The Immersive Learning Style and Agile Methodology

An immersive environment to accelerate learning

I’ve been watching with fascination over the last few weeks as our first two student cohorts progress through their 16 week learning experience at CodeClan.  What has really struck me is the rapid acceleration of learning that comes from the intense, immersive environment and high ratio of instructors to students (one instructor to every 5 students in our case).  Every hour in the classroom seems to be amplified and worth way more than any hour spent trying to learn on their own, or if the learning was spread out over a long period of time.

This shouldn’t be a surprise – we know the negative effects of ‘context switching’ at work, that is, trying to work on several things at once and we know the benefits of working in small teams to a common goal. By my reckoning, based on an unscientific assumption that the learning is twice as fast in this team-based, immersive environment, in their 900 hours at CodeClan, our students are doing the equivalent of a three year programme consisting of 20 hours per week!


The use of agile methodology in CodeClan’s classrooms

As well as highly passionate and skilled instructors, the structure of the learning works as an integrated whole that supports this acceleration.  Our students follow an incremental and iterative pattern of learning based on a daily, weekly and monthly cycle.  Every day, they are coding along with their instructors as new concepts are introduced.  They then get the chance to apply this in the classroom with support from their peers and by the afternoon, have homework to continue with into the evening.  At the start of the next morning, the group have a daily stand-up meeting (an idea taken from Agile development) to discuss progress and issues and then the homework is reviewed as a group before the cycle starts again.

This cycle is repeated daily until by the end of the week, they are ready to tackle a more complex exercise that consolidates what they’ve learned and lets them apply it to a larger problem.  So on a weekly basis they get the opportunity to review and put the new ideas into practice. And then, every 4-6 weeks the students undertake a project lasting a few days.  This might be individually, in pairs or as a group depending on the stage of the course they are at. I firmly believe that these ‘cycles within cycles’ (daily, weekly, monthly) are a key factor in the accelerated learning.


Combine with interpersonal skills, end result – great software & web developers!

On top of this, the confidence they are gaining and the range of other skills they are acquiring is also fantastic to see.  They are working as a whole team, supporting each other and working in smaller teams on specific work. They’re using Agile development methods and getting an understanding of how this will apply when they are in a work environment. Communication is key too – from working with the person next to them to presenting their work to the whole group from the front.

All of this adds up to creating highly employable developers who have not just the programming knowledge but also the interpersonal and team working skills that makes great employees. I’m really looking forward to seeing the progress continuing over the next few weeks as each cohort refines their skills and starts to turn their attention to finding a job with one of our employee partners.  Watch this space!