with our daily standups where everyone can turn on the camera and mic to share their progress, plans or just how they feel about everything (studying, final project, remote work, etc.). On weekdays we run a main session where everyone has access plus separate sessions, and our students can go back and forth as needed. Mentors are available in all these online rooms and are helping students individually just like they would in the classroom. We hold regular breaks for coffee and for lunch as we believe that a regular day structure is important for anyone working from home. Our instructors have found out that remote teaching can make multi-tasking easier but it requires even better communication from everyone involved - mentors and students.
"The most important thing is to communicate as much as possible. Students have sometimes problems communicating with lecturers or mentors even in face-to-face study. They don't want to embarrass themselves in front of the class or admit they have a problem. However, when we are in the same room I can read their non-verbal communication to understand something is not going well. So my advice to any lecturer, mentor or student in this process of remote teaching is to communicate as much as possible. Together we can make it." Slavo Kožar, Mentor at Coding Bootcamp Praha.
"While remote mentorship can over-complicate communicating with a single individual, it makes communicating with a group of people easier. Something that I'm increasingly starting to appreciate is the "asynchronous" side that remote mentorship enables. It's easier to multitask and it also forces both you and the students to think through thoroughly before providing an answer or submitting a question," said Riccardo Dal Pio Luogo, Mentor at Coding Bootcamp Praha.
Not only have we shifted our teaching online, we’ve also moved our career support online. While individual calls are easy to do, we faced a challenge of moving our long-planned Careers Day online. The situation has not deterred us. We made a remote event. This way, our students still had a chance to meet with different companies and have their interviews. All the companies, including Barclays, Inventi and GIT Consult, played a part and did a great job, despite it being the first time a number of them interviewed someone online. For a little over 2 hours, students had individual meetings with recruiters where they introduced themselves and discussed their coding experience, bootcamp, career goals, the current situation on the market, and similar. Recruiters even asked them a few technical questions so students would know what to expect in the future. Even though it was a little bit different than we originally imagined it, Careers Day was a real success.
“I was really impressed with the team's management of the virus situation and how smoothly they transitioned to an online learning environment.” commented James, a student from New Zealand.
Right now we are in Week 11, and our students are fully focussed on working on their final projects. Each team has their own online room for easier communication between team members and for inviting instructors and mentors when they are needed. A hundred lines of code are being written daily (and dozens deleted and refactored :-) ) and projects are on the right track. The final results will be presented at our Online Demo Day next week!
So far many of our students and mentors have also explored different options to make online learning a fun and positive experience. One of our instructors gave quite a few lessons from the space, while students worked from, for example, the doldrums of a sunny beach. Working from home has good sides, such as saving time commuting, making your workspace tailored to your needs, having all your favourite drinks and snacks easily within reach or wearing what you want. The students who have pets also find it lovely that they can pet their dog or cat anytime they want. Working remotely can have both pros and cons and we will be posting more tips in an upcoming article soon!