How Project Shift Looks, Remote

Aaron Hayslip

Since mid-March, Project Shift has operated as a remote program due to COVID-19, and we will continue doing so as long as it is necessary.

For a program that prides itself on being "small" and "in-person", what does it look like for us to be remote and how is it going so far?

The main thing we want to emphasize to incoming students is that our program is NOT an "online coding bootcamp" - it's an "in-person program that's operating remotely".

What's the difference?


What Does an "Online Coding Bootcamp" Look Like?

An "online coding bootcamp" normally implies the following:

  • Primarily recorded content (lectures, etc)
  • Work alone on curriculum and projects
  • Minimal contact with instructors or other kinds of "teaching assistants" (once a day or even once a week).

These "online coding bootcamps" are set up this way because they thrive on operating "at scale", which means they need to be able to handle a large load of students. For example, after a quick Google search, we can find that 2 popular online coding bootcamps operate with several thousand students:

According to careerkarama.com, "Bloc has over 3225 students and graduates as of 2020".

And theverge.com writes about Lambda School, "The school has over 2,500 students; it's doubled in size in the past year". Lambda employs 85 instructors in both full-time and part-time/contract capacities.

All that to say, on the surface, (at best) Lambda has a 29:1 student/instructor ratio.


What Does Project Shift, "Remote" Look Like?

Comparatively, Project Shift has a 6:1 student/instructor ratio. And this only includes full-time, senior-level instructors that are entirely dedicated to those 12 students. From time to time, we employ additional Teaching Assistants and instructors for our Prep Course, but those do not count as part of this ratio.

All that to say, even in a remote environment, Project Shift does not experience the main draw-backs that an "online coding bootcamp" does because we have nearly 5 times the support for students, in terms of sheer instructor personnel.

We utilize this high level of support in a variety of ways throughout our program in our normal in-person setting. So how have we translated these things to remote?

Remote Student Guide

Most of the information below comes from our "Project Shift Remote Class Guide" that we built for our students which outlines policies and procedures around our remote class to ensure that they have the highest quality program possible. We'll mention this guide a few times in the sections below. You can find a public copy of it here (with specific link removed): Project Shift Remote Class Guide

Utilizing Zoom

First of all, we've become masters of Zoom and have figured out how to utilize nearly all of its features. Before the program began, we sent each student a high-quality USB mic/headset so that everyone would experience high-quality audio from each student. Additionally, we asked each student to upgrade their internet to the highest possible quality and we reimbursed them for any differences in cost.

Live Lectures

All of our lectures take place live, on Zoom. In our "Remote Guide", we've asked students to always have their camera and mics on during lectures, so that we can interact together, just as we would in a live classroom. With only 12 students, it's easy to take live questions and to gauge student reactions during the live lessons.

Below is a sample lecture. It is our "Intro to JavaScript" lecture and it is the very first lecture, on day 1, of Cohort 9 on April 27:

Paired Programming

We normally have 2 short lectures a day, followed by a time where students are "paired programming" through our written curriculum. Each week, we shift students into new pairs. Immediately after the lecture, we utilize Zoom's "Breakout Rooms" feature to put students in their own private video calls where they'll work through the lesson by sharing their screen with one another.

In-Class Help

As the students are "paired programming" through the curriculum, instructors can jump in and out of the different rooms to check in on students as they work. Or if students have specific questions for the instructors, they can press a "help" button which will summon instructors to join their breakout room. Of course, this entire time, audio, video, and screen-sharing are available. Additionally, with Zoom, instructors can even take control of a student's computer to help them debug extra sticky situations.

Office Hours

Each day, students have an opportunity to book 1 on 1 help from instructors and other support staff. Each staff member at Project Shift has their own private "office Zoom link" so that students can meet staff in these private meetings. There is a shared document where students can sign up for these office hours, each day.

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