The goal of the Nebraska Dev Lab Pipeline Program is to take individuals with no software development experience and train them to be effective and productive software developers. This program will improve those individuals’ lives while also positively impacting the tech industry in Nebraska by adding more developers to a market that desperately needs them.
The Pipeline Program is comprised of four stages. The first stage focuses on teaching the fundamentals of writing code. The second stage focuses on how to structure code and processes to build real systems. The third stage is a capstone project where participants put the first two stages into practice by working with professionals from Don’t Panic Labs on an application for a local nonprofit. The fourth stage is an apprenticeship at the participants’ respective sponsor organizations, working on a development team alongside their mentors.
We had a lot of material we wanted to cover in the second stage. While the participants learned quite a bit, so did we in terms of both what worked well and what can be improved for future cohorts.
Learning Management Systems
In the 21st century, effective use of a learning management system (LMS) is essential. Doug and Chad both have experience teaching courses at the university level but had relatively minimal experience with LMSs when the cohort began in January. Throughout the year, we learned how crucial LMSs are when instruction involves a lot of content.
Canvas, the LMS we used for most of the year, kept us organized on various fronts and has become invaluable in all the online teaching we do – including our Advanced Continuing Education program for developers already working in the industry. We believe that having this system in place provided a great experience for everyone.
We changed LMSs during the second stage. While this wasn’t a big issue, maintaining one LMS for the entire program would have made more sense and would have created better continuity for the participants. For our next cohort, we will try to stick with just one system (Canvas).
Transitioning from One Stage to the Next
Alec Engrebretson from Doane University led instruction during the first stage, and Doug Durham and Chad Michel handled instruction during the second stage. We believe the transition from one stage to the next went pretty well, although we think the handoff could have been smoother if Doug and Chad were more present during the first stage. For our next cohort, these two will engage earlier and more frequently.
Amount of Content Covered
Looking back, we may have packed too much content into the second stage. At times it felt like we were rushing through it. This fast pace seemed to rattle the participants and probably shook their confidence.
Thankfully, this cohort’s tenacity helped them stick with it. They pushed through and absorbed a large amount of content in a relatively short amount of time. Looking back, we recognize that we could have considered a more realistic amount of content. For our next cohort, we will allocate more time for the second stage.
Overall, we are happy with the participants’ efforts during the second stage. We covered a massive amount of content in a short amount of time. And while we adjusted to slow things down, we credit the participants for bearing with us and putting forth a fantastic effort.
The biggest saving grace here was the participants got to put these practices in place during the third stage. This helped to make many of the concepts we covered in the second stage more concrete and provide participants a little more time to digest them.
Like anything, if we continue to reevaluate how we did and continue to focus on improving, we will make future cohorts even better.