It’s been over a year since COVID-19 changed the way that we learn and work. Out of necessity, so many of the interactions we never thought would be virtual have been taking place online. Whether it be social gatherings, job hunting, networking, or even learning, the essential bulk of our lives has shifted to be remote.
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The coding bootcamp industry is no different. Ironically, the very programs enabling the ability to create online spaces are now forced to participate in one. But, how exactly has technical learning changed when it’s taking place online?
Rithm, a software engineering school based in the Bay area, made a proactive call to close its campus in March last year and has since been offering all lessons online. Rithm understands that going back to school as an adult can already be a tough transition. As such, the school strives to ensure that the transition is as smooth and painless as possible for its students.
It also works to address any difficulties that may arise throughout this period. Rithm is dedicated to providing students with the necessary skills to pursue a career in software engineering so they come out of the program fully equipped, even though the lessons have all transpired virtually.
Addressing Various Learning Styles Online
Students, in general, have three different learning styles: kinesthetic, visual, and auditory. Some learn by doing, others by reading and watching, and some by listening. One necessary thing to address in an online course is how students with these different styles can still get the most out of the program. Rithm sought to address this in its transition to remote learning.
An alumnus, Genna Mergola, was two weeks into her in-person course when the pandemic hit. “I would be lying if I said transitioning to remote learning didn’t make me nervous but my nerves quickly left as soon as we got started,” she said, noting that instructors play a huge role in keeping students engaged.
Genna notes that all lectures were done live and questions were highly encouraged. Although the program was now remote, collaborative activities like pair programming were still taking place.
“Pair programming after lectures was also a seamless transition to remote learning. I felt pair programming worked better online than it did in person, you were forced to truly pair program,” she said.
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The average bootcamp grad spent less than six months in career transition, from starting a bootcamp to finding their first job.
She notes that the purpose of pair programming is to have a “driver”, a person sharing their screen and typing, and a “navigator”, a person reviewing and discussing the decisions being made. “There was no way of grabbing the other person’s computer and typing, you had to explain what you meant which forced a deeper understanding of what you were writing.”
This necessity of communication and collaboration builds connections between students. Additionally, pair programming also resonates with both the auditory and kinesthetic learning types.
Building and Maintaining Connection
As Career Coach Zach DeRossette said, it’s important to prioritize mental health and connection during this time of isolation. He said that there’s a lot that can feel like a barrier when communicating through Zoom—from body language and making eye contact, to microphones cutting out, and other technological difficulties. However, a connection can still happen and Rithm knows it’s important to foster that in the classroom environment.
Genna says that during her time at Rithm, she felt very connected to her peer group and instructors. “I truly did not feel much of a difference at all, Rithm made the transition unbelievably smooth,” she said. “I absolutely never felt isolated or alone, which was one of my fears transitioning online. I learned to code online but it felt as close to in-person as you could possibly get.”
You may be wondering, “What does the support from teachers and instructors look like online?” Or, “Do instructors pay as much attention to student’s needs as they would in an in-person setting?”
If you ask Genna, the answer is a resounding yes. “I can honestly say there was never a time I waited more than just a few minutes to get my questions answered,” she said, adding that one of her favorite memories at Rithm is one related to connection and growth.
“I would ask a question I was nervous to ask (because I didn’t want to be the only one that didn’t understand) and then a lot of others would follow up on that same question because they were also confused. I feel like I learned to trust myself while at Rithm, and that if I don’t understand something I should ask about it because there is probably a good reason why I’m confused and I’m probably not the only one who is.”
Connection is important to the staff at Rithm, too. Zach said that when he meets up with people for their Career Coaching sessions, he isn’t only interested in how many jobs they’ve applied to. It’s important to him to ask how the students are doing, if they’re taking care of their mental health, exercising and getting outside, and keeping in touch with their family and friends.
“We’ve always told people the job search is more than just applying to jobs,” he said. “It’s about taking care of yourself, too. Now more than ever we have to put an emphasis on taking care of your mind during this process, and not just getting burned out after a couple of weeks.”
“I’m a huge fan of networking,” Zach said. “I’m more of the lean-on-people approach to getting a job. I talk with students about an offer they got and 60, 70 percent of them come from a connection they made either on LinkedIn or a hackathon. There are still students who get it through cold applications but in the pandemic, more than ever having connections and networking is important. It’s usually the thing people like to do the least, but you really have to push students to reach out to people.”
Connecting Students with Job Opportunities Amid COVID-19
Job finding during COVID-19 can certainly be a difficult experience. Navigating the entire process online can also feel like a lonely journey. Genna, for instance, certainly felt the weight of the job hunt when she struggled to find employment during a time when the whole world was scrambling.
However, armed with the advice Rithm had hammered into their students—that is to keep applying for jobs and expanding their network as much as possible—Genna started landing job interviews after two months of trying.
“Although I believe Rithm had prepared us for this as much as possible, I was feeling the weight of all of the rejections. So, I felt sad and decided to get myself whiteboard wallpaper and spend most of my days on Leetcode apart from applying for jobs and networking. Solving algorithms on Leetcode was my favorite thing to do that played a part in the job search and it made me happy. Eventually, things started to look up for me,” she said.
Her dedication, along with the advice given by her career coach, and a well-rounded resume were the golden combination that led to her acceptance as a YearOne finalist. This, she added, was an opportunity that was forwarded by the school.
“YearOne interviews engineers behaviorally and technically. If you are accepted as a YearOne finalist, they send your information to companies they have paired with, ensuring those companies that the engineers have been pre-screened and that they will have YearOne’s extra support during the first year of the job,” she explained.
Not long after, she made it to the final rounds of interviews at two different companies. A company that she was excited about, Carrot Fertility, made an offer and she never looked back. Now, Genna has found a job that felt like a great fit for her, as a Product Engineer.
Find Your Calling in Tech with Rithm School
Though current circumstances have forced students, instructors, and bootcamps to adapt to a different kind of learning and teaching model, the online space can still facilitate well-rounded support and strong connections well.
Take it from Genna: “If you are looking for support from instructors, care for the quality of their curriculum, and empathy for all humans who attend the bootcamp, look no further!”
If you’re ready to join Genna and others who have found their calling after their remote learning experiences, you can apply to Rithm’s next cohort.
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