Back in the summer of 2018, I created an online training program designed to help address a common challenge a lot of my students were sharing with me:
Does this sound familiar?
If it does, you’re not alone. It’s really common!
Learning by doing
The first four sessions of the Vanilla JS Academy all used the same format:
- Every Monday, I’d release a collection of lessons and two projects.
- Every Thursday, I’d hold video office hours to answer any questions and help people get unstuck.
- Every Friday, I’d share my solutions to the projects.
In-between office hours, students could use a private Slack channel to chat with each other, ask questions, and share their work.
The program was really popular, but I noticed a few big problems:
- The projects were too big and open-ended for beginners. A handful of people would quit in the first two weeks.
- For people who finished projects at the beginning of the week, there was too long of a wait for them to see the solutions.
- For people who couldn’t start projects until the end of the week, the office hours weren’t useful.
- There was too much downtime between projects. Students would have to overcome their learning inertia every Monday.
This summer, I decided to throw out my most successful offering ever and redesign Academy from the ground up.
Here’s what changed:
- Every other day, students get 1-3 short lessons and a small project. Each project builds on the lessons learned in the ones before it.
- On the in-between days, I share my approach to the project and cover the common issues and mistakes I see students make.
- Office hours run every other week to give people time to learn and think between sessions.
These changes had a few big impacts:
- Because projects are smaller and more focused, it’s easier for people to get started, push past roadblocks, and feel like they’re making real progress.
- Because projects are more frequent, it makes writing code a habit and prevents people from losing momentum.
- The “in-between day” solution videos tighten up the feedback loop, so people get feedback on their work more quickly and get immediate insights on things they can do better tomorrow.
- All of this led to more productive office hours sessions, and much more vibrant and engaged Slack community.
The new structure works so much better for people. I’m seeing so many more “aha!” moments. It’s awesome!
What my students have to say
The first run of the new program is about halfway through, and I’ve already gotten some amazing feedback from my students.
The format is working so well that a bunch of students who are in the program right now asked me if I could built out a “part 2” for the program so they can keep it going after this session ends!
A new session starts in January
If you’re interested in the Vanilla JS Academy, a new session starts on January 6.
Registration opens up this Friday, and will be part of my Black Friday sale. Through Cyber Monday, you’ll be able to save 50% on registration and get over $1,400 in bonus discounts and freebies.
I’ll be sharing more information about my Black Friday sale on Wednesday, so stay tuned!