From education to employment

Lockdown Learning: Teaching a Virtual Classroom

Anelisy Nagano, Course coordinator and instructor at Wild Code School

Anelisy Nagano, Course coordinator and instructor at Wild Code School, the technology educator nurturing today’s digital talent, discusses how she went from student to teacher in just over a year, what it’s like teaching a lockdown-friendly fully-remote class, how she’s developing a fun and engaging environment and mitigating issues around not being face to face.

Anelisy was working in customer service when in March 2019 she decided to change course and upskill to further her prospects in the tech industry. The first remote course started in April 2020, and the second last month in June.

What inspired you to upskill in tech and how did you find the Wild Code School Course?

While I enjoyed working in customer service and appreciated the communication skills it helped me to develop, I wanted to do something that I felt really tested me and enabled me to use my brain in different ways. Lisbon, where I’m based, is fast becoming an important tech hub for Europe with a diverse range of good career opportunities. I also have family ties in San Francisco and am drawn to the potential of working in the Silicon Valley!

And the course was indeed a challenge. Programming languages were a big jump from my communications background and at first I worried that my brain was not wired in the right way. However, perseverance and hard work prevailed, and I not only completed the course, but realised I had a passion for programming languages.

What happened next? How did you get into teaching the course?

I had stayed in touch with the Wild Code School Lisbon campus and was lucky enough to be invited to be an assistant to the instructor for a course that started last autumn. I had previously worked in a school environment so was interested in how I could utilise my communication skills, education experience and new-found love of coding to help people like me realise their tech potential.

It went really well, I really enjoyed the educative environment and this year as lockdown came into effect following the Covid-19 outbreak, I was offered a permanent job as a remote course instructor. I was quite shocked and realised what it was to feel ‘imposter syndrome’; delighted to be given the opportunity, but humbled to be trusted with the task. I knew I understood the mind-set of a career changer looking to get into tech and was very keen to share my knowledge and ways of learning with those who might not think they are naturally aligned to the tech world.

How are you finding teaching a fully remote course?

Teaching a remote course is going really well; Wild Code School takes advantage of all the latest online learning technologies and we’ve been able to instil a creative and supportive learning environment. It’s not like high school, where you might need to persuade students to engage, all the Wild Code Students are here because they have a real drive to further their prospects and are committed and engaged in doing so. 

There are quite a few students with work and family commitments and juggling the workload can be challenging. We therefore have to make sure that we use the time we spend together well and are productive and fast paced. 

It’s always on my mind that this course needs to offer so much more than an online tutorial and so I do everything possible to create a collaborative group environment that encourages interaction. We do this by setting projects, or ‘quests’ that encourage exploration and development. We also have weekly quizzes, where I’m finding the students are fiercely competitive and it’s a very handy way of testing knowledge and knowing how to adapt our learning to support any gaps.

How does the course differ to the campus-based course you were assisting on previously?

When you’re all physically in a room together, students can approach us and ask questions as they come to them. It’s important that we have been able to provide the same support in a virtual environment and so we’ve devised smaller seminar-style online hangout groups where I can literally drop in and out and help students to develop and progress ideas and methodology. 

I try to be available as much as possible and it’s about making sure communication is constant, fun, engaging and supportive. It is inevitable that different students have varied aptitudes and progress at different speeds so it’s vital they feel they can come to me for help.

How do you find teaching a class with students from all across Europe?

It’s incredibly cool. People are on different time zones, from different backgrounds and each with different stories and reasons for taking this step to facilitate their career change. We get to share stories, communicate best practise and learn from each other in a fun and future-looking environment.

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