We are into the third full week of our response to COVID-19. It’s been Nashville’s own special March Madness (apologies to the NCAA Basketball Tournament) with the tornado at the beginning of the month, the tornado recovery, and then the escalating coronavirus response ever since.
Here at NSS we have just about made it through our first phase of adjustment to learning how to work online. Our students have handled the transition with a combination of trust and resilience that has been wonderful to experience. Our instructors have done an awesome job responding to the needs of our students as well as to the total change in the way they need to do their jobs. It doesn’t mean we have hit all of the bumps in the process yet, but so far the process has gone more smoothly than any of us had any right to expect.
In the week or so ahead of us, we have several new “firsts” - activities and events that we have always done in-person that are going online. We are delivering one of our career development roundtables online for the very first time this Wednesday. Next Monday, April 6, we onboard two new student cohorts online for the first time. And this Friday, one of the most important events in the life of every student at NSS is happening online for the first time as Cohort 36 has both their Demo Day and graduation ceremony online. Let’s look at a couple of these events in a bit more detail.
Cohort 36 Demo Day and Graduation
Cohort 36 is one of our full-stack Web Development Bootcamp classes. They were five and a half months into their six-month program when we had to move online just as they were starting their critical final capstone project. The final capstone is not only their “final exam” and the critical assessment milestone in the entire program, it’s the last piece of the code portfolio that they need to start interviewing for jobs. So no pressure there - and oh, by the way, we’re ripping you out of your classroom and the physical presence of your instructors and classmates and forcing you to work remote at home. No big deal, right? Well, the students have done great and, while we did delay their Demo Day by a week, they are ready to graduate and ramp-up their job search.
Getting ready for Demo Day was a major undertaking by our Career Development team as well as our Marketing and Operations teams. Demo Day is a chance for employers that need talent to meet the newest developer talent in Nashville - but is that even possible when every company in town is in the middle of shifting to a remote working mode, when companies are concerned about the economic impact of the shutdown on their business, when some companies were even laying off staff? And how does one move such an event online? Well, our team pulled it off.
We’ve got approximately twenty companies that have booked or are booking interview time slots with our graduates during the 8 to 11:30am Demo Day event this coming Friday, April 3. To compensate for some of the logistical difficulties of online demonstration of capstone projects, we had each graduate create a video of them walking through and explaining their capstone project - those videos are now on their class website. We also normally record short podcast interviews with our graduates the day of Demo Day which is released after the event - this time we recorded them early and have also added links to those interviews to the class website. We are looking forward to a great Demo Day on Friday! You can still RSVP at nashss.com/demoday.
Welcoming Cohorts 40 and Evening 12 Next Monday, April 6
There are two student cohorts starting class on April 6 - a full-time (day) Web Development Bootcamp and a part-time (evening) Web Development Bootcamp. These will be the first two NSS cohorts where students will be online from the first day of class. There are activities that we usually tackle the first few days of class, including making sure students have all required software tools installed and configured correctly, that are always tricky for a handful of students and that benefit from the presence of an instructor. That’s all happening online this time around. Our instructors have been busy rethinking aspects of how we approach those activities, including creating a series of short video screen casts that students can use as a substitute for a live instructor demo. We’re ready to welcome these two new classes to the first day of their six-month (cohort 40) and twelve-month (cohort E12) journeys at NSS. The good news is, we should all be free from COVID-19 jail soon and these students will be able to join us in-person.
To help our incoming students have a better idea of what to expect from NSS’s online learning environment, Joe Shepherd, one of our web development instructors, met with four current students who shared their experience with going remote. Below is what Crystal Elsey from Cohort 39 shared about group projects. You can watch the full video here.
Like you, we have all been going nonstop, totally rearranging our lives and work the last three weeks or so. Now that we are getting through the first phase of adjusting to this temporary “new normal”, we are starting to have some time to think about what comes next. We know there are open questions about what the economy will look like once we are able to get everyone back to work. But how fast will the recovery be? How fast will jobs come back? What will demand for software developers and data analysts look like in six months or twelve months or longer?
We can’t be sure of the answers to these questions but we’re thinking about them and trying to decide what’s best for our community, our current and prospective students, and our employer partners. As a non-profit, and given our mission, we think we have a responsibility to those audiences to be thoughtful about how we respond and the decisions we make. At this point in time, we’re holding to our current plans for the year in terms of what classes we plan to offer and to the schedules for those classes. In fact, we have had strong demand for the next full-time Web Development Bootcamp scheduled for mid-May and are close to filling every seat in that class. We expect to fill the class by the end of this week and carry over a strong group of candidates to the July full-time Web Development Bootcamp.
Our general feeling is that the long-term trend of “software eating the world” - of software (and data) continuing to be embedded in every aspect of every industry or field of endeavor - has not been disrupted by COVID-19. Delayed a bit maybe, but it’s still happening. It’s more a question of how fast a recovery we have and how fast job demand recovers. Enough on that topic for now - but we’ll come back and dig into this question in more detail over the next few weeks.
We hope that you and your family and loved ones are healthy and coping well with working “Safe from Home”. If you have family members on the front-line in healthcare delivery, our thanks and prayers to them. And not only to healthcare workers, but other first responders as well. And also to people most of us don’t think enough about like the truck drivers moving food and essential supplies over the road, to the folks in distribution centers all over the country, to pharmacy workers, to grocery store stockers and checkout clerks and anyone else in all of those essential and unsung service jobs who can’t do their work safe at home. Let’s all give those folks our thanks and remember they're putting themselves at personal risk to help the rest of us. And to all - be safe and be healthy.