Week 01

160307 – 160313 — Total classroom hours: 14

The first week of Bloc is under my belt and I’m feeling pretty good about it. My mentor is engaging, enthusiastic, and timely to both answer my questions/comments and approve my submitted assignments. The infrastructure of the learning platform seems well thought out. The main homepage is referred to as the ‘Roadmap’ where it is easy to see progress and what still needs to be accomplished to reach the goals for the week (which is determined by the pace chosen at the beginning of the program).

The curriculum is setup as such: text-based explanation of the subject, code assignments to confirm understanding of the subject, then video ‘answers’ to the code assignments. Within the explanation of the subjects, as well as the assignments, there are often links to help explain things in more detail. They also encourage Googling any questions you might have during the process. To some this may seem like laziness on the part of Bloc, but every programmer I’ve ever spoken to has told me that Google is always the second tab open on their browser and that knowing how to search for answers is just as important a skill as knowing proper syntax.

I was able to surpass my weekly goal of 5 checkpoints, primarily because I have been doing a lot of prep work before starting the program with Bloc. The first 5 checkpoints were things I have learned before, and I was able to cruise through them pretty quickly. Then things started picking up and I was finding it pleasantly challenging. I was submitting assignments nightly, and my mentor typically had them approved and commented upon before noon the next day.

My goal with this program is to push as hard as I can, and not take a break until there’s a good stopping point in the curriculum, which is what I accomplished this week. I made it through checkpoint 11 (Ruby: Advanced Classes) which seemed to me to be about as far as I wanted to go before discussing my process with my mentor. I’m not simply blazing through assignments, just to check them off the list. I work a problem until I feel that I fully understand it, and at this point I’ve compiled enough questions that I feel it would be best to take a break until I can run all of them by my mentor.

I feel great about my progress so far, and as long as the meeting on Monday evening goes well, I’ll have some good momentum going into Week02.

Why the blog, why Bloc?

This blog is meant to serve two purposes, first and foremost this is a way for me to digest everything I have learned and experienced in the previous week. The second purpose is to shed some light on a learning process that is relatively new. Before I get into the meat of the post, a little disclaimer that this is initially going to be a bare-bones blog site, and I will be slowly improving upon as I go.

Code bootcamps aren’t necessarily new, people have been landing successful careers out of boot camps for years. Online bootcamps are also not a new concept, but an online curriculum with a dedicated mentor to accompany you from beginning to end is a relatively new business model, and let’s be honest, bootcamps are businesses. To be completely honest, I didn’t think a mentor-based online program would work for me, primarily because of the costs. I was convinced that I would be taking the hard road and teaching myself. It wasn’t until my girlfriend emailed me a page of links and syllabi from multiple programs after a morning of digging around the internet that I realized it may be a feasible option.

I had a lot of options, but after researching more extensively, three really stood out: CareerFoundry, Thinkful, and Bloc. CareerFoundry has a price that can’t be beat, but after looking at their program it seemed unrealistic that I would be a full-fledged Web Developer after 6 months of 15 hours a week. Thinkful looked to have a solid curriculum, but the pricing structure didn’t seem optimal for my situation. They have a monthly payment plan, basically pay until you finish, which at their rate and my timing structure, would end up being a pricey venture. So, as I’m sure you can surmise, that left me with Bloc. I liked Bloc’s curriculum, they had an appropriate pacing schedule for me (I’m still working a 40+ hours/week job while taking the course), and they give you access to the curriculum for life. It seemed -and still seems- like a good fit.

Coursereport is by far the best one stop resource for everything bootcamp research related. The one caveat with the reviews, particularly with programs that have an ‘accept everyone’ policy like most online programs do, is that the reviews can be all over the board. You really have to look beyond the star ratings and read the comments to see what the reviewer is commenting about. That brings me back to the second reason I’m writing about my experiences weekly. I had a hard time finding any detailed, relatable experience regarding any of the online mentor-based programs. Even after all the research I did, I still feel like I’m ‘winging it’ pretty hard.

And, finally, in case anyone is wondering, I am not being compensated in any way -by any company or institution- for writing these posts. These are my thoughts and my thoughts alone. This could ultimately be a series of posts describing my successful push into the programming realm, or a documented downward spiral into the abyss of an unsuccessful online learning experience. Only time will tell.