Three weeks into the Remote Immersive's inaugural cohort, academic operations are humming along. During a recent lunchbreak, Omri Bernstein -- Lead Instructor -- shared his thoughts on how the online program is progressing.
In the past, you have been a live instructor, how do you think Remote Immersive students are taking to the online Campus? Is there as much peer-to-peer interaction as in the live Immersive program?
I would definitely say I’m still a live instructor -- which is good! It’s interesting, but in some ways the live experience has been augmented in this online form. I was telling someone the other day: when I’m in a remote lecture, everyone with headphones in can hear me perfectly, and everyone sees my screen exactly the same. There’s no gradient of experience between the front and back like there is in a live lecture scenario. So, in some ways, it makes the “distance” between the students and me exactly the same or closer. Not to mention we’re all looking directly at each others’ faces which is a kind of personal interaction you don’t get when classmates are spread across a lecture hall.
As far as peer-to-peer interactions, that’s actually been really awesome so far. A lot of people have given feedback that they’re really enjoying their cohort-mates and they’re surprised how they’ve made such good friendships in the brief time we’ve had together. It’s also, if I’m honest, surprising to me. I didn’t know how closely we’d all be interacting in this environment, but it’s been very effective.
We’ve also had one game night and we’re looking forward to having another soon. We’ll try to iron out some of the technical aspects from the last one, but overall the peer-to-peer interaction has been great.
As a comparison, how have Remote Immersive students kept up with the curriculum in relation to those in the live program?
Well, we’re into week three of the full-time portion, and everyone’s doing a pretty fantastic job. I’m not seeing any significant difference in performance or grasp of the material between our program and the live one. If anything I think they have a slightly better grasp of curriculum, but that might be a sample size or random noise type situation. Right now we have 13 students in the first remote cohort, and I’m sure this will change, but we can’t draw many comparisons because of the breadth of students we get in the live cohorts. We also can provide a crazy amount of one-on-one attention to our remote students right now.
How many instructors are devoted to the online experience? What’s the student to teacher ratio?
With 13 students we have two instructors and two teaching fellows - like teaching assistants. 13:4 doesn’t simplify nicely, but it’s essentially 3:1. In a way we’re more effective than we need to be right now! At any moment though, there’re at least two staff members -- one instructor and one fellow -- on duty for help and lecture purposes. We did this to ensure there were plenty of instructional resources for the first cohort since we didn’t know what would be required going in. I can say we’re doing plenty well in the student-attention category.
As a remote learning experience, one of the advantages is that you can be anywhere with internet connection, but classes and workshops have mandatory hours. Where are students from, and how have they been able to accommodate the mandatory class hours?
People are from all over the states right now. California, Colorado, Texas, I think someone in Ohio, three from Virginia, another from Illinois (it might be Iowa), and a couple from New Jersey. That’s all I can remember off the top of my head! Basically we have people in every US timezone.
As far as where they work, Most people seem to be in their homes. They’ve set aside a devoted work area for the Remote’s class time. We also have one or two people who’ve found some sort of office space that they like to use. So people carving out the space and time has not been a problem.
No commute time too.
That’s very true, and excellent. I didn’t think about that!
Part of Fullstack’s mantra is to be an outcomes oriented program. What hiring support will be available to students of the Remote Immersive?
Yeah, in short, everything will be made available to remote students in some capacity. Something we’re working on is a remote demo day, where students will present their projects to friends and family, as well as interested company reps.
We’re also opening our in-person Hiring Day to remote students who are interested. So for any student interested in working in the New York of Chicago areas, they’ll be able to present their projects and interview with employers as well.
One of the more progressive elements of Fullstack’s remote experience is the use of Virtual reality to enhance the online campus experience. What have you done so far to incorporate these technologies? Is there anything else cool about to rollout?
The virtual reality stuff we have planned is actually for senior phase, so at least 4 weeks away.
Some stuff we’ve done edging towards that, though not virtual reality in a popular sense, is we’ve had that game night I mentioned and we all played Minecraft together, and that was very fun and also chaotic. We recreated a replica of the Fullstack New York campus, and everyone right now has a plot of land they can build on in our Minecraft server - their own little box! (laughs sheepishly)
I guess it’s not virtual reality because there’s nothing realistic about open space to build in Manhattan.
I know we’re going to revisit Minecraft more into senior phase, but we’ll also incorporate proper virtual reality as well -- in the sense that consumers have become more accustomed to. I’ll have more details on that later!