In March this year we made a decision to move our courses online - 2 weeks prior to the lockdown in the UK - for the safety of our staff and students. Prior to this shift in approach, we were teaching out of our classroom in Manchester’s Northern Quarter.
For us, the thought of moving online wasn’t something that was thrown upon us by COVID-19...it’s actually something we had in the pipeline almost a year prior to our hand eventually being forced. In that time period we had a vision of an online learning environment complemented by a bespoke interactive learning platform and a community of like minded learners.
How do our current students rate the online learning environment?
Feedback drives everything we do - every week we send students out a feedback form asking them a multitude of questions, so we can gage an understanding of how well we are performing in terms of tuition and student experience.
When we made the decision to move classes online, it made sense to adjust our feedback forms so we could better understand how students were faring in a different environment. In times where there is a great deal of doubt about the online experience - in a world where tuition is traditionally given in person - we didn’t know how our students would react, and we were pleasantly surprised.
Here’s how our 2 active cohorts at the time responded out of 10, cumulatively, over a period of their first 4 weeks studying online-only:
As you can see, everybody who participated in the end-of-week feedback forms voted between 7 and 10, with 10 out of 10 being the most voted for. Some students provided comments to support their scores:
“Friendly atmosphere. Easy to ask questions. Tutors are helpful and encouraging.”
“I think everything is excellent. Very high standards! I was very impressed how good and convenient it is.”
“Whilst not needing to access the drop in or support lobby formats yet I feel the remote sessions work very well”
“It's a challenging but gratifying week. We're all more open to discuss and ask questions.”
What about the social aspect?
The importance of asking for feedback though is that we know there are always areas to improve on. One area that we did identify quite quickly as an issue was the social aspect of going remote and not knowing other students:
“I enjoyed 1v1 a lot and felt understood, tutors are amazing. Still I'd rather to ask without having everyone in the chat, I don’t feel like I know them enough.”
“Works really well, but do like physical classes for the people :)”
Part of the student experience is getting to know one another, and a lot of that is getting to see one another. Following this feedback we changed from weekly standups to bi-weekly stand ups where students can take it in turns to share their experiences. In addition to this, our teaching teams have taken it upon themselves to get conversations going between students during class time. We’ve seen definite shifts in the social dynamic as a result - students are conversing more with each other and the team through our online environment.
It’s worth noting too that we aren’t finished yet. We are introducing regular remote socials between learners in our community so that people can get to know each other a bit more outside of the classroom. There are also (very) exciting plans in the pipeline - which we’ll have more information on soon - to bring students even closer together in a way not many other education establishments are doing. Watch this space!
Will physical lessons resume in the future?
This answer has since been revised on Wednesday 22nd July 2020, following a change in Government regulations which allows businesses to adopt a 1 metre plus rule.
Yes - but we will do so in a way that is safe, and we will combine it with the best bits of online study. We firmly believe there are positive benefits to be had from online learning and these we want to keep as we do move back to the classroom: students are more likely to ask us for help in an online format; some students don’t have the lengthy commute into the classroom they had previously and as a result have more time free to study; our course is more accessible than ever - students joining us on our July cohort come from all over the UK, and we can now accept students from 7 EU countries; and we are also seeing increases in attendance.
Should I wait for physical classes?
Our approach at Manchester Codes during the pandemic hasn't been to furlough staff or to cut costs, but rather to invest in growth. Why? Because we have every reason to believe the investment will pay off as the economy recovers and demand for software developers (which is still present, even in the midst of a pandemic) returns to pre-COVID levels. We believe this philosophy applies to our students (and potential students) as well - you can batten down the hatches and hope that, in a year from now, you are still well placed to make the investment in yourself and your future, or you can make that investment now. A year from now you could be in a new and rewarding career, reflecting over the positive changes that came about because you made the right choice at the right time...
Our next Software Engineer FastTrack cohort commences on Monday 6th July, and is accepting applications until Friday 26th June 20:00. Find out more.