metrics & guiding principles
These four goals, formulated by David and Roger Johnson, of the Cooperative Learning Institute guide our course design.
Individual accountability (each person in the group learns the material)
Promotive interaction (group members help one another, share information, offer clarifying explanations)
Social skills (group members must practice leadership, communication, compromise)
Group processing (group members must regularly assess how well they are working together and make necessary adjustments)
By adopting these principles, the metrics for our bootcamp and course design naturally arise.
There are two metrics that, in our experience, support the goals of the 4 points above more than any others. First is class sizes. And second is instructor ratios. Let me put those metrics in the context of the four principles above.
When you’re working on new coding techniques and problems, there’s always an internet to rely on. That’s fantastic, but it mustn’t stand in for learning. For example, there’s what we call the cut and paste coder. If you can’t figure out how to do something, other people’s code in places like Github, tutorials and so on can really be helpful. But when the pressure to move on hits and you still don’t really get it, it’s tempting to just copy what you’ve found that you know works, and paste it in.
With our one-on-one approach in the Cloud Camp phase of our program, you always have individual help from an experienced instructor right there to make sure you don’t need to resort to cut and paste. When it’s time to learn the core skills we teach in the Cloud Camp, making sure that the best support possible is there allows Individual Accountability to flourish.
The role of collaboration, and interaction between students is so central to our program, it’s almost like we planned it around this idea. [we did]. Besides coding, research on tools, libraries, techniques, resources is an integral part of our program. And that research is all about sharing what you learn.
Of course you can, and will rely on your instructors, but we encourage every participant to share what they’ve learned. Often, because our students move at different rates through the instruction phase, we pair students not at the same level together. The less advanced will learn from the more advanced, and the more advanced will quickly find that once you teach someone something, you can then – and maybe only then – claim to know and understand it.
We’ve always had a four to one ratio of students to instructors; the best there is in any bootcamp. But we also know that the real ratio to aspire to isn’t 4:1, but when sharing makes the ratio everyone:everyone.
Coding, like making movies, reaches its potential not as a solo activity, but when people work together. So the question of leadership, and who should lead comes up. In our program, you will step up and lead a team.
We believe that the bootcamp isn’t just a chance to learn to code, but also a chance to define a culture around programming and work. That includes the assumption that the people and groups that we don’t think of as leaders in technology traditionally are equals with those that perhaps we do (young men, we’re looking at you).
Software is culture, ultimately, and the Agile approach is all about continuously examining how you’re doing. Failing is not just allowed, but encouraged, as a path to the next and better thing. So one of the key things students learn is to throw away what they’ve done, when it would be better to start again. Starting again is a key coding skill, and knowing when to apply it is a key determinant for success as a coder.
Being able to make that decision, or to build on what’s there thrives when there’s a culture of seeking feedback from others. The culture of providing feedback in a civil, constructive way is at the heart of our process, and that presupposes trust. And that’s a key metric for us: class sizes small enough to quickly create substantial bonds built on knowing who your classmates are, correlates to and encourages the feedback Group Processing demands.
what matters to you, matters to us
what's the point of a bootcamp that doesn't do what you need it to?
Write your own adventure
Besides the four principles above, there’s another one that we embrace: Participants should be able to make out of the bootcamp experience what they need and want it to be. And if we ever got to the point where we were focused on just getting a busload of students through the same curriculum in the same way, on the same day – that’s the day we stop doing this.
People attend bootcamps for many reasons. To create a new career, even a new life for themselves. To expand the possibilities in the business they already run. Because they're entrepreneurs, and they know code is key to building businesses in an app-dependent world.
We understand that. And we've made our courses flexible; our small classes and high instructor ratios translate directly to more time spent exploring new ideas, getting guidance on your goals from seasoned coders, and more time building projects with real-world application; not lame bootcamp portfolio pieces. At Ruby on the Beach, you can wander as far from the assignment as you need, to maximize your benefit. Our job is to help you realize your ambitions, not fit them into a one-size-fits-all model.
When we interview you, we'll want to hear about who you are, what you think you can do, what you've done – all part of building the bootcamp experience that you want, and that you deserve.