Social Learning Online With Epicodus
Back in 2012, when I was starting Epicodus, many people asked me why I was starting an in-person school when the rest of the world was moving online. “Why would anybody pay to go to class," they asked, "when they can learn from the convenience of their home?"
Almost 8 years and a couple thousand students later, it turns out that many people want in-person classes. Humans are social creatures: while some of us can happily learn alone, most of us want a supportive environment with other students and teachers. We want to be able to share our frustrations and our successes, to get help when we get stuck, and to celebrate together when we have a big breakthrough.
If you've ever tried to have a difficult conversation with someone by phone or text, or attempted to have a party on a video call, you know online communication often leaves something to be desired. And that's why for years Epicodus has hesitated to offer its program online. But when we began offering our program online to comply with social distancing recommendations a few weeks ago, we were pleasantly surprised at how much of the social classroom environment we were able to recreate.
Every week, Epicodus asks our classes for anonymous feedback. Recently, one student said, "I really never expected working remotely to feel so positive and social! It's terrific!" With rave reviews like that, we wanted to share how we've been able to create such a successful community environment in our remote program:
1. Class Check-In
First, we start each day with a video call with the whole class. Seeing your teacher's and classmates' faces helps you build relationships and feel like you're part of a community of real people. The teacher shares what you'll be doing for the day and gets everybody started.
2. Pair Programming
Next, we pair up! Most days, students work with at least one other classmate for the entire day, ensuring that no one ever feels like they’re out on an island by themselves. At Epicodus, we use Visual Studio Code’s Live Share extension, which allows users to collaboratively work on code with other people - if you've ever used a Google Doc at the same time as someone else, it's very similar. We also use Discord, a voice and text chatting server, where each pair has a dedicated "audio channel" where they can talk to each other. Teachers drop into each pair's channel throughout the day to check in, answer questions, and give feedback on their code. There's also a channel dedicated to questions, where students can request help between teacher check-ins.
3. Daily Debrief
At the end of the day, we all get on a video call again to talk about how the day went, debrief, and share what we worked on with each other.
We've been so happy with Epicodus's online program that we will continue offering it regardless of when we can return to in-person classes.
If this sounds like the kind of online experience you want, we'd love to have you become a part of the Epicodus community! Besides our next part- and full-time classes that begin on May 26th, we're offering a special 3-week class that starts on April 27th! So, if like us, you're stuck at home and want a social learning environment to help fill your time, we hope this will be the perfect opportunity for you. You can sign up at epicodus.com/sign-up, and email us at email@example.com if you have any questions!