Hi Stan! Can you run us through a typical day for your student?
One of my favorite things about Bloc is the diverse student body it attracts. My apprentice Lisa, is a mother and a full-time professional. Her days involve waking up, teaching grade schoolers from 9-5, taking care of her children, then hacking away at Bloc’s iOS curriculum.
In between, she and I would chat about her code, programming concepts and her little dog that couldn’t help but chime in every five minutes. Apparently, Terrier mixes can’t help but vocalize their preference of Key-Value Observation over notifications.
Is there a unique feature or distinct motivation for your bootcamp or teaching philosophy?
In my opinion, Bloc’s “at your own pace” offering is a huge value for its apprentices. We provide mentorship, but in a way that works around the individual’s schedule. Not everyone can afford to surrender 12 weeks of their life to an edu-vacation. Bloc provides a flexible alternative that works in tandem with the student’s personal life.
What backgrounds do you find your applicants usually coming from? Is there a particular kind of student or learning style that excels in your programs? Is there a kind of student or learning style that is not well suited for your programs?
As I mentioned earlier, Bloc attracts a diverse breadth of students. The iOS course, for instance, has students ranging from teens to the middle-aged, we welcome anyone willing and eager to learn.
The students most successful in our program are the self-starters, people with discipline and motivation. If you have spent months trying to learn on your own and constantly pushed yourself to do better, Bloc will help you get to the next level.
Bloc is like a trainer at the gym. In the beginning, we’re lifting most of the weight and you’re learning the techniques and how to use the machines. But towards the end of the program, you’re doing all the lifting and we’re there to spot you.
Side-note: Bloc is not mentored by a bunch of Bros, but if you want a bro-mentor, we can probably make that happen.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing the online learning model and how did you overcome them?
The biggest problem we saw was the lack of proper guidance. Yes, tutorials are great but often serve existing developers much better than their targeted audience of beginners. However, for those just starting out, there’s a mass of information that they don’t know how to digest.
Mentorship solves this problem. By employing working professionals as guides, our students are able to discern what’s important from what isn’t.
Since your first cohorts, how has the direction of your curriculum changed over time, if at all?
We constantly ask and act upon feedback provided by our student body, our mentors and our peers. All mentors have access to the course materials on GitHub and are allowed to file issues and pull requests against our curriculum repositories.
Students often have direct feedback on material. We take this feedback seriously and consider every opinion sent our way. Lastly, our Mentors help keep our ears to the ground. Whenever there are big shifts in best practices or new technologies we must consider, we do our best to incorporate timely changes into the curriculum.
Active students receive the benefits of these updates because they happen live. Students are notified of significant material changes and if the changes warrant such, they are given the opportunity to opt-into the new curriculum.
What kind of roles, jobs, and/or companies do your programs ready your students for?
Bloc aims to help beginners acquire junior-level developer status and positions. Any company looking to hire entry-level developers in any of our respective fields will be pleased to interview our graduates.
For existing developers, we help facilitate career shifts. They typically excel during the foundations phase and end up with more completed projects than our beginner students.
We also target a third type of student, the entrepreneur. Each Bloc course instructs in building full applications, therefore, any graduate will have the capability to build their own product or join and contribute heavily to a small team.
What’s the best advice for students who want to attend Bloc?
I wish that every student, before embarking on a bootcamp experience, would attempt to learn everything on their own, for free. This may seem counter to the mission of every business to, you know, make cash rain down from the heavens, but it’s more important than money.
This works two-fold because primarily, there’s a chance that self-education may bring that student to their destination. If it does, they didn’t spend anything more than time, and their confidence will be through the roof.
Secondarily, if they reach that wall and can’t break through it, they are that much more prepared for Bloc. They will breeze through the foundations portion, much like an experienced developer would, and get to the projects quicker. Students who’ve reached the wall before joining Bloc get much more out of the product than otherwise.
What’s the best advice for people who want to start teaching code?
It’s the same advice I would give to anyone wishing to teach another person. You should have patience and bite your tongue when you see them make a mistake or struggle. It’s difficult to restrain yourself but don’t condemn or criticise, remember, you were in their place once, consider how you would feel.
When your student excels, don’t forget to praise them for their accomplishments. Programming in particular is difficult for many to learn, positive reinforcement will go a long way in motivating your student to continue rocking it.
Can you share a favorite teaching moment or the best student project you’ve seen?
My favorite moments generally occur during the projects phase. At the beginning, students are faced with the monumental task of building an entire app from scratch, on their own. Before they begin, I break down the project and essentially take off the training wheels. At this point, you watch and hope they can ride the bike themselves.
In our next meeting, they show me a wild amount of progress and I am filled with nothing but immense joy and pride.
How do you see the learn to code movement and the bootcamp industry changing over the next one to five years? Where do you see these programs fitting into the larger picture of education?
I expect our industry to grow its role in the grand scheme of education. I want Bloc and every other organization with similar goals to improve and expand its reach to more students.