Every week you have to do some homework reading about a specific topic, e.g. prototypes. There will also be an accompanying coding project to build, which uses the knowledge you’ve just read about. We start the coding project as a group during the study group meeting, and complete it at home later during the week. Nobody is teaching the material for the study group, so it’s up to each participant to do their homework.
My contributions so far are on github as source code and demos (disclaimer: there is almost zero CSS effort put into these). The more fun projects so far have been rebuilding games, including snake and tic tac toe.
We meet in the Atlassian office once a week for around 2.5 hours. There are 2 or 3 tutors each week who’ve generously volunteered their time to help out, answer questions and review code.
The format of each night is roughly:
- Check in (5 mins). Attendance is recorded as a motivational factor.
- Demos (15-20 mins). A few people demo their solutions to the previous week’s project, and people can discuss different approaches.
- Questions & Suggestions (5-10 mins). People have a chance to bring up any additional questions for the tutors, or the tutors can suggest “best practice” recommendations after the demos.
- Start practical coding problem (up to 2 hours). We start the week’s coding problem in class, and finish the rest of it at home. If you aren’t sure how to approach something, you can ask a tutor.
Things I love about the study group model
- There’s a set time and place to focus on learning something new, so there’s a natural deadline for you to achieve something by
- I’ve learned much more than if I tried to do the course by myself
- I’m seeing progress and building on my knowledge each week, which is rewarding and motivating
- I’ve met new people
- I get the chance to ask experienced people questions if I’m unsure about something
- I’m building up a portfolio of fun projects (minesweeper this week!)
- It’s much cheaper, and arguably better quality than an official course run by someone getting paid to teach. We discuss a lot of our solutions and get to see the merits of different approaches.
- Nothing stops you paying it forward – feel free to organise your own study group, using the same material. All you need is a space to meet up.
I’m so excited about the format that I’m thinking about co-starting one for algorithms & data structures, as I’ve wanted a refresher and the ability to think/learn about them in a non-pressured environment. Part of the challenge is finding existing people who are knowledgable and enthusiastic about the subject to be tutors, or whether to run it without tutors. In any case, watch this space 🙂