online learning Tag Archives - General Assembly Blog

How to Teach Online

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As the spread of COVID-19 continues to transform daily life around the world, we at General Assembly have been paying close attention to how the virus is upending education: 

  • Over 1,000 colleges have been impacted, representing more than 13 million students.
  • Teachers serving students in elementary, middle, and high schools are doing their best to adapt, with varied levels of training and support. 
  • Community colleges and nonprofit training providers, already struggling to stay afloat, are facing existential threats.

And this is only the beginning — we are entering a new world of work that will look radically different as the pandemic progresses. 

Last year alone, we saw a 141% spike in enrollment in GA’s full-time remote programs. In some ways, the rise of online learning means that education providers are better-equipped than ever to respond to these changes. Schools are rapidly implementing online programs, video conferencing has never been more sophisticated, and hundreds of thousands of students are logging on to continue their studies virtually.

But the reality is that converting to an online learning environment isn’t as simple as clicking a button. As Kevin Carey put it in The New York Times, colleges are quickly realizing that “it’s impossible to transform a college course into a virtual world overnight,” — and that teaching and learning don’t always work the same way online as they do in person.

At General Assembly, we are grappling with this challenge as well: We recently made the decision to bring all of our in-person Immersive courses online to support more than 5,500 students globally. The good news is that online learning isn’t new to us. We’ve learned a lot from facilitating online programs for over 4 years, and hope to share those challenges — and opportunities — with institutions around the globe as they enter this new and confusing world.

That’s why we’re offering free access to How To Teach Online to anyone. This short-form course — led by one of our resident experts in online instruction, Maria Weaver — is specifically designed for instructors transitioning to a remote format. Whether you’re a seasoned online instructor or a first-time Zoom user, sign up to access new tools, discover essential resources, and gain best practices for impactful online instruction, including how to:

  • Foster online discussions with students.
  • Cultivate classroom culture through Zoom.
  • Plan for student differences online.

In uncertain times like these, it’s more important than ever to share knowledge and experience with those who can benefit from it. This course has helped hundreds of our instructors acquire the basic skills and techniques needed to lead effective online classrooms, and we hope it provides the same value for other instructors out there. 

Our team is committed to making more of our resources and expertise readily available to the global education community, and we see this as an initial, small step in that direction. We welcome any ideas or feedback you may have and encourage you to reach out to us at impact@generalassemb.ly

Register for Free

Tom Ogletree is Senior Director of Social Impact and External Affairs, where he leads GA’s public policy, communications, and social impact initiatives. Tom previously held leadership roles at the Clinton Foundation, CCS Fundraising, and GLAAD. He serves on the boards of the Ali Forney Center and the NYC Employment and Training Coalition, and is an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

What It’s Really Like to Change Your Career Online

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Going to work used to mean physically traveling to a workplace. Whether by foot, public transit, or car — a job was a specific location to which you commuted. But with the advent of the gig economy and advances in technology, telecommuting has become more and more prevalent. In fact, according to a 2018 study, approximately 70% of workers worldwide spend at least one day a week working from home.

So, why should education be any different? Learning from the comfort of home saves you the time and money you would’ve spent commuting, allows you to spend more time with loved ones, and encourages a much more comfortable, casual work environment.

That’s why we’re now offering all of our career-changing Immersives online. We’ve transformed over 11K+ careers — so whether you’re interested in becoming a software engineer, data scientist, or UX designer, you can trust our proven curriculum, elite instructors, and dedicated career coaches to set you up for professional success.

We sat down with three experts on GA’s Immersive Remote programs to better understand how they work — and more importantly — how they compare to the on-campus experience.

Breaking Barriers

GA Education Product Manager Lee Almegard explained the reasoning behind the move: “At GA, the ability to pay tuition, commute to class, or coordinate childcare shouldn’t be a barrier to launching a new career, she said. “Our new 100% remote Immersive programs are designed to ease these barriers.”

Obviously, saving yourself a trip to campus is appealing on many levels, but some interested students expressed concern that they wouldn’t receive enough personalized attention studying online as opposed to IRL. Instructor Matt Huntington reassures them, saying “Our lectures are highly interactive, and there is ample time to ask questions — not only of the teacher but also of other students.” 

Staying Focused

It’s not always easy to stay focused in a traditional classroom, but when your fellow students have been replaced by a curious toddler or Netflix is only a click away, distraction is a real concern. 

GA graduate Alex Merced shared these worries when he began his Software Engineering Immersive Remote program, but they quickly disappeared. “The clever use of Slack and Zoom really made the class engaging. It leverages the best features of both platforms, such as polls, private channels, and breakout rooms,” he said. “This kept the class kinetic, social, and engaging, versus traditional online training that usually consists of fairly non-interactive lectures over PowerPoint.”

If you’re concerned about staying focused, you can use these simple, impactful tips to stay motivated and on track to meet your goals:

  • Plan ahead. Conquer homework by blocking off time on your calendar each week during the hours in which you focus best.
  • Limit distractions. Find a quiet place to study, put your device on “Do Not Disturb” mode, or find a productivity app like Freedom to block time-consuming sites when studying or working independently.
  • Listen to music. You might find that music helps you concentrate on homework. Some of our favorite Spotify playlists to listen to are Deep Focus, Cinematic Chillout, and Dreamy Vibes.
  • Take breaks. Go for a short walk at lunch and change up the scenery, or grab a latte to power through an assignment.
  • Ask for help. We’re here for you! Our instructional team is available for guidance, feedback, technical assistance, and more during frequent one-on-one check-ins and office hours.

Most importantly, listen to yourself. Everyone learns differently, so take stock of what works best for you. Find the strategies that fit your learning style, and you’ll be well on your way to new skills and new heights. 

Getting Connected and Getting Hired

Another key component of learning is the camaraderie that comes from meeting and studying with like-minded students. How does that translate to a virtual classroom?

GA Career Coach Ruby Sycamore-Smith explains that both students and faculty can have meaningful, productive relationships without ever meeting in person. We’re a lot more intentional online,” she says. “You’re not able to just bump into each other in the corridor as you would on campus, but that means you’re able to be a lot more purposeful with your time when you do connect — way beyond a simple smile and a wave. Merced agrees. “Breakout sessions allowed me to assist and be assisted by my classmates, with whom I’ve forged valuable relationships. Now I have friends all over the world.” And as Huntington pointed out, “There is no back of the classroom when you’re online.” When you learn remotely, every seat is right next to all of your peers.

When we piloted the Software Engineering Remote bootcamp, we took extra care to make sure that our virtual classrooms felt exactly like the on-campus ones, with group labs and even special projects to ensure students are constantly working with each other,” Huntington explained. “A lot of our students form after-hours homework groups, and nighttime TAs create study hall video conferences so everyone can see and talk to each other.” 

And with students from all over the country, you’re going to connect with people you never would’ve met within the confines of a classroom. These peers could even be the very contacts who help you get you hired.

By recruiting industry professionals who are also gifted instructors to lead courses, students are taught how to translate their knowledge into in-demand skill sets that employers need. Sycamore-Smith explains that the involvement of GA’s career coaches doesn’t end after graduation; they’re invested in their students’ long-term success.

She says, “Career preparation sessions are very discussion-based and collaborative, as all of our students have varied backgrounds. Some are recent college graduates, others may have had successful careers and experienced a number of job hunts previously. Everyone has unique ideas and insights to share, so we use these sessions to really connect and learn from one another.” 

Merced is enthusiastic about his GA experience and quickly landed a great job as a developer. “Finding work was probably the area I was most insecure about going into the class,” he confessed. “But the prep sessions really made the execution and expectations of a job search much clearer and I was able to land firmly on my feet.

Conclusion? Make Yourself at Home

After years of teaching in front of a brick-and-mortar classroom, Huntington was a little wary about his move to digital instructor, but his misgivings quickly gave way. 

I was surprised to feel just as close to my virtual students as I did to my on-campus students, he said. “Closing down our virtual classrooms and saying goodbye on the last day of class is so much more heart-wrenching online than it ever was for me when I taught on campus.” 

Huntington’s advice to a student wondering if online learning is right for them: “Go for it! It’s just like in person, but there’s no commute and it’s socially acceptable to wear pajamas!”

Learn About Our Immersive Remote Programs

Put Your Career Front and Center: Meet Our Upgraded UX Design Immersive

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We’ve evolved our career-changing bootcamp to help get you hired in 2020.

Now more than ever, companies are recognizing the value of user-centered design. According to InVision, 92% of the mature design organizations can draw a straight line from the efforts of their design team to their company’s revenue. 

That’s why we’ve given our User Experience Design Immersive program a full revamp, evolving our tried-and-true curriculum to meet 2020 hiring priorities.

Keeping our programs tightly linked to market demand is at the core of our mission. It’s part of our commitment to ensuring our graduates can secure great jobs using their new skills — and it’s why more than 16,000 Immersive grads in six countries have trusted us to help them launch high-growth careers.

To stay ahead of rapidly changing industry needs, we do our research, working closely with employers, practitioners, and students to make impactful updates that help grads launch new careers. We dive into questions including: 

  • What roles are employers looking to hire? 
  • What skills and tools are required on the job?? 
  • What are broader trends across the industry? 
  • And, most importantly, how can we synthesize all of this to ensure our students have the most relevant, in-demand skills they need to succeed? 

Armed with this knowledge, we invested in expanding this full-time, three-month program in a few significant ways — including the introduction of a new Remote format.

What’s New

1. Two additional weeks of expert-led instruction.

Developed with guidance from our User Experience Design Standards Board — a group of design executives from companies like Tigerspike and WarnerMedia — our upgraded UX bootcamp curriculum is primed for industry relevance.

The now 12-week course now dedicates a full week to user interface and visual design topics, enabling students to build high-fidelity prototypes by Week 4. In addition to touching on hot topics like service design, design operations, and design leadership, we’ve also curated the best material from our global network to provide an expanded library of elective lessons.

2. Sharpened focus on real-world collaboration. 

You can take a crash course in UX to learn the foundations, but what makes new designers employable is how they work with developers, product managers, and business stakeholders to drive impact with design. 

Our upgraded UXDI program offers more opportunities to experience on-the-job realities, including UX/UI handoffs, team presentations, and design critiques. Prepare to work cross-functionally by learning Agile methodologies. Then put them into practice, teaming up with classmates to research and prototype a professional client project in a three-week sprint.

3. A sixth passion project.

Throughout this Immersive, students gain hands-on experience with each step in the UX process, compiling a portfolio that showcases fluency in research synthesis, information architecture, user flows, wireframes, and more.  

For their final solo piece, they have the opportunity to distinguish themselves as designers (and job candidates) by choosing one skill area within the UX discipline to hone — for example user research, visual design, or interaction design. Start in the classroom with expert guidance and polish it post-course to demonstrate continuing growth.

4. Online and in-person Immersive options.

For career-changers who don’t live near a GA campus, have a busy travel schedule, or just want to skip the commute, we’re expanding access to UXDI with a new Remote format.

Offered throughout the United States,* the Remote learning experience mirrors GA’s on-campus offerings but allows you to learn from the comfort of home. Connect with expert instructors, guest speakers, and classmates in our interactive classroom setup, powered by 

Zoom and Slack.

You’ll still get access to the expert instruction, learning resources, and support network that GA is known for. Work individually with your career coach to understand your local job market, find opportunities, and connect with the local UX community.

* Remote courses are not available to non-U.S. or New York state residents at this time.

What Hasn’t Changed

Our proven approach to developing industry-relevant curriculum remains the same: We partner with top employers and practitioners in the field to ensure our offerings are tailored to meet today’s needs. A-list companies like Apple, Google, and Fitbit have all hired UXDI grads.

As with all Immersive course participants, UXDI students receive dedicated support from expert career coaches from their first day of class to their first day on the job. Diving deep into personal brand building, design interview prep, exclusive networking events, portfolio development, job search roadmaps, and more, we’re there at every step of the job hunt with guidance to keep grads motivated and accountable.
Read all about UXDI and its new features and dive deeper by checking out the syllabus here. If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with us at admissions@ga.co.

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How Taking An Online Course Can Kickstart Your Career: Two Student Success Stories

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Last April, Jeff Manabat, one-quarter of the San Francisco dragapella act The Kinsey Sicks, had a dilemma: how to redesign the quartet’s aging website, while balancing touring obligations?

“I do a lot of traveling, we’re on the road a lot,” Manabat said, “I can’t dedicate the time to taking a multi-week classroom course. So taking it online was the obvious choice. I needed the flexibility to learn online. And complete the course material without being in a classroom.”

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Data Analysis Circuit Launches at General Assembly

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Understanding data is becoming increasingly important across all facets of business. Small businesses use financial data to make smarter operating decisions, governments are aggregating data to help us map everything from flu trends to voting information, and corporations are getting more targeted in the way they market products and services.

Data has implicitly become a part of nearly every job today.  It requires many people to get comfortable pulling, analyzing, and presenting data to decision makers, policy shapers, and even our family and friends. Continue reading

Mentors Matter When Learning Online: The Circuits Difference at GA

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Online Mentorship Image

The online education space is growing fast. But how do you deliver a high-quality, engaging experience online? As we have built our five Circuit courses — HTML, CSS & Web DesignJavaScript DevelopmentData Analysis, User Experience Design, and Digital Marketing — we believe the answer is simple: a dedicated mentor to hold you accountable through every stage of your learning.

When we put together our first Web Design Circuit in July 2014, we made a conscious choice to build in the sense of community and personalization that an instructor provides. This experience is a key part of General Assembly’s classroom programs. Continue reading

eLearning: Beyond the Screen – An Interactive Summit for Enterprise Learning Professionals

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With all the buzzwords and stigmas tied to online learning, rolling out online education programs in large organizations can be overwhelming. Earlier this month, we brought together online learning professionals and our Enterprise partners at General Assembly’s HQ in NYC to discuss online learning experiences. Throughout the day, participants engaged in activities to identify opportunities for engaging employees in online learning and helping employees apply what they’ve learned.

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Online Learning Is a Boon for Small Towns and Small Startups

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small town online learning

Depot Town, Michigan. Image source: Cmadler via Wikimedia Commons

In today’s virtual world, the next great business idea need not come from California’s Silicon Valley or New York City’s Silicon Alley. It could come from a silicon cornfield, digital bayou, or mobile rustbelt in any one of thousands of tiny rural regions or small towns across America, towns that may have lost a past glory or never thrived because of a lack of employment opportunities. With online learning programs offering the ability to train adults to do in-demand careers, people throughout the country now have the same inroads to specialized learning and potential innovation available to residents of big cities like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, and Boston.

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Introducing: Following

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We’ve learned from speaking with students that you’re a busy group and work can sometimes keep you from attending classes and events that you find interesting. You’ve asked us for a way to know when they’re held next and we’re happy to let you know it’s here.

Following something is easy:
  • Click the follow button on any class, workshop, or event.
  • If you’re not logged in, we’ll ask for your email address.
  • You’ll see an email in your inbox next time that class is scheduled in your city. 

That’s all there is to it.

We’re excited to give you another way to become closer to the GA community and we think you’ll really like this new feature. What else do you want to see on the General Assembly website? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter.