Over the course of 7 months I led a project to completely redesign the experience of General Assembly’s flagship course, the Web Development Immersive. It’s a 12 week, zero-to-fullstack-developer course, and is GA’s largest classroom revenue machine, but we had been teaching it drastically differently in 14 different markets, with no underlying systems or continuity.
I started by working directly with the Product Manager, and we partnered in creating 2 small instructor conferences to help us decide what most needed doing, and how we could help instructors do it. That led to building a community amongst previously fractured markets, and a multitude of incredible ideas.
I then distilled that down into redesigning the basic units, but in a way GA had never done before – with a story. We’d guide a student through the history of web development, letting them understand first-hand the technical difficulties that led to the modern stack developers are currently using.
- “Why was Rails invented?”
- “How did APIs become such a building block of the web?”
- “Why Rails? Why Node? Why Angular?”
- “Where do front-end frameworks come from?”
Phase two meant detailing what every week – and every day – would actually look like. That meant actually designing the experience of the course, crafting topical themes that run through each week, and figuring out which technologies, concepts, and lessons were important enough to keep in.
This also meant checking in with a lot of stakeholders; there are 14 different markets around the world, in different timezones, with instructors who would be using this thing. Those were my users, and I set up calls with all of them to get feedback as I was designing.
Finally, phase three was where it needed to be written. Every lesson, lab, and homework needed materials to go with it. I developed templates of what each should look like, and a styleguide for how we would write & design our code.
I then worked closely with an educational expert and an experienced instructor in London to power through each week. Together we tackled writing & teaching:
- HTML & CSS
- Ruby Fundamentals
- Sinatra, ActiveRecord, PostgreSQL, and Rails
- Node.js, MongoDB, and Express APIs
- Local, Token, and OAuth authentication
- AngularJS, and a lot more
We wrote more than 110,000 words – a Harry Potter novel’s worth of educational content – and more than 365,000 lines of starter/solution code.
But more importantly, I led the charge to take WDI from an undefined, unstructured course, held together simply by passionate teachers around the world, to a repeatable, teachable process that is currently being rolled out across the board and shaping thousands of new students’ futures.