How much can you learn in two days? At Hack Reactor, we are constantly pushing that limit further and further. The first half of the Hack Reactor curriculum is divided into two-day sprints, in which students take on challenges that compel them to learn bleeding-edge tech while layering on computer science fundamentals. The sprint concept is used throughout the software industry, and is one of the ways in which Hack Reactor prepares students for the professional workflow.
The sprint begins with a lecture in which core concepts are explored and introduced. The Hack Reactor lecture format is very unlike what you typically see in a university course. Instructors regularly check in with students on how well they are grasping the material, and work to disentangle any difficulties in comprehension. The curriculum is fast-moving and additive, so students don’t have the luxury of nodding along and figuring it out later.
“Hack Reactor does education differently than you’ve experienced it before,” says student Nathaniel Edwards. “It’s a new way of teaching and learning.”
By the end of the lecture, students receive the challenge they’ll work on for the rest of the sprint. For example, the most current iteration of our curriculum has a sprint that introduces React and ES6 through a task that involves working with the YouTube API. These challenges are carefully designed to resemble the sorts of problems that professional software engineers face every day: there will be a specific goal in mind, but students must devise their own path on how to get there. Students explore the problem on their own, then pair up with a student that they will work with for the remainder of the sprint. Working together allows students to learn from each other’s perspectives and styles.
“I really found pair programming to be extra valuable and way more educational than I was anticipating,” notes Edwards. “I thought you’d be losing out on that knowledge by coding with someone else. Instead, I learned way more than I would have otherwise.”
Students gain both from absorbing their pair’s knowledge, but also by having to describe and explain their code structure. This solidifies the concept in their own minds and builds the most underrated skill for a successful software engineer: communication.
After working into the evening, often past the official end time of 8pm, pairs meet up again the next morning to finish the sprint. Afterward, students receive a solution lecture, in which an instructor helps students understand the underlying principles of the challenge and how one can go about solving it. This combination of a curriculum refined and iterated on over several years and a lot of hard work by students in an environment that resembles that of a professional software engineer accelerates the pace of learning to an incredible rate.
“If you are thinking you can teach yourself the same amount of stuff in the same amount of time at Hack Reactor, you can’t,” says student Alexander Turinske. “It’s structured very well. It has the right content in the right places. If you are thinking about Hack Reactor, do it. Do it as soon as possible.”
In the first half of the course, students power through three sprints a week (Monday to Saturday). This format pushes students to learn exponentially faster than they otherwise would through self-study or even the vast majority of universities. More than just learning fundamentals and industry-relevant tech, students learn how to tackle new topics with speed and confidence. After six weeks of high octane learning, they are prepared to build amazing projects in the second half of the course, which frequently involve picking up new concepts on the fly.
“One thing I learned here that definitely translates is learning things quickly and implementing them quickly,” says alum James Yothers, now a VP at JP Morgan Chase. “Every week of implementing a new project [at JP Morgan Chase] is literally millions of dollars. You have to prioritize and do things quickly. I think Hack Reactor’s greatest asset is not actually learning how to program, it’s learning how to think. It gives you that confidence to learn things quickly.”