Extra-curricular Live Coding Course
Helping connect and develop career skills through a personalised and interactive project-based coding course.
Brisbane State High School
What is the problem you found?
Loss in student opportunities
Work experience – cancelled, internships – cancelled, part-time jobs – cancelled, extra-curriculars – cancelled, youth workshops/festivals/community gatherings (Youth Week) – cancelled!
Apart from Netflix and YouTube, how do we plan on providing an enriching holiday for our younger generation? Additionally, with the coming school terms looking to be online, how are we looking to replace what was once an abundance in extra-curricular resources. These opportunities were crucial in helping students develop communication, leadership, empathy, teamwork and problem-solving skills... yet our current situation has caused most to have to stop. Most universities often ask about extra-curricular activities, so would part-time jobs and sponsorship opportunities, yet with most cancelled how do we plan on providing for this need? Students are told to explore their options early, to “try things out!” Yet within the confines of homes, and without a broad network, how are we to expect students to get these experiences?
Mental health organisations such as Beyond Blue have made it clear that connections and a sense of purpose is important to our mental state. Yet when left at home, without being allowed to see friends, where the parents still need to work, we would have to be very optimistic.
There were roughly 1.7 million secondary students in 2019 (ACARA, 2019). That’s 1.7million student’s whose rehearsals, trainings and club meetings were cancelled. In 2013 Youth In Focus released a paper which synthesised the fact that for Australian 12-14 year olds alone, 35% participated in organised cultural activities and 65% participate in sports outside school hours. Just considering the later and again using the data from ACARA (2019) that’s a total of roughly 780 thousand students who have lost that opportunity. That connection. That sense of purpose.
What is your opportunity?
How might we engage students and provide them with a worthwhile opportunity which could also help connect them? Thus providing for: connection, purpose and career benefits.
Who is your audience?
Secondary school students who have access to interest and a computer.
What Is Your Solution?
Live Student Programming Course
A personalised and interactive project-based coding course which helps students connect and develop skills to benefit their careers.
A quick intro:
80,000 is a nonprofit organisation which does the research to help people gain a more fulfilling career. Within one of their guides (which you can access here) they talk about this concept of career capital:
The earlier you are in your career, and the less certain you are about what to do in the medium-term, the more you should focus on gaining career capital that’s flexible i.e. useful in many different sectors and career paths.
- Working in any organisation which has, or with any people who have, a reputation for high performance e.g. top consultancy or technology firms, or any work with a great mentor or team.
- Undertaking certain graduate studies, especially applied quantitative subjects like economics, computer science and applied mathematics.
- Anything that gives you a valuable transferable skill e.g. programming, data science, marketing.
- Taking opportunities which allow you to achieve impressive and socially valuable things e.g. founding an organisation, doing anything at which you might excel.
Problems: disconnection, loss of purpose loss of career benefiting opportunities.
After school hours (so just like a normal extra-curricular activity), imagine engaging students within a community on projects which matter to them while gaining career capital.
Through an online coding course, I hope to pass on my skills developed from being a student who has been able to enter the programming industry.
Being self-taught, I know a lot about the resources out there and how people use them. However, when regarding: connection, purpose and career capital, some clear opportunities can be seen.
- A lot of current courses are prerecorded.
- This means students cannot get live feedback when they get stuck. Often having to wait for another student to have the same problem and then post it online (which can often take up to a year on YouTube courses) or they have to try and funnel through the web resources to try and figure out what is wrong.
- Whilst getting students to research their problems is great, it can cause a loss in the belief in their abilities. Which is far from what one wants to cultivate early on when students are learning.
- Most courses can leave student overwhelmed by the amount there still is to learn. Let’s be honest, programming evolves so fast, there is constantly more to learn. Seeing the vast amount out there can be very intimate. This is why you’ll find a lot of people who are starting off ask for recommendations such as which language/framework/software.
- This can really impact their motivation to learn and it can blur the sense of purpose in why they are actually learning.
- Most courses are very ambiguous and teach the theoretical side of programming.
- Programming can get very confusing early on and the fact that it is not quite tangible makes this even harder. However, practical projects can help students see hands on the implications of what they are learning and allows them to gain a skill which they might use later on within very different scenarios. For example, learning how to automate browser searching may become very useful during research assignments, yet learning about classes named foo and bar doesn’t really get you anywhere. This is not to say the theory is not important, yet hands-on implications of the theory should be the focus in my opinion
The clear solution is thus to create a digital community where everyone is learning through hands-on projects. Immediate feedback can be provided through live teaching and collaboration on projects with others within the community.
Teaching of useful content (not just move this fluffy dog three squares up and then to the right can also drive purpose and career capital. Examples of this would include learning how to automate boring tasks.
This is what I want to offer to students.
The business side of things
The following business technicalities have been considered and implemented (some may need further improvement and continuation):
- Price: Pay What You Want (with a minimum)
- Firstly, students are known not to have a lot of cash at the ready, they often have to resort to getting support from their parents.
- These challenging times a lot of parents have seen financial challenges regarding to job loss or wage cuts.
- Thus I want to offer an opportunity for them to pay what they see is worth for the course within their current situations.
- There is a minimum to account for the costs involved with the course.
- School program organisers
- Using contacts such as these since they would already have a contact list. There is also the potential for partnership.
- Using contacts who have further contacts with schools or contacting schools directly.
- Social media:
- Facebook groups
- Sending of messages to mum facebook groups across Australia allows for direct and personalised contact.
- Social influencers
- Getting students involved! This involves getting students to think like advertisers and practice their entrepreneurial skills. It is a referral program where student “influencers” get paid $10 per person who signs up for the complete course. These “influencers” are provided with a unique link which then caches their name within the potential customer’s session (which is stored in a database and not using cookies).
- Paid advertising
- Google Ads
- Facebook groups
- The funnel:
- A free prerecording of the first course is provided upon students registering interest. Upon completion of this, a form is provided which allows for feedback to be gained and for the course to be better tailored to what is expected from each student. Noticing the different levels of interest different strategies can be used (through different approaches to the communication) to help them go through the final payment stage. Even if they do not go through that, there contact is stored which allows for future events to be promoted to them (unless they indicate otherwise).
- School program organisers
- Online website to gain interest with a database connected to allow for the recording of user data. This can easily be accessed and viewed through an admin panel. Website is built using Django.
- Prerecording of the first session is hosted on YouTube with the video listed as private. Access to this is emailed upon students expressing interest.
- Feedback form is done through landbot.io to allow for increased personalisation and feedback.
- Services are connected with Zapier.
- Teaching (at this stage) would be don on discord due to its high-quality streaming and voice sharing capabilities (for a class up to 50 participants) as well as allowing for the creation of the digital community. All within the one platform which most students would be aware of with some already being comfortable with it.
Trying a pilot during the holiday period to gauge interest and gain feedback on content, platforms, project website, and business strategies.
Update on Pilot:
The program was successfully run over the Easter Holiday Break. The following was noted:
- There was a minimal response from the contacts through school since these were too busy. This was confirmed through responses of contact.
- The social influencing marketing tactic did bring a lot of views to the website. More time and contact with these influencers would have been prefered as a lot of people didn't feel they had enough time to do a just job. New graphics were also produced for these people.
- Tagging people who helped the project get going in a LinkedIn update of the course led to +1k people viewing the post.
- All students were able to communicate fine with each other, after reviewing their feedback the following was noted:
- All students believed they learnt something
- All students enjoyed themselves (average rating: 5/5)
- All students stated they would further recommend the program (average rating: 9/10)
- All students were happy with the delivery of the program, and the timing.
- All students were able to successfully (with minimal guidance) write a computer program which could autonomously complete questions and donate rice on freerice.com
- All students learnt and felt comfortable working with professional software and workflows (using the command line - GitBash, with basic Git commands), and a professional text editor.
Currently finding and engaging with potential students seems to be the hardest challenge.
Progress update (16th - 22nd of April):
Following from the run of the program the following work is have been worked on:
- Have been in contact with teachers and trying to get some of them involved.
"I am super impressed with your website and idea and would love to look at opportunities to promote your workshop throughout the year!" (Classroom teacher - IPT, Digital Technologies)
- Have got positive feedback and support
- Gaining further feedback to improve existing processes, content and promotion.
- Have been in contact with Scott Millar, founder of Bop Industries, with the intention of catching up on a call. This would allow me to share what I have learnt as well as get some more ideas to develop things further.
- Was able to promote the solution on Venture Cafe's Online Gathering (16th of April). Presenting to a live online audience.
A little side-path (24th-26th of April):
The 24th-26th of April I was able to participate in the Australian Techstars Startup Weekend. Key points and their relevance to this project:
- Idea proposal was accepted as one of the 20 initial ideas for people to work on
- Small 2min promotional video was created and shared through Techstars Australia social media platform.
- Idea and problem was mentioned on a live stream at the opening session on YouTube
- Was able to find and work in a team passionate about creating solutions for the problem at hand
- Was able to generate a prototype for Beanstalk: a hands-off, engaging video tool to help students safely participate in the extra-curricular activities that they love, whilst allowing the coordinator to provide personalised feedback.
- Large amounts of customer validation were gained from teachers, parents and students. Collected using direct messaging, phone calls as well as online surveys. This validation is also applicable to this solution and it helped reinforce the need to provide engaging opportunities for students during these times - both from a student and parent perspective.
- Was able to connect and organise a follow-up conversation with Indi Tansey and Stephanie Leahy.
- I believe these would be very beneficial and interesting with strong potential of developing the solution further and to helping more.
- Was able to be reminded of and learn the importance of certain startup philosophies including assumptions, pitching, design, creating the problem statement, simplifying the user's experience for both the product and customer surveys, working quickly and efficiently in a team setting.
- A cool point; I got introduced to David Brown (Co-CEO and co-founder of Techstars as well as many other startups and companies) by Philippe Ceulen and got some nice individual advice: "especially important to get involved with a startup when you are young."
Progress Update (As of 28th of April):
- Since the last update, I have been able to gain interest to try and run the program with a local scout group. This would be with a group of 10-15 scouts aged from 11-14 and would be run weekly in the evenings this term. This would be a great opportunity to gain more feedback as well as to provide an opportunity for students to enjoy themselves, connect and learn. I will be running my course within 30min-1hr segments every week in the evening. The group is currently using Zoom and Caremonkey for online communication so I will have to see how I could integrate my current program within such. With repl.it allowing for the programs to be public, I will continue using such, but I believe I might find it harder monitoring all the students whilst managing their behaviours. I am looking forwards to improving my system following this period.
- Following the startup weekend, I stated I was looking to confirm a follow-up meeting with Indi and Stephanie. Currently, a meeting has been booked with Stephanie for Thursday and I will meet up in person with Indi at a later stage or might have to do it remotely if things take a while.
- I would also like to mention how the aforementioned linkedIn post has since gained +1.6 views, which is really exciting since it means I am able to get the problem out there in front of more people. With more awareness, I hope people will be more conscious of it and thus it might help more solutions to be developed, people to be interested in reaching out - which I have noticed, as well as helping to get my message out there.
- Following the last hackathon, I have since posted another post which again touches on the issue. Within 24hrs this post has reached over 677 people and still rising.
Progress Update (As of 5th of May):
- A call was done with Stephanie and a possible collaboration with a program for students was discussed. Further details will be worked on during a follow-up call.
- The scout group is still interested, currently the coding program is being fit within the current termly schedule.
- The post from the hackathon again saw a lot of attention, with more than 1k people seeing it. There were also a numerous people who engaged with the post which is also quite exciting.
In order of priority:
- Increased frequency of courses to more students at different times. Scheduled lessons like an extra-curricular activity.
- Increased content depth to allow students to continue through with what they’ve learnt.
- Range of services being taught, with other students sharing their expertise.
- Students or their parents who would be interested,
- Prospect sponsorship organisation who would like to help support such program.
- People who are willing to get involved.
- Marketing – more targeted advertising using Facebook, google and YouTube – since this is a very common place for the desired demographic to be found (especially with this new found extra time).
- Tools and services. Website hosting, digital community platform (especially as things grow and the existing offer of 50 participants per stream is removed).
Further advice on:
- The model of the solution,
- The sustainability of it,
- The marketing of it.
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