Since January I have been a campus ambassador for Brainstation, a coding school in Toronto focused on making a technical education affordable and accessible. Part of my work was to hold a coding workshop at Western University and contribute to the London community. With few resources and a lot of support, we filled a large University classroom for three hours of coding this past Monday.
When I began, I thought it was going to be an uphill battle, but I was blown away by the response. Students, organizations and the community alike provided an outpouring of support and enthusiasm to have a coding event in London.
Organizations such as BizInc., TechAlliance, Campusdevs, Yunite, UnLondon, Inner Geek,Nspire, Western Founders Network, Startup London, Ivey Entrepreneurship Club and DECA U Western all helped make the event a success. Considering the event was only a day before the last day of classes, the support we received was amazing to see from the London community.
Students, professionals and mature learners packed a room at the new Ivey building to start their first step in coding education. Seeing the community support and the diverse range of people wanting to learn to code was amazing to see. Most free online resources lack this community collaboration and engagement. Having 65 people packed in a room, all energized to learn how to code and the opportunities that are available, is hard to beat.
Collaborating with people with different skill levels really made the difference. From veterans to beginners, it created a friendly and open environment for people to talk openly about areas they were finding difficult or what was possible if they learnt how to code.
The feedback from the students, mature learners and community was immense. Jay Field, one of the cofounders of Brain Station, was overwhelmed with the positive feedback and turnout. He later told me, “a young man had informed me that they had been having trouble learning how to code [and] that he learned more in our three-hour event then he did in three months with online resources.” Social and collaborative learning seems to engage people, no matter their age, profession or stage of life.
Although online resources, such as MOOCs, offer great access to information, it is very hard to motivate and connect with students. With MOOC completion rates below 7%, its apparent that classroom engagement is still king when it comes to educating students. However, as traditional education costs continue to increase, and, from first hand experience, the classroom engagement diminishes, I feel the structure code schools, like Brainstation, offer are a compelling program for students.
Education is imperative to a successful future. Institutions and organizations need to teach industry level and marketable skills to educate this new workforce. The speed of which needs to be as agile as the ones in the market.
Coding events are a great way to build community around technical skills as well as introduce people to coding concepts. Whether you are a student, a professional or a senior, these skills are valuable to have. Western, Fanshawe and the London community has the potential and infrastructure to facilitate many more of these events to help people learn how to code.