May 21, 2020 By Team YoungWonks *
What does one need to bear in mind to select a good online coding class for kids? This is a rather relevant question today even as the world moves to the online - be it work or learning. With the Coronavirus-induced lockdown in place, remote learning aka online learning is the new normal and no longer the exception. How then does one zero in on a good online class for kids?
In this blog, we shall share key points one can pay attention to before deciding on an online coding class.
1. Safety and security in an online class: Is the online class safe for your child? With the privacy of online meeting attendees coming under attack, it is now more important than ever to be particular about the precautions being taken by online classes to ensure the safety of your children. A trial class is a good way of determining how a class is conducted; it will also offer you insight into what steps are being taken by the teachers to provide total online privacy to your kids. Are instructors using a password to protect each online session from being hacked or to keep unwanted attendees at bay? Are instructors keeping tabs on the attendees and cracking down on unwanted participants? Also, the host of an online class typically has several overruling rights. In light of this, how is the faculty ensuring that these rights stay only with the teacher and are not misused or passed on easily to any of the students? These are rather important questions that deserve satisfactory answers.
It is also safe to opt for online classes where access is offered from a dedicated, password-protected student portal. This is because such a meeting is safer than ones where the meeting link is shared through a different channel, which may or may not be password-protected. Moreover, in-portal access to meetings also means parents and students do not have to wait up for each meeting link.
2. Know your faculty: Looking at the profiles of the instructors teaching the students is also a good start. How qualified are the teachers, how many years experience do they have? There is no lack of online coding programs for kids today but more often than not, these have college seniors at the helm. This is not recommended; it’s safer to opt for a coding class with qualified faculty. At YoungWonks, for instance, all teachers are graduates. It’s no longer about mere familiarity with the subject, it’s also about how well-qualified they are to teach your kid.
3. Student-teacher ratio: One may think that the student-teacher ratio doesn’t matter much but individual attention goes a long way in teaching students coding. More importantly, the latter engages them in class and makes them enjoy the learning process as opposed to just carrying out certain tasks or doing projects mechanically in a huge class. Thus, parents ought to select online coding classes that have a healthy student-teacher ratio. A 1:1 student-teacher ratio is ideal as it helps instructors focus on each student’s progress and typically produces results better than in coding classes where several children are made to just ‘study’ together.
4. Teaching tools and methodology: This again is an important aspect that merits attention from parents. An online class is not just a pastime but is a constructive use of time and needs to be treated as such. Does the class focus on maker culture? Does it believe in building from scratch as part of fun DIY projects or learning things by rote without any real application? An enquiry and project-based teaching model with emphasis on self-paced learning and a growth (aka can do) mindset goes a long way in shaping the attitudes of one’s kids not just towards academics but also towards life.
Also, is it a live class or a recorded class? A recorded video offers no scope for an interaction and is unidimensional, whereas a live class with interaction and use of gadgets such as pen tablets is an effective way of learning a subject, more likely to benefit the student.
5. A structured curriculum: A defining feature of a good coding class - online or not - is its well-defined curriculum. Many online coding classes - especially several that have sprung up only recently - have no particular curriculum in place, which in turn reflects a lack of direction on their part. A set curriculum, organised into lessons and worksheets lends shape to the online lessons and helps parents keep track of what is / will be taught in the class. Typically, several worksheets make up a packet and these packets in turn help students move from one level to another.
6. Parental engagement: A coding class should welcome parental observation and participation. This ensures that parents are up to date with what their kids are being taught and what progress has been made.
7. Flexible Schedule: Given how schools too have turned to online classes, it makes perfect sense to opt for an online coding class that offers greater flexibility in its class timings. If anything, it helps students manage their schedules well and make time for both regular classes and after-school online classes.
8. Track Record: Reading up about an online class before enrolling your kid into it is always a good idea. Parents should do their research about how well the online coding class has been doing, how its students have been faring. A good way to assess this is to look at the online class’s participation and performance at several competitions. YoungWonks students, for instance, won the first prize at the 2017 RoboRave US National, the first and second prizes at the 2016 RoboRave California and two out of four prizes at the 2016 Synopsys Alameda County Science and Engineering Fair. This gives parents a peek into the teaching being imparted to students in their classes.
9. Publication and management of online handouts, assignments: Even as students no longer fill out their assignments on paper, parents need to look out for online classes that ensure a convenient way for students to submit their online handouts and assignments. An online class should make use of quality platforms such as Google Classroom, EdOptim given how they are feature-packed school management softwares.
10. Positive environment: Last but not the least is the online class environment. Whatever be the subject, each student is unique and classes / instructors should recognise and respect this diversity. An online class - much like a classroom session - will only help kids realise their full potential when it nurtures them in an environment that is nourishing and encouraging. Such a class typically allows for easy communication between the teacher and student. Parents should look out for this to ensure their kids are being taught in a positive environment.
In the end, what matters most is that the online coding class offers your kid a safe, project-based education that helps hone your kids’ critical thinking.
*Contributors: Written by Vidya Prabhu; Lead image by: Leonel Cruz