Big Nerd Ranch and blended learning: why?
Connecting the dots: how we got here
At Big Nerd Ranch, we have some strongly held beliefs about how people best learn new technical practices. Some of the central tenets of our teaching philosophy include:
- Assume no prior knowledge but infinite intelligence
- Students learn best when they have dedicated time and space for learning
- Students can learn more, more quickly when we take away distractions and focus them on learning
- An expert guide provides the best pathway to new knowledge frontiers
- Students need to interact with a topic in multiple ways to most effectively learn it
- Adults learn best when they start with specific knowledge and then generalize from it, rather than the other way around
These have all been a critical part of our teaching practice for over twenty years and they will continue to be for any training we deliver. In the past, we even held some more ‘extreme’ positions like:
- Student resources need to be printed on paper, actual paper
- In-person training is always the best way to learn
- Training should always be done in a physical in-person setting
These last few are a bit tongue-in-cheek. As one must, we have evolved our beliefs as the world of learning has changed. What we’ve always cared about, more than any of the specifics, is that our students learn as much as possible as efficiently as they possibly can. We want them to have an unforgettable experience that they want to tell their friends and colleagues about. That’s how we’ve managed to stay around so long in the rapidly evolving world of technology.
After experiencing all of the ups and downs of the last five years, it’s probably less surprising that we would embrace a new way of training students. After all, the pandemic forced us to become a live-virtual training company overnight. Technology evolutions and our own growth have seen us branch out from our mobile core into new technologies and domains such as React, Golang, and Machine Learning.
Why try blended?
Our blended-learning experiment stems from the same culture of learning and innovation that has propelled us from our earliest days through now as a part of a global experience, design, and technology consultancy (Stellar Elements).
So why are we offering our SwiftUI course as a blended experience?
The main drivers are our students and clients. We have the opportunity to work with leading companies from all over the world. Those companies are evolving, and so are their attitudes toward learning delivery. Our clients and students have told us pretty clearly that they want to have learning delivery options that provide flexibility and that enable them to learn while continuing to meet their day-to-day responsibilities.
Also, we believe in creating unforgettable learning experiences, and blended learning allows us to accomplish that goal in a way that is authentic to who we are and what we believe about students and learning. Quite simply, human learning needs a human touch. Learning modalities such as eLearning and video have their place, but to really learn a new skillset or to make a significant leap requires a more immersive and intensive approach with the guidance of an expert mentor. Blended learning combines the best elements of both worlds to create a cohesive and effective learning environment that allows students the flexibility to do some learning at their own pace while also giving them expert access, instruction, and interaction along the way.
Lastly, blended learning has a capacity for scale that we are eager to embrace so that we can accommodate more students and can provide more expert access to quality technical training. In turn we can offer the course at a lower price, which makes it more accessible to students and increases its overall value for the price.
What can you expect from a BNR blended-learning experience?
We have crafted our blended experience based on a lot of research, trial and error, and learnings from our entire history. It’s geared toward giving students the best learning experience we can.
Here’s what to expect:
- Weekly content unlocks
- Recorded video introducing the week and its lesson plan
- Recorded lectures for each topic (3-5 per week)
- Assessments for reach topic to build confidence and check progress
- Hands-on exercises to cement and build on the lessons
- Live Q&A sessions
- Live sessions where instructors answer student questions and lead discusssions
- Opportunity to submit questions ahead of time
- Run twice per week
- Recorded and made available to students
- Live mob programming sessions
- Runs once per week to organically bring together the topics from the week
- Goals are to:
- Reinforce topics by seeing them used in other examples
- Provide another forum for people to ask questions
- Touch on additional topics that might not be covered in the canonical course content, but are interesting or useful for the project getting built
- Recorded and made available to students as additional study aids
- Peer discussion and feedback
- The instructor facilitates and encourages students to share their challenge solutions with each other for critique and discussion
- Students have a shared chat space to discuss and share ideas and questions with each other as well as the instructor
- Students join our Alumni Community for continued discussion and connection after the course
Come join us!
This carefully crafted experience is geared toward helping you to understand what’s possible and giving you the confidence to explore more. I hope we’ve gotten you interested in what blended learning can offer you and/or your team. Come join us on our inaugural journey into blended learning with our upcoming SwiftUI course. It starts on September 20 (less than a month away) so register now!