Eleven years ago, Israeli conductor Itay Talgam delivered a speech about how different conducting styles represent the kind of leadership that a conductor commands.
Among the examples he gave was a conductor who waves his arms with ease and only signals the direction of the music. “When he raises his arms, he’s saying that ‘this is the gesture of the music,’” said Itay, “‘and I’m opening a space for you to put in another layer of interpretation.’”
Itay likened the scene to a rollercoaster ride. “You’re not being given any instructions, but the forces of the process itself keep you in place,” he said. What if someone makes a mistake? Here, the conductor’s facial expressions are enough to signal the player to get back on track.
“When it’s needed, the authority is there… [The conductor] is there 100 percent, but not to command, no, but rather enjoy what [the orchestra] is doing,” said Itay. “The joy is about enabling other people’s stories to be heard at the same time,” he said. “This is the true experience of a live concert.”
And this is the true experience of Galvanize education.
How Galvanize Is Rebooting the Modern Classroom
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Galvanize needs no introduction. Nearly a decade since its establishment, Galvanize has managed to prime itself up as a household name in the coding bootcamp space. To date, it has established its roots online and in eight cities in the United States, serving as rigorous training grounds for aspiring data scientists and software engineers.
Its secret is inherently tied to four factors: a sticky curriculum, a peer-to-peer learning system, innovative instruction, and project-based learning. Let’s go over these factors one by one.
Learning to Code Practically
In 2015, Nikkitha Bakshani wrote an article titled “Binge Reading Disorder.” The article opened with the following statement, “The typical American consumes more than 100,000 words a day and remembers none of them.”
Nikkita narrowed the problem to the way we read. That is, when we binge-read, we only read to consume information as quickly as we can such that it “stands no chance of becoming knowledge.” Put simply, all we’re doing is storing information that does not stick.
So how does Galvanize, a coding bootcamp that relies on fast-paced learning, avoid this?
Galvanize flattens the forgetting curve by teaching in sprints, which cement concepts through constant practice in a condensed period. Unlike the conventional classroom where students sit through lectures for hours on end, Galvanize compels students to use their tech muscles so often that it becomes a habit. This way, the skills stick.
“Our day-to-day schedule was pretty much spending the first hour or two of the day with a lecture,” said Rafael Cohn-Gruenwald, a former data science student at Galvanize. “Then, for the next few hours, we do individual programming. With each lecture that we cover, we’d have an associated set of problems to work through.”
The process repeats day in and day out until the concepts are ingrained into the students’ minds. Alongside this is Galvanize’s peer-to-peer learning system.
The Buddy System
“In the afternoon, we do another round of lectures followed by two hours of pair programming,” said Rafael. “So, we follow the same setup as the morning schedule but with a partner. One acts as the driver while the other is like the navigator.” The driver does the coding while the navigator corrects the course, catching any inaccuracies in the code.
This is not limited to in-person classes. Galvanize ensures that even students learning remotely are immersed in the process through the Visual Studio Code (VS Code). The code can be shared live so that as one types the code, it updates live on the other person’s computer.
This activity helps train students on two fronts. First, it familiarizes them with the real-world application-building process of working in teams. Second, it hones their soft skills, particularly their ability to work well with others, communicate the reasoning behind their code, and listen actively.
As students uncover views they have not thought of, they learn to value the views of others. The Galvanize pair programming, in a nutshell, celebrates the diversity of thought.
Orchestrating this entire process of individual and paired learning are the Galvanize instructors.
At Galvanize, instructors exist only to conduct learning—directing the music without necessarily playing it. This leaves students with a great deal of autonomy to figure out how to work through novel problems. The instructors step in only when guidance is due.
In doing so, students learn how to confront unfamiliar situations and solve them head-on, a crucial skill in an age where technology is rapidly changing. “They have to learn how to take in new information and process it because the tech industry is dynamic,” said Michelle Hoogenhout, a Galvanize instructor for the Data Science Immersive.
“The fact of the matter is that students may not even be using the things they learned here in Galvanize in two years. And I think that’s the case with all kinds of tech-related fields…where so many new tools and techniques are coming in every day. So, having the ability to tackle new information will help [the students] a lot,” she said.
Unlike the traditional classroom where students become passive receivers of the teacher’s interpretation of a concept, Galvanize encourages its students to become active learners.
“Students do some assessments throughout the course, which is a nice way for us to track how they’re doing,” said Michelle.
“The assessments include testing for content knowledge and lots of programming practice,” she said, “but we also look for a little bit more of, ‘Can students integrate the skills they acquire into the bigger picture?’”
The answer to that is reflected in how successful the students are in completing case studies and capstone projects throughout the program. These projects serve as culminating activities that force students to blend everything they have learned so far and put them into practice.
Each program comes with a set of projects, some of which are listed below.
Software Engineering Immersive
- Front End Capstone. Students join an agile engineering team with their peers to select, design, and implement advanced client-side technologies. They create individual microservice components—such as navigation bars, Q&A sections, and product photo carousels—and module testing that work together on a feature-rich full-stack application.
- System Design Capstone. Students use the skills learned in the first half of the immersive program to design, test, and build backend servers and databases for a particular multiple-component application.
They seed through large, complex data sets and use optimization techniques to reduce database query times, page load speeds, and more. Some technologies that have been used in previous projects include MySQL, MongoDB, Node.js, open-source APIs, and Docker.
Data Science Immersive
- Natural Language Processing Case Study. Students are first given several datasets to choose from. These datasets are intentionally unstructured and thus require a significant amount of time to preprocess.
This is to mimic the real-world scenario where data is mostly messy. Students are encouraged to find patterns in the text and define a question they want to solve. Quick, on-call feedback is given for gauging the direction of the case study.
By the end of it, they are expected to perform everything they have learned to tell a consistent story. These include various supervised machine learning algorithms, natural language processing practices, and data visualization.
- Recommendation System Case Study. Here, students are encouraged to build a simple, working recommendation system. They are first presented with several options to approach the same problem. They then need to make technical choices like which framework or library to use.
The business environment is simulated to a high degree. Galvanize also provides capable students with a template to turn their model into a flask application, if time permits.
Rafael’s Personal Galvanize Classroom Experience
In September 2020, Rafael built a machine learning model that could predict hotel booking cancellations and estimate hotel room demand. The following month, he and his team joined a two-day hackathon.
There they examined whether then-President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis increased his voters’ support. It was a process that involved the analysis of 140,000 political tweets. Both projects received glowing reviews, and both were completed through the skills that Rafael learned from Galvanize.
“Prior to Galvanize, I was actually a computer science student at California Polytechnic State University,” said Rafael. “When I graduated, I re-evaluated and realized that I was more interested in data science than traditional software engineering. So that’s what led me to look into doing a bootcamp and eventually choosing Galvanize.”
“There are two things that I equally liked at Galvanize,” he said. “First, I really enjoyed the lectures. I was very pleasantly surprised with the quality of instruction that Galvanize provided and how in-depth we were going.”
“I also felt like the level of mastery that the instructors in Galvanize showed was on par with that of the instructors I had in college…They were really accessible as well. I never felt that they were dismissive of me. It just felt like I had office hours access the entire time, which was nice,” said Rafael.
The second thing that caught his eyes was Galvanize’s career services, which are introduced halfway through the program. “I graduated from college in June last year, and at the time, the job market was really bad because of the pandemic. So, I wasn’t able to find any jobs in software engineering,” he said.
“That’s why I really put a lot of value in Galvanize’s career services. I was coming straight out of college and I never had anything like that. Once you graduate from college, you’re just kind of left on your own.” And did the job support work?
Three months after completing his Galvanize training, Rafael secured a job as a data engineer at fintech company Prime Trust. There, he develops dashboards for the C-suite. “Prior to joining, the company was collecting a lot of data but weren’t actually doing anything with it,” said Rafael.
“So, right now it’s a lot of scrambling to understand what we have and figuring out how best to represent it, reinforce it, and build the proper data pipelines to keep the system working. After that, we can start building out more of our data capabilities.”
Galvanize Education: It Takes Hard Work
At present, Galvanize has trained over 8,000 students to prepare them for the tech industry’s emerging careers. Beyond the number, Rafael represents the level of training and success that one can reap from the coding bootcamp.
Despite that, Rafael is quick to caution those who wish to enroll in Galvanize. “The training in Galvanize is rigorous. It is challenging. I just put my head down and worked for three months,” he said. “So even though the classes were held remotely, I still had to sit down every day and get all the work done.”
“We conduct lectures throughout the course,” added Michelle, “but after the first few weeks, it’s up to the students to keep practicing and run with it. The great thing about Galvanize is that the people are very self-directed, motivated learners. So, if you’re considering joining Galvanize, I suggest you start building on that mindset immediately. Just start practicing.”
In the Galvanize classroom, instructors set up the environment where learning takes place. Then, they take a step back as the students take center stage. And as students learn the inner workings of their field—on their own, with their peers, and with the guidance of their instructors—the music unfolds.
If that sounds like something you’d want to be part of, visit the website now. Take a seat in the innovative classrooms of Galvanize.
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.