IT courses: what remains behind the scenes

    Hello everyone, my name is Evgeny Kartavets, I am the head of the training department of the GeekBrains IT portal . We are developing courses for future programmers. When creating them, we rely on the experience of industry practitioners and strive to give a set of skills necessary for getting a job. I will tell you how we select teachers among practicing programmers and what we encounter when creating courses.

    Only demanded destinations

    Usually we choose a new educational direction according to two criteria. The first is the trending and popularity of some technology. We must understand whether there is interest in her, and if so, how strong. For analysis, we conduct regular surveys and do market research. We do email surveys on the portal to find out what future students are interested in and what is popular with them now. It is also important for us that there are enough vacancies in this direction. To understand the demand for specialists, we analyze job search portals - HeadHunter and others. We look at the number of vacancies, the dynamics of opening and closing. We want students to be able to find a job after graduation. If there are no vacancies, we will not open the course, otherwise the graduates will have nowhere to work.

    But now we are preparing to launch several areas that are knocked out of this rule. These are the professions of the future - robotics and artificial intelligence. Jobs in these specialties are still few, but we can predict the growing demand for them. These courses are important for those who are considering what they will do in a couple of years, who want to work in relevant and top-level professions. Demand for such specialists is growing and will continue to grow.

    We are developing a methodological base

    When we first started, we simply agreed on course programs with teachers. They presented the material as they saw fit. On the one hand, it was a very creative process. Each teacher tried to do the best possible. But on the other hand, there was a lack of stability. Some of the teachers were a star, and some were lost in front of the audience. We want students to always receive a product of consistently high quality, so in the end we came to standardization and the preparation of teaching aids for each course.

    Teaching aids - a guide for both students and the teacher. Students use them as a textbook, repeat material on them. The teacher checks the training manual in order to understand the sequence of topics, sees on which issues practical examples need to be selected, and takes additional tasks.

    We took as a basis a systematic approach that is used in universities. Practice has shown that after the implementation of the teaching materials, the quality of teaching has risen markedly. Teachers join the process faster. In fact, they get material that you can immediately teach. To reveal more complex topics, they can complement it. But they cannot miss questions and tasks from the training manual.

    The curriculum is written by the methodologist, and the reviewer approves

    At first, we used teachers to write manuals. But then they found out that not everyone is able to logically present educational material “on paper”. People are divided into two categories: those who can beautifully present, communicate with the audience, ignite listeners, and those who can clearly and simply write. Therefore, we divided them into two specialties.

    Each course has a methodologist. He sits down and prescribes everything that is in the know: he develops a program, selects the source codes of the programs created in the lessons. The methodologist also prepares presentations and notes for teachers. However, the materials prepared by him are not immediately released into the educational process, they must undergo peer review.

    Why is a reviewer needed? Thanks to him, you can avoid such situations as happened in the course of developing a course on computer networks. In the classroom, you need to explain what a network stack is. In a classic format, they first tell how the Internet works at the physical level, how data is moved. Then the data link layer, the transport layer, and so on, down to the application layer at which the SMTP, HTTP, and other protocols are examined, are analyzed. Data goes through many levels all the way to the top, where they send emails and download pages. The methodologist suggested turning this pyramid over and starting the story from top to bottom. His explanation turned out to be very accessible, we immediately approved the lecture plan. But when other teachers began to read this lecture, the material “did not go well”.

    Therefore, now all the materials are evaluated by other specialized teachers. Now we have a two-stage system for the preparation of training materials: the author writes how he sees this course, and the reviewer checks the materials, how completely the information is provided from a technical point of view, how interesting it is, if there are errors, whether it is possible to conduct courses on this material. Manuals are redone until they are approved by the reviewer.

    How do we recruit a team

    Suppose we want to open the Kotlin Programmer course. First of all, we are looking for a methodologist who will develop the program. When selecting a methodologist, we look at the level of training. Experience in the profile should be at least three years. It is advisable to have publications on the topic of the course and achievements in the professional field. We try to look for specialists such as, for example, Igor Simdyanov, who developed and taught several courses with us. Igor is a co-author of more than a dozen books on programming, including bibles for PHP developers - books on PHP 7.

    The methodologist provides his vision of the program, the concept and a ready-made separate training manual block as a test task. We evaluate the general approach, the depth of the topic and the coherence of the presentation. If everything is in order, the person joins the team. As a rule, several methodologists work on the project, who simultaneously create different levels of the course.

    Work on the course takes from one to six months. Methodists and reviewers work together. Materials are checked immediately after writing. It is not practical to wait until the course is ready and then review. It may happen that something important is missed in the course, then it will have to be redone. So we lost a few months developing a Spring framework course for GeekUniversity. With weekly reviews, such situations are excluded. Manuals come in parts to the reviewer, who immediately gives feedback. Unsuitable material is quickly sent for revision. That is, at an early stage, we can understand that there are problems, or that the methodologist cannot deliver good content.

    Methodists themselves also review each other. Track so that topics do not overlap and are consistent. We develop several courses at once within the framework of one profession, so one level should flow into another. The load on students should increase smoothly, and materials should flow balanced into the “home”. It is especially important to work in concert when preparing a program in which students carry out one large project over two courses. All this is achieved only by tight teamwork.

    We are always happy to replenish the team with talented programmers who want to share knowledge. You can join the team here .

    Who else is working on the course

    We pass on approved training materials to editors who “comb” the text. Experience has shown that technicians have excellent command of the subject, but they
    make grammatical errors. Therefore, editors read the manual, check spelling and grammar, make the material more structured. The designer works on the visual design and preparation of the presentation.

    Then the materials go to the quality department, in which they look at what happened as a result. We have internal quality standards for courses without reference to specialization:

    • A balance must be struck between theory and practice.
    • The theoretical and practical parts should correlate with each other.
    • The material should be enough for in-depth study by all comers.
    • There should be homework of different difficulty levels.
    • Each lesson should have a separate plan.
    • Must be best practices.

    When the program is completely ready, two people can conduct a course on it - a methodologist and a reviewer. It happens that someone's personal or family circumstances change, and he cannot remain a teacher. But this rarely happens. We are primarily interested in the specialists who prepared the program, then taught courses on it. Often we immediately look for additional teachers, because the flow of students is large, and the number of places in the group is limited. After that, we announce a new course, approve the dates of the nearest flows and open the record.

    We regularly monitor the quality of the course

    After the start of the course, work on it does not end. We track the results of students, and they evaluate teachers so that we can improve the learning process. The quality department constantly monitors the objections, discontent and wishes of students. As a rule, the course is taught by the specialist who wrote it. Therefore, he receives feedback from students from the first classes and makes adjustments in hot pursuit. This is our constant practice - after training to collect wishes and make changes to the program.

    Many technologies quickly become obsolete. We try to keep track of this and update course programs as necessary. To do this, we order a review from a technical specialist who gives comments and comments on what needs to be improved and revised. In addition, the quality department monitors student feedback: what was difficult and what is not clear. When the amount of work and the blocks for improvement are understandable, we send the course to completion to the profile methodologist. He corrects defects, makes the latest changes. Then the reviewer checks, and after its approval, the course is considered updated.

    Trying new formats

    Now we are experimenting with a new training format - we are creating interactive courses with high-quality video lectures. We are looking for cool, trending and promising directions for them, for which there is no furious demand. Having selected a specialty, we analyze the market in order to understand what should be included in the curriculum, what knowledge and skills a graduate should have. It is important for us that a person is not just considered a specialist, but can work by profession. Initially, we issued courses exclusively in mega-popular professions, for example, the Java programmer (more than a thousand vacancies). But now we can afford to do niche educational projects that will be in demand in a narrow professional circle. They will be only with us.

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