Dev Academy Foundations: Starting Strong

September 6, 2022 | Student Life | Dev Academy

"[To succeed, you need] 40 hours a week, a laptop, and a dream!" — Joseph Q

Dev Academy Aotearoa is different from other tertiary institutions in that we aim to graduate job ready junior developers in 15 weeks. Part of how we achieve that is through our Foundations programme, 5 weeks of self-directed learning to get all our students ready to start Bootcamp, no matter what their past level of coding.

Joseph Quested, our Foundations lead at Dev Academy, talks through what students can expect.

What is Foundations?

Foundations exists because Dev Academy uniquely teaches students who have never programmed before, as well as students with computer science degrees, and everybody in between.

We're trying to teach a really wide variety of skill sets, so the purpose of Foundations is to try and get everybody on the same page so they can hit the ground running in the Bootcamp. That's essentially the goal of Foundations: It's not to get good at anything. It's just to get everybody on the same page before the Bootcamp begins.

What is a typical day or week in the life of Foundations?

Foundations is different to Bootcamp in that it is a lot more self-directed. You have a lot more autonomy to build your own schedule, so the average day can be different depending on the person. We encourage students to think about Foundations as a 40 hour working week, although each student will be different. 

On Mondays, students are given a chunk of work for the week, which we call a sprint. Every week of Foundations. In the first two weeks the students learn about Html and CSS, and start to build their first website, kind of the way that they used to build websites back in the 1990s. In week 3 we start introducing students to javascript, and getting a bit of interactivity built into the kind of stuff that they've been learning already in the first couple of weeks. In sprints 4 and 5 the main focus is on actually building stuff with the tools that you that you've been learning so far. So you've learned the html, the CSS, the Javascript, and then you start bringing it all together, and actually making some little projects, and little games.

Joseph talking to rangatahi at Ko Māui Hangarau 2021 about how you don't need to be good at math to code!

How much time do students spend with facilitators and other students during Foundations?

It depends on the student. We encourage students to ask us for one on one time, whether it’s for a pair-programming session, or extra time to go over any of the topics that still feel confusing to them. Some students who have more experience or come from a computer science background will only need to see us once a week during Foundations. Other students who have never programmed before will be working with a facilitator every day. It isn’t a one size fits all approach. We are very responsive to each student and their individual needs.

At the start of Foundations, students are allocated a home group of 4 to 5 people who will be in the same cohort in the Bootcamp. We have home group meetings together, which  starts building whanaungatanga so students are already forming relationships before Bootcamp.

What does a student need to succeed in Foundations?

40 hours a week, a laptop, and a dream!

Web development is actually very kind of light in terms of how juicy your computer needs to be. I think people have this picture in their brain that they need to be running the latest cutting edge hardware to be a programmer, but really if you have a laptop from within the last 5 or 6 years, you will be completely fine. It's nice in terms of setup to have 2 screens because you can have your code on one, and then your browser on the other. But that’s a nice to have, and it isn’t always within someone’s financial capacity to have additional monitors.

What are the toughest learning curves in Foundations?

The two big ones are Javascript, and mindset. 

Javascript is the thing that freaks people out the most. Html and CSS are more straightforward and work in a very linear, top to bottom way. Javascript is a lot more powerful. It's the real juicy part of the course. But Javascript is what we focus on for most of Foundations and Bootcamp, so you need to adjust your mindset in order to overcome that fear. If you speak a human language, you can learn to program. There's nothing magical about it. So when people feel like they “can't do it”, or they “can’t learn javascript”, they have convinced themselves inside their brains that they are not the kind of person who can learn to program. Your brain tells you all kinds of stories about how other people can do it but you can’t. That’s a classic fixed mindset mentality. As a facilitator, I spend 90% of my time encouraging students and telling them that they are going to be fine, they can do it, that everything is going to be okay. That's the main sticking point, and the main thing that we try and help people through.