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How to be Successful in Remote Learning at Codesmith

As the world is fighting against the COVID-19 outbreak, educational institutions including Software Engineering Immersive programs like Codesmith have switched to fully remote instruction. While studying from home has its perks such as no commute and a comfortable, low-pressure environment, it can certainly be challenging.

We understand that procrastination and distraction can prevent some students from staying productive and accomplishing their goals when studying from home. In order to better understand how students can be successful in remote learning we turn to Shane, the Lead Online Instructor of our Part-time Remote Immersive Program.

Shane has been in the tech industry for years and has extensive online teaching experience. He will walk us through some steps he thinks every student can take in order to be successful in remote learning.

Q: Based on your experience working with students remotely, how can they make sure to stay on track and focused on their goals?

When thinking about what makes our remote students stay focused on their goals, three key things come to mind based on my experience

  1. First of all, be resilient and follow the right steps. Put yourself in the best possible position to be resilient by embracing structure in your days. It can be tempting to take ‘check-out’ from the learning opportunities by focusing on other things during lectures, but doing so will harm your learning. Instead, utilize the calendar the school provides. At Codesmith, our remote day is broken down minute by minute, so students know the structured hours for their classes, lectures, pair programming sessions, etc. Together we’re not only learning how to make mature engineering decisions, we’re also learning how to be the best humans we can be.

  2. Have trust in the process - the team is here to guide you. Onsite or remote, every resident will experience imposter syndrome and feel an overwhelming sense that they are falling behind. Literally hundreds of people have gone through this process and the best way to manage those experiences is by communicating.
    Reach out to the team and fellow residents early and often. That overwhelming feeling of facing the vast expanse of knowledge that is unknown to you does not go away - it’s actually something you can count on as a software engineer. Learn to communicate as a response to those feelings and you will be in a great position to thrive on any team.

  3. Always come well-prepared. Bringing 100% of your energy and attention to the immersive program is no easy task, nor is it something that will happen ‘auto-magically’ just because you paid money to attend the program. Instead, try to acknowledge that being present for lectures, pair-programming, and everything else Codesmith offers is difficult and prepare accordingly.
  • Do you focus better after coffee in the morning? Then bring your favorite coffee to your desk before logging on to Zoom.

  • Do you need little breaks to stretch and pace around the room? Mention that to your pair programming partner and agree on small break times to give everyone the opportunity to bring their best selves to class.

Your experience is within your control - you can choose to be as passionate about the craft of software engineering as you like.


2c2b1c7b8672796ec400284180b0922cFull-time Software Engineering Immersive program students presenting Tech Talks.

"The Codesmith team fosters and curates an environment in which students learn not only from the instructors, but also from each other. The culture encourages positive and constructive feedback, mutual support, and communicating with empathy as well as technical precision. Beyond merely teaching important CS concepts and the latest and most in-demand libraries of the moment, the team’s most significant contribution is modeling this engineering empathy for all of us students."
Vahid, Part-time Remote Immersive student

Q: What are some tips and tricks that students can use for a more effective remote learning experience?

  1. Don’t get distracted - every minute counts. Turning off notifications is critical to your ability to focus on lectures and pair programming. Also be sure to turn off your phone's notifications if that is something that can distract you.

  2. Turning on your camera is essential to fostering this bond! Residents often learn very quickly that one of the most powerful experiences of Codesmith is the culture and community you create with your cohort-mates.
  3. Do your best to keep a positive mental attitude, which includes managing the unexpected. As has always been the case, technology can be fragile, so if residents run into internet connectivity issues it’s best for them to have a few backup options in mind. One of the most popular is having the phone number for the Zoom meeting saved in their phones, so they can always join the audio portion of lectures if their internet connection becomes an issue. Above all, communicate with the team and your pair programming partner if something comes up - the team is here to support you!

Q: What do you think can help students stay engaged and not feel isolated when studying from home?

  1. Constantly communicate with the team and your cohort mates. Isolation during remote study is always a challenge, and it’s only made more pronounced with the current social isolation policies in place throughout the world. One important piece of managing this feeling is to use all the opportunities available to you to socialize with the Codesmith team and your cohort mates!

    Attend the optional group lunch Zoom meetings, attend the Thursday Night Drinks hangout on Zoom, join the Mindfulness sessions hosted by the Codesmith team on long lunches twice a week, and be the catalyst for getting a Netflix watch party going after hours! Everyone in the program is sharing a similar experience -- it’s an amazing opportunity to share in that! Slack will also become an essential part of your daily life at Codesmith. The team is always accessible via Slack as well as your cohort mates!


"Codesmith spends time helping us get to know each other. We have time set aside for virtual lunches together, monthly game nights, and circles where we can just talk about anything but code. Building a network is important for your work, that starts with your cohort, but more importantly making friends is important for your life. That happens here too."

Matt S, Part-time Remote Immersive student

2. Bring positivity and encourage your peers. The energy drain from Zoom is real! Use short breaks before and after lectures to give yourself the opportunity to bring all of your positive energy to lectures and especially pair programming sessions throughout the program. As silly as it may sound, blowing up everyones messages in Slack with a bunch of emojis is the best way I’ve seen to effectively encourage your peers on Slack! Try it out!

3. Be the role-model of the group - help whenever you can. Another great way to connect with your cohort mates is to offer special workshops on anything you find interesting! It can be code related or not! One of the most powerful ways to learn is to teach. Sharing your expertise allows you to practice your technical communication skills and contribute to the community in the most impactful way possible.

Q: What are some additional things students can do to improve their remote learning experience?

  1. Create a dedicated area for you to study. If you spend any time researching how you can get the most out of a remote learning experience, you will undoubtedly find the suggestion to create a space in your living area to be dedicated to study. It’s like your own sanctuary of learning, and you get to create it!

    The impact of this dedicated study area cannot be overstated. If it’s at all possible for you, take the time to figure out how you can make this a reality for you. If additional tools are needed (like a computer desk, or a posture-supporting chair), utilize your stipend from Codesmith to make this a reality in your home. Every student on our in-person programs in LA and NYC (that are temporarily remote due to Coronavirus) receives a $1000 stipend to set up a home office to be effective as residents.

    To every student on our remote programs (part-time or full-time), Codesmith provides an iPad and an Apple Pencil when they join the program to help them effectively whiteboard their thoughts during pair programming sessions. The iPad will also be used extensively in the System Design unit of the program!

  2. Don’t forget to take breaks and if you feel sick, focus on recovery. The challenges that Codesmith offers are steep and they are necessary for the growth of all the software engineers who step through our doors. While pushing ourselves to be the best we can be, it’s critical that we acknowledge the importance of health throughout the program. If there is ever a time that a resident feels sick they should know that Codesmith will be behind them 100% to encourage them to take the necessary time off to focus fully on recovering.

"Consider taking five or ten minutes to walk around the room or a larger space, getting a snack, snuggling a pet, or looking out the window. I’ve been surprised how helpful that’s been for me and how much time I end up saving by just walking away for a minute."

Beckett, Part-time Remote Immersive student