Fullstack Academy has been making waves with it's Remote Immersive course. First, they launched a $500,000 scholarship fund to invest in remote learning, and have publicly shared a larger-than-usual amount of information about the way the course is structured.
Now, Fullstack is continuing this trend by building another really cool aspect into their Remote program - Virtual Reality. We spoke with Fullstack's head of product management, Mark Davis, to learn about how they're incorporating VR into the Remote Immersive and to learn more about the course structure.
We've been really excited to see Fullstack's progress with the Remote Immersive. Many readers tell us they want to attend a more advanced, cutting-edge coding bootcamp, but it's hard if you live outside of the big cities like New York and San Francisco. Mark Davis digs deeper to tell us more about the Remote Immersive course!
Could you start with just a brief overview of what the Remote Immersive is?
Sure, the Remote Immersive is the rigorous, accelerated, full-time Immersive program taught at Fullstack Academy, but accessible to students from anywhere in the world with a reliable internet connection.
A common concern for online programs is that it's not as personal of an experience as in-person. How does Fullstack address that?
We thought a lot about this challenge when developing the course over the last year. To tackle it, we’re devoting an entire learning team of full-time instructors, teaching assistants, and career services staff specifically to remote cohorts and by testing, using, and iteratively improving on a variety of collaboration technologies. In some ways, the learning experience of remote can actually be more efficient than in-person. In a traditional lecture hall setting, screen visibility, audio drop-off, and face-to-face peer interaction can be barriers to a clear understanding of material. When a Remote student shows up for a lecture or workshop, they have direct access to content on their screen, the audio is loud and clear, and they can see all their classmates face-to-face when questions are asked. No more “can you repeat the question” shout-outs from the back of the room!
Interesting… Now let's get to the geeky stuff - What are you doing with Virtual Reality?
So much! We’re really excited about VR for this course, because it feels like such a natural fit for making an online class more immersive. And VR tech is growing by leaps and bounds every month. We started out small with a minecraft recreation of the Fullstack Academy NYC campus on Minecraft, and conducted a Minecraft hackathon for the Remote cohort’s first game night. We’ve already been streaming some guest speaker series events in HD, but phase two will kick off with an Orah 360-degree 4k video camera and Virtual Reality headsets to give Remote students the sensation of being physically present (instead of just mentally!).
Do students have to buy their own VR gear or have any VR experience before starting?
Not at all! This is a perfect example of how committed Fullstack is to making the remote immersive as seamless and enjoyable as possible. We experimented with a few VR systems for many months. Our initial plan was to send all Remote Immersive students an HTC Vive and the necessary hardware to run it, but despite how much fun the Fullstack staff had with the test system we set up, the logistics just weren’t scalable and there were some technical issues.
As a result, we’ve decided to send all immersive students a Google Daydream headset and Pixel phone to access the VR campus. This is particularly exciting because the mobile VR space is projected to be a massive, hundred-billion-dollar-plus industry in a few years, which will be a strong market for developers — like Fullstack grads — who choose to work in this niche. So we think using this kind of VR both brings our immersive students “closer” to campus, and exposes them to the forefront of programming technologies. We’re positively giddy waiting to see what hacks our students can come up with!
What have students been saying so far about the course?
I think the overall feeling is genuine surprise at just how immersive and personal the Remote program is. We’ve made - and are continuing to make - a ton of features designed to create a uniquely immersive online experience, but it’s really amazing how our remote cohorts can seamlessly integrate with live students for intra-school hackathons, guest speakers, and weekend Computer Science lectures. And besides the academic aspects, Remote students have definitely forged strong bonds between themselves. There are plenty of inside jokes on Slack and you can see a distinct group-culture forming, just like any in-person cohort we’ve had here.
And, of course, there is the “Immersive” aspect to the program. All our students - regardless of campus - say that Fullstack is one of the most mentally challenging but rewarding experiences of their lives. We expect a lot out of our students, but they expect us to give them just that. There is nothing sub-par about the remote educational experience -- everyone sleeps well at the end of the day, even if they’re not in New York.
If you’re curious, one of our current Remote Immersive students, Beth, has been keeping detailed notes on her progress through the curriculum. It’s a great read if you have a few spare minutes.
Another concern of remote students is the job search after graduating. Does Fullstack offer assistance with that?
One aspect of the Fullstack program we’re most proud of is the career success module. By the time students graduate, they have stand out resumes, high-quality demo videos for distribution, and are whiteboard interview pros. When we first conceptualized the Remote program, hiring success was a very high priority. Not only are all the same modules and career success resources available to Remote students, they even have the option to attend our Hiring Day event with our partner companies in New York and Chicago. Furthermore, we’re continuing to expand our career success support into a full-fledged “epilogue” portion of the experience, where all students will receive individualized, programmatic support until they land the perfect job. This will be available to all Fullstack students in NYC, Chicago, and Remote.
And finally - Are there are scholarships still available for upcoming Remote classes?
Absolutely. Right now, our remote immersive program is offering three categories of scholarships, ranging from partial to full-tuition. We’ve partnered with Operation code and Women Who Code to offer one full scholarship to an armed services veteran (or active personnel) and one to a qualifying Women Who Code member to each of our upcoming Remote immersive cohorts. Additionally, our 50 States of Code scholarship uses social media participation to qualify for a partial or full-tuition scholarship. Applicants for this scholarship must create a facebook “Cause or Community” page and collect written references on the page wall. Ten references will make you eligible and the more the better! Important to remember is that all scholarship applicants must also complete and pass Fullstack’s standard admissions process as well.
For direct information on all Fullstack’s programs, including the Remote Immersive, Fullstack hosts regular online information sessions, followed by a Q&A.