Full-Time Staff Member Shepherds Students Through Online Immersive Coding Life

Each cohort at Hack Reactor has a dedicated “shepherd”, and our immersive online program is no different. The role of the shepherd is to keep a finger on the pulse of the mental/emotional health of the cohort, as well as their technical skills. Shepherds frequently meet with groups and individuals to work through coding issues, discuss how the program is going or to simply check in. The shepherd for the online program, Aaron Ward, has been enjoying his time in a new version of a well-established role.

programming school, javascript school, online program, online learning Aaron Ward works on Hack Reactor's immersive online program, overseeing students' technical development and emotional wellbeing.

“I do a fair amount of one-on-ones,” says Ward. “It's pretty gratifying to be able to help people get past barriers.”

As both a graduate of the onsite program and someone intimately involved with our online offering, called Hack Reactor Remote Beta, Ward finds that the similarities between the two versions of Hack Reactor outweigh the differences.

“In terms of pair programming, it's pretty much identical [between onsite and online]. Because students are separated by so much distance, they develop a lot of respect for the driver/navigator relationship,” says Ward, referring to our pair programming system in which, at any one time, one student is writing the code, and the other is guiding that process.

Ward has witnessed the collaborative spirit of the remote program through initiatives that they have picked up on their own. The online course makes frequent use of Google Hangouts, and students wanted to build additional features on top of that app. Due to restrictions on the API, that was difficult to do through Google, so instead, certain students built their own video chat site as a proof of concept. A similar initiative happened to improve on Google Docs, which the group frequently uses as a collaborative whiteboard.

Ward has also been working to bring in guest speakers for the online students, including one today by Habit RPG creator, Tyler Renelle.

Whether online or onsite, the Hack Reactor program is more intense than most schools or full-time jobs. Having a dedicated staff member to provide encouragement, guidance and instruction is invaluable to our students, and a key feature of our program.

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