From March 16, 2020, as part of the efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19, at Wild Code School we have taken the decision to close all of our campuses across Europe, but the school remains open and the training programmes continue as virtual classes.
At a time when the world of education is wondering how to implement remote training, we have asked ourselves a number of questions:
- How do you keep a group of students motivated?
- How do you manage instructors?
- Which tools are the most effective for collaboration?
- What equipment should be provided?
In Paris, for almost a month of transport strikes, and since a few weeks in our campus in Milan, Italy, we have already implemented such measures before. You can read the recent testimony of our campus manager in Milan for more details on the situation.
So what do you do when you have no choice and you have to act quickly?
We have identified 3 major conditions for this to work. With a few tools, almost all of them free, and a rigorous organisation, we believe that any school can set this up and ensure quality remote training. Here's why we wanted to share with you what we have learned so far.
1. Create a dedicated environment to focus properly
When you are used to go to school, working in a group, being supported by a trainer, it can be destabilising to find yourself alone in front of your computer at home. In these circumstances, we wanted to help students to become comfortable with these few tips to help them set up their working environment.
Every student needs:
- A quiet place to work with light
- Basic equipment to hear and be heard by everyone during video conferences: a computer, headphones or headset, microphone, webcam
- A good Internet connection
For some students, it may still be difficult to have good working conditions (e.g. childcare). For those, we have planned to provide an extra level of flexibility by recording the courses and key moments of the training.
2. Provide the right tools for collaboration
In order to ensure smooth communication during the training sessions, there is no need to have hundreds of different tools. On the contrary, it is better to use only a few but very efficient tools, each fulfilling a very specific task:
- Training schedule to be shared in advance for everyone to be aware of today's programme: Google Calendar
- Sharing teaching materials that students can use independently: Google Drive to create slide presentations and Odyssey, the Wild Code School's educational platform on which students can do learning exercises autonomously.
- Videoconferences for lessons: Google Meet or Zoom
- Instant messaging to facilitate group work between students: Slack or RocketChat
3. Set routines to keep students motivated.
Perhaps one of the most important points. Without working physically with other instructors and the students on a daily basis, the most difficult thing is to maintain team spirit among the members of the same class. When learning new technical skills, it is normal to go through ups and downs, and it is at such times that guidance and mutual support becomes essential.
In order to ensure this part, it is essential to create rituals that must be grounded in a typical week shared by all students.
A typical week of remote work
- Exercices on Odyssey, quests to do autonomously
- Classes (videoconference with the instructor)
- Dojo, group algorithmic training exercise (remotely)
- Live coding, live coding session by the instructor (remotely)
- Client project (student work together on a client project)
- Autonomous work
- Input from a professional (videoconference)
- Retrospective, with a presentation of the progress of the client projects of all groups
Within this typical week, we asked our instructors to dedicate time to 2 types of routines:
Group moments to share with the instructor. Several times a day we have set up a system of mini-meetings in groups of 15-20 students with the instructor at the beginning of the day (check-in), at the beginning of the afternoon (midday check-in) and at the end of the day (check-out), with a final retrospective on Friday afternoon as the closing point of the week. These moments play an important role in re-engaging the students with the training programme, reconnecting them as a group and ensuring that everyone is on board.
Individual meetings between instructors and students. Remotely, it is difficult to have "informal" moments of Q&A with the teacher (as opposed to face-to-face meetings), so it is important to plan these meetings in a different way. Our instructors dedicate 1.5 hours a day to individual meetings with students in order to provide them with support and personalised advice.
To sum up, here are the most important rules:
- Take the time to set clear rules about remote work
- Limit the number of tools
- Sharing agendas and resources upfront
- Set simple rituals
- Follow up on EVERY student
What about you, how do you ensure the continuity of your classes remotely?
If you have any suggestions, do not hesitate to write to us at email@example.com, we will be happy to update our article with your advice.