So, I have gone over a lot of what I am learning at Launch Academy but not much in the way that it’s lesson plans are structured and what a day to day looks like. So let’s break it down.
First off, I am not on campus yet. I am doing what Launch Academy refers to as ‘Ignition‘, which is an 8-week exclusively online pre-campus curriculum. Ignition is designed to level the playing field amongst the entire cohort (the current class) so that when we all arrive to class in Boston, we are all working with the same baseline of knowledge and information. This is really critical to make sure that we can speak and code intelligently about certain topics/concepts during our 10-week on campus curriculum.
Each week of Ignition will cover a new aspect of programming, with each week building on the previous. Here is a list of the curriculum as it stands my current cohort (Spring 2017):
Launch Academy – Ignition (Online)
- Week 1 – Ruby Basics: Basic Syntax/Setting up your work environment
- Week 2 – Looping: Basic loops (while, .each), Arrays, Searching and Sorting Arrays, Pry (used for diagnostics)
- Week 3 – Symbols, Hashes and Simple Data-Structures: What a hash is, how it differs from arrays. Usefulness of Symbols
- Week 4 – Methods & Compound Data Structures: Harnessing looping iteration to move through more complicated sets of data-structures. Introduction into JSON files(backbone of data-sharing on the web)
- Week 5 – Object-Oriented Programming: Creating custom Class’s, instance variables, attr_reader/accessor and Class Instance Methods
- Week 8 – Unit Testing & TDD: How to test your code and how testing can clean up messy code to eliminate future headaches as well as career services and an introduction to the power of version control with Git and Github. During this week we have a meet & greet scheduled for the cohort before classes start on March 6th, 2017.
I’ll update on the curriculum layout of the campus portion of the the program when we get to that point, for now I want to stick to what I can say for sure is going on.
For each week of Ignition we are given a list of assignments to be completed and turned in. Assignments are released Monday morning by roughly 9am and due no later than the following Sunday at midnight.
Each weeks released itinerary consists of the following: Articles, Video, Exercises, Challenges and System Checks.
- Articles – These cover a new topic, usually there is a back story that is relevant to the learning process.
- Videos – Almost every video lesson is conducted by Dan Pickett, the founder and director of Launch Academy. These are pre-recorded screencast lessons for the purely Online version of Launch Academy. Relevant lectures are used to introduce new material. These are very useful because you can code along with Dan and see how to work through different types of problems from different perspectives.
- Exercises – These are mini challenges. As you progress through the week’s learning, you will be given Exercises that are bite sized problems designed to get you using your newly acquired knowledge in a way that helps it stick.
- Challenges – These are more complicated. Think of them as a summation of previous Exercises. They incorporate several different techniques and concepts. They take longer to complete but are infinitely more rewarding when you complete them!
- System Check – The system check is the big one. It comes at the very end of the weeks assignments, designed to test all of that weeks learning. There are 4 systems-checks. All of them are grades on a Check, Check Minus, Check Plus system. Weeks 3-6 are the only weeks with System Checks for Ignition. Unlike every other assignment for the week, System Checks are to be done solo, there is no collaborating allowed for these assignments. Fear not, if you are diligent through the week you will be able to pull it off no problem!!
As for communication, we use Slack. It is a messaging program designed for developers to meet up and chat. It looks something like this:
It really is an invaluable resource for fleshing out ideas and getting feedback from both your peers and your instructors. This is something I really have to commend Launch Academy on, they have someone from Launch on call answering anybodies question from 9am to almost midnight every day of the week! Now, everyone has different learning styles, for me I need to bounce my ideas off of someone else and this make it much easier for me to work through problems. They don’t hold your hand either, most times they will start by pointing you in the right direction or giving you little nudges, always encouraging you to discover the answer for yourself. At times, in all honesty, this is incredibly annoying – but in hindsight I always retain the information better when using this approach – In short, it works.
When it comes to time-commitment week-to-week this is the one place I would have to disagree with Launch Academy. They advertise that *On Average* students put in 80-100 hours over the 8 week portion of Ignition. Some quick math shows that (7 weeks of Assignments / 7 Days a week / Round-up to 100hrs) comes out to about 2hrs a day.
Here is the real breakdown. Unless you are a absolute novice (no offense, just being real) you will blow through Weeks 1 and to a lesser extent week 2. This will skew your average of 2hrs a day. If you are working a full-time job, yes you can still complete Ignition – depending on your responsibilities outside of work.
I found myself putting in around 3-4 hrs a day after work and a full day on Fridays (my first day off) and then sporadically on Saturday (second day off). Your milage may vary on this depending on your aptitude for the material. I won’t lie though, this week I re-watched the video lecture maybe 3 or 4 times through just to get a better handle on the information. Other times, I whiz through it. I’m not writing this to be critical of Launch, only to serve as a helpful insight into what realistic expectations should look like for you. If you are single, things will be easier – that’s just the way it is. If you have kids and commitments, it will be very important for you to manage these responsibilities to best position yourself for success and to plan for those weeks when you continue to stumble on a problem that is giving you more grief than you know what to do with!
Also, and this is likely to be the most important take away, find some good tunes to study to and get you into a flow. I recommend Radiohead. Because well, Radiohead.