When signing up for this software engineering bootcamp a few months back, I had the option to do it online or in person. I never considered online. I like people and I’m pretty sure I need people to learn.
I thought I would find it hard to focus on my own. Working from home definitely would require more discipline. Not physically being in the space, you need to actively remind yourself that work needs to be done. From kindergarten till high school all my instructional learning happened in class. Now I understand you can’t do grade school from home because how do you trust such young students to log on and take charge of their learning. And until this week, I thought, I too like a kindergartener would not have the self-discipline for working from home. So I signed up for the in-person class.
Well, COVID-19 happened in Seattle causing all Flatiron classes to go online. Now besides the amazingly short commute time to my bed, I was apprehensive. However, after having completed almost a week of the program online, I have to say it was not that bad! Let’s go through my initial worries and see how they played out.
Attention/ Self Discipline
I’ll admit it. It can be difficult to get me to focus. This was originally my biggest issue with having to work from home. What if my attention span fails me?
Now this hugely has to do with the immersive nature of the course but my days have been flying by! Flatiron does a great job in keeping me engaged the entire class time with labs to work on, group work, lectures, assignments and more. More work than I can keep up with half the time! Being busy seems to be the cure to any self-discipline issue I may have had.
Additionally, there’s something about these problems. They suck you in. You start working on a program, and it doesn’t quite work, but you know you are close. You can figure this out if I just change this and maybe add this, and I’ll need to rework that bit …. and I look up and notice 4 hours have somehow gone by, the sun has set and I’m famished!
I’m very new to this whole coding thing and I have questions probably every other second. Why isn’t this working, what does that do, why is it doing this and huh?? Not having help nearby would be terrifying!
As it turns out, having help a little further away has actually forced me to find answers on my own. I know, super cheesy and I almost wish it wasn’t true. But it is. Since I don’t want to go through a whole hassle of remotely trying to ask my question to my peers and instructors each time, I spend longer with my questions. Turns out with some persistence (and a lot of Google), you can usually solve your own problems.
Thus, in regard to this concern, I’d say working from home has helped rather than harm. Now a lot of credit is due to Flatiron’s team for being available, knowledgeable and easily accessible when I truly have run into issues that I deemed “unsolvable”. However, having to video chat and screen share is definitely not the same as looking over one’s shoulder.
Lack of Community/ Collaborative Learning
Though I am getting all the required help, I do worry about missing out on a collaborative learning process.
It’s true when they say you don’t fully understand anything until you can teach it. That’s why a classroom of people learning together is so valuable. You get the opportunity to help your peers, and at the same time further your own understanding. Its that leap from “If I put this here, it works” to “I have to explain why it works when I put this here”.
This also works when I have questions. If I had turned to my neighbour and asked the question (instead of google), perhaps there might have been a conservation about it. A chance for more input. The StackOverflow answers can’t tie in the answer to my class context or provide additional insight.
Additionally, I was very excited to have a new group of people to work with. I love meeting new people and chances to make new friends! Zooming into classes together isn’t quite the same as grabbing lunch together or watching each other work through and struggle on problems. However, the program has allowed for various ways to collaborate. From pair programming, discussion questions, slack messaging and more. I resultantly wasn’t robbed the entire community experience as I initially saw it.
Loss of a Commute
I’m sure this isn’t a universal feeling, but I enjoy a (reasonable) commute to work/school. In the morning, its a chance to wake up, and at the end of a long day its a chance to decompress. Working from home has meant I get up with just enough time to open my eyes and appear presentable in front of my laptop. Sometimes with last night’s dream still clear in my memory. Now obviously this is a quick fix… just wake up earlier! If I do, then I’ll be much more ready to learn at the start of the class. However, my incentives to actually do this are low. On the flip side, without my commute home, my day doesn’t quite have a distinct end. I don’t get a chance to just sit on a bus, and allow myself a justified time doing nothing. I’m working on just closing the laptop and saying “ok! that’s enough!”.
So all in all, I haven’t hated working and learning from home. I’ve managed to work through it and create a process that works for me. Though I am eager to come back into the classroom when the situation allows for it.